Making enchiladas can be such an undertaking that I often have to psych myself up to do it. Last time I tackled it, I was under the spell of a cookbook, The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. That book got me so excited about using cocoa in savory dishes that I spent two days preparing a mole sauce from scratch. I went hunting around for just the right chile peppers and everything. It took a third day to put together the enchiladas that the sauce was meant to go with. Truth be told, it was worth it. The sauce was amazing—eat-it-and-weep kind of amazing. (I suspect, though, that a tiny bit of the weeping on my part was on account of the massive amount of work involved.)
The recipe I offer here is quite different. It was inspired by a food show, Eat, Shrink and Be Merry (I’ve only seen it on Canadian television during a recent visit to Vancouver) whose hosts made over some very cheesy and famously (and also of course unhealthily) delicious enchiladas from a restaurant into a waistline-friendly and nutritious version. After developing the recipe, the show’s hosts very daringly had a taste test at the restaurant to compare the restaurant’s enchiladas with their own. And would you believe it, the healthy enchiladas won! Needless to say, watching half an hour of enchilada-making (and bragging!) fired me up to make my own.
As soon as I got home, I set to work. But not too much work. I was determined to streamline my recipe as much as I could. There are times when no matter how amazing a mole sauce is bound to turn out, you don’t want to spend days cooking to make the magic happen. I did three things to make my recipe more manageable. First, I made a very simple vegetable filling and an equally simple tomatillo sauce. Second, instead of messily frying the corn tortillas in oil to make them pliable, I heated them over an open gas flame for a few seconds. Finally, I did away with the half an hour of baking time by heating the filling and sauce before assembling the enchiladas, and finishing them under the broiler for a few minutes to get them sizzling. Just to add a bit of elegance after all this corner-cutting, I decided to serve them in individual gratin dishes.
It was a delight to sit down to dinner. It was a delight to dig in. Most of all, it felt wonderful not to be too exhausted from cooking dinner to really enjoy it.
Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce
Yield: 20 enchiladas
- 1 TBSP. vegetable oil
- 1 small onion
- 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 2 lbs. tomatillos
- 1/2 cup water
- 1-2 TBSP. brown sugar
Husk the tomatillos, then wash them well to remove the sticky film on their skins. Chop them roughly (they will soften significantly while cooking, so you don’t have to be too precise with the chopping), and set them aside in a bowl.
In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat, then add in the chopped onion, jalapeño pepper, and the salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add in the chopped tomatillos and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or so, until most of the tomatillos have melted away into a sauce.
Mix in 1 TBSP. of brown sugar, then taste and see if the sauce is still too sour for you. If it is, add in the remaining tablespoon of sugar.
The sauce can be made ahead and stored, well covered, in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer for several weeks.
- 2 TBSP. vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 14.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 large zucchini, cut into small cubes
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add in the chopped onion, bell pepper and sea salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are a bit caramelized.
Add in the cubed zucchini and cook for a few minutes, until it’s barely tender. Toss in the frozen corn and cook until it has thawed completely. Finally, add in the black beans, along with the cumin and chili powder, and cook for another 5 minutes, until the spices are fragrant. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro (don’t forget to save some for the final garnish).
The filling can also be made ahead of time and stored, well covered, in the fridge for several days and in the freezer for several weeks.
Assembling the Enchiladas
There are two ways to serve this dish. One is to use individual gratin dishes, like I have (as you can see in the photo above), and make exactly the number of servings you need for a meal. This is very helpful if you’re cooking for a small number of people, or if some of the people you’re cooking for are not vegans, in which case you can sprinkle some cheese over their helpings.
Second is to use a traditional 11×13-inch baking dish and prepare all the enchiladas at once to serve a large group.
Either way, I don’t bake the enchiladas as long as most recipes require. I heat both the filling and the sauce on the stovetop, assemble the enchiladas, and finish them under a low broiler to heat them thoroughly and melt the cheese (dairy or non-dairy) on top.
- 20 small corn tortillas
- optional: about 1 cup shredded cheese, dairy or non-dairy
Preheat the broiler on low.
Warm the filling and the sauce on the stovetop until they’re bubbling around the edges.
Warm each corn tortilla, on both sides, over the open flame of your gas burner until it’s pliable enough to wrap the filling in. Don’t walk away; the tortillas can burn very quickly. (If you don’t have a gas stove, use a dry skillet for this.) Place about 1/4 cup of filling at one edge of the tortilla, carefully roll it, and place it, seam down, in the baking dish.
If you’re making individual servings, spread about 1/3 cup of tomatillo sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle non-dairy or dairy cheese on them, if using. Place the enchiladas on a baking sheet and set them under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Garnish with cilantro. You can also drizzle on a very simple ”sour cream” made from plain soy yogurt, a teaspoon or so of vegan mayo, and a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.
Nutritional Information: 10 servings of 2 enchiladas each. Per serving (without cheese): 235 calories; 6.1 g fat; 303 mg sodium; 41 g carbs; 7.9 g fiber; 9.2 g sugars; 6.4 g protein.
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2011.