The Boy is currently working REALLY hard preparing to become a Bar Mitzvah this summer. It’s really made him more aware of his “Jewish-ness” and he has started trying to follow a few more of the commandments (there are 613 after all!). He really grasped on to the rules of kashrut (Jewish dietary laws – keeping kosher) during Passover and has been trying to keep kosher to some extent since. We do not keep a kosher home. I did so throughout my college years and, although it’s really not that hard to do, I don’t always follow it now. I love pork and certain shellfish far too much. But I’ve been trying to at least be “kosher style” since my son has shown an interest.
One of the easiest rules to follow is to not mix meat and dairy. It comes from a commandment in the Torah instructing us not to “cook a kid in his mother’s milk.“ So yeah, not hard to do, but a cheeseburger would clearly be off limits. So the other night, I got a craving for enchiladas. I’ve recently learned how to make homemade enchilada sauce and thought some beef and cheese enchiladas would be just the thing. When I mentioned it to The Boy, I got an “Oh, um, okay, yeah” and then realized what I was doing. “So what about chicken and cheese? Chickens don’t lactate.” Clearly I’m trying to justify myself at this point but I’m Jewish and I’m supposed to question everything, right? But I was still met with slight resistance even though my logic was sound.
Now, I’m not going to completely change the way I normally go about life and cooking, but I’m actually very proud that my kid is embracing our religion so I’m going to support him as much as I possibly can and sometimes that means compromise on MY part. So we ended up going with black bean and spinach enchiladas. I was a little disappointed to miss my beef but, damn, they were good! I ultimately didn’t miss the meat at all and began planning when I could make them again!
As with a lot of casserole type dishes, nothing in this recipe is difficult but there are a few steps to follow. You need to make your sauce, then make your filling, then assemble and bake the enchiladas. But if you double your enchilada sauce, you can have some in the freezer for another go later, cutting out the entire first step.
I’ve made homemade enchilada sauce a couple of times recently but the recipe that I based mine off uses real dried chiles and lots of natural whole ingredients. The recipe from Foodie Crush actually reminded me a lot of the sauces I’ve seen Rick Bayless do in that they are cooked, blended and then briefly fried to thicken. I switched up the chile mixture a little and used veggie stock instead of water but the result is pretty amazing and once you try this, I don’t think you’ll ever buy the canned stuff. I’ve also tried a couple of Pinterest recipes that use chili powder but the flavor just doesn’t compare to using the real deal. You can find big bags of dried chiles at Mexican markets but I very often find them in great variety at Walmart of all places. Guajillos are a MUST but the others are up to you. I prefer California chiles but you may like New Mexico. Anchos are going to be pretty spicy (and chipotles incredibly spicy!) so be careful with your choices if you aren’t familiar with what the chiles taste like.
And of COURSE you could go beef or chicken when you make yours but, in honor of Kosher Boy, I’m sticking to vegetarian dairy for this recipe! If you do Meatless Monday, this would be a great choice!
Veggie and Cheese Enchiladas (serves 4 with extra sauce for later)
For the Sauce:
- 1 can vegetable stock (plus water or extra stock if needed)
- 4 oz. dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into small pieces
- 4 oz. dried California chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into small pieces
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 T vegetable oil, divided
- 1/2 C chopped yellow onion
- 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (I forgot to buy a tomato so I’ve used a bit of canned diced tomatoes here)
- 2 garlic cloves, rough chopped
- 1 t coarse kosher salt
- 1 t dried oregano or 2 T fresh chopped oregano
- 1 t smoked paprika
- 1 t ground cumin
In a heavy pot, bring chiles and cinnamon stick to a boil in the vegetable stock. If there is not enough liquid to cover, add water until everything is covered by about 1 inch. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all of the chiles are in the bath. When chiles are tender, strain, reserving cooking liquid. Discard cinnamon stick.
While chiles are simmering, heat 1 T of oil in a large heavy saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened and just beginning to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add tomatos, garlic, salt, oregano, paprika and cumin and continue to cook about 5 more minutes. (No need to wash your skillet at this point as you are going to use it again in just a minute.)
Transfer tomato mixture and softened chiles to a blender, pulse and then begin adding reserved cooking liquid a little at a time. Puree until smooth, adding reserved cooking liquid or water a little at a time, as needed. I used my immersion blender as always.
Heat remaining 1 T oil in same skillet over high heat (it should be almost smoking). CAREFULLY add your sauce as it’s going to spatter like mad. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly to keep it from sticking and burning. Then reduce heat slightly and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Taste and adjust salt as needed. You can use about 2 C of your sauce now or freeze in zip top bags to use later.
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 1/4 C finely chopped onion
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1/4 t cayenne pepper
- 1/2 t cumin
- 1/2 t paprika
- 4-5 oz fresh spinach, chopped
- 1/4 C fresh chopped cilantro, plus a little extra for garnish
- Coarse kosher salt, to taste
- 8 oz monterrey jack cheese, grated, divided
- 8-10 flour tortillas
- Sour cream for garnish, optional
In a medium deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Add black beans and just heat through, smashing with the back of your spoon periodically. You don’t want them all mashed but not all whole beans either. Add spinach a little at a time until it is fully incorporated and just wilted (if it’s getting too dry or stiff, add a tablespoon or two of water). Add spices and combine well. Remove from heat to a shallow bowl to cool for a few minutes. Stir in cilantro and half of the cheese.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Now you are going to need a bit of an assembly line. Pour about a cup of your enchilada sauce into a shallow dish (a pie plate works great). Spray a shallow casserole dish with cooking spray. Drop a tortilla in the sauce and then flip it over so that both sides are lightly coated with sauce. Now put that tortilla in your casserole dish and put a strip of filling down the middle. Roll it up and push it to the end of your casserole. Repeat with others until filling is gone and casserole dish is full. Pour about a cup of the sauce over the enchiladas so that they are coated but not swimming. Sprinkle on remaining cheese and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until getting bubbly. Broil for 3 or 4 minutes if you want your cheese to brown a bit.
Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Top with sour cream if desired and sprinkle on chopped cilantro for a little more color.
Also, confession time. This was not my best foray into cooking for y’all. I forgot both tomatoes and cilantro. As you can see, I still managed without two ingredients that I’d typically use. So just know that you can always improvise in the kitchen if you don’t have just exactly what you need.