Living in California, Mexican food is kind of a big deal. It was an even bigger deal in Los Angeles, where I went to school - taco trucks were everywhere and people are extremely passionate about which truck is their favorite. But even as a native Northern Californian, I love Mexican food, and Gabe realllly loves it. So once when I was visiting him in San Luis Obispo, we made these enchiladas. His apartment was pretty typical for a twentysomething college dude, and the kitchen was a little subpar. But out of this kitchen with a tiny electric stove, formica countertops, and leaky refrigerator, we managed to produce some awesome enchiladas.
I was a little intimidated by making the sauce from scratch, but it really isn't that much extra work - you can even make it a few days before and refrigerate it until you're ready to use it. Roasting the bell pepper adds a really nice smoky flavor to the sauce, and the mushrooms keep the filling hearty without needing meat.
Zucchini-Mushroom Enchiladas (recipe adapted, barely, from here)
Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Enchilada Sauce
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 roasted red bell pepper (see below for the how-to!)
1 jalapeno, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
About 5 tablespoons olive oil, for sauteing and adding to the sauce
3-4 zucchini, chopped (use more if they're on the smaller side)
2-3 cups mushrooms, chopped
1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
6-7 tortillas (I use whole wheat but white or corn are good too!)
2 cups jack or mozzarella cheese, grated
There are a few ways to roast a bell pepper, but I prefer this method. The oven works just fine (cut in half, broil for a few minutes), but there's something exciting about setting the pepper over an open flame and watching it pop and hiss. Just turn the stove on to about medium heat, set the pepper on top of the grate, and make sure it's fairly stable - you wouldn't want it to fall into the flames. Let it roast for about 3 minutes on each side...I recommend using tongs to turn it because it gets super hot!
Once it's nicely charred, remove it from the heat and set it in a bowl. I know it looks nasty, but the more char, the better - it will make the skin easier to remove and bring more flavor to the pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and let the pepper sit for about 20 minutes, allowing the steam to help loosen the skin.
Then gently peel the skin off - it should pull away pretty easily, but you can always run it under water to help clean off any extra bits.
While the pepper is cooling, you can get started on the rest of the sauce. In about three tablespoons of olive oil, saute the onions, tomatoes, garlic, and jalapenos, and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes start to split and the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
Once the bell pepper is cool, remove the seeds and spines and cut it into pieces - they don't have to be small pieces, you're just making it a little easier to blend the sauce. Pour the tomato/onion mixture into a blender and add the bell pepper. Blend until smooth, and while blending, slowly pour in two tablespoons of olive oil. This helps thicken the sauce, kind of like an emulsification.
Once the sauce is nice and smooth, pour it into an airtight container or jar, let it cool, and it's ready to go!
Now...onto the enchiladas! I hope you're still with me, I know this is a longer recipe but I promise it's worth it.
As a side note, aren't mushrooms weird?! I used to dislike them because hello, you're eating a fungus? Gross! But then I realized they taste delicious so I just try to get over the whole fungi thing.
Anyway, saute the mushrooms and zucchini (with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper) until they're just al dente - if you cook them too much then they'll turn into mush when they're baked in the enchiladas.
Set the vegetables aside, and now it's time to roll up the enchiladas! Spread a few big spoonfuls of sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13 glass pan. You can roll the enchiladas any way you want, but I happen to think my method maximizes the amount of sauce in and on the enchilada.
Lay a tortilla in the pan, fill it with a few heaping spoonfuls of veggies and top with cheese, then roll it up! See how the sauce covers the tortilla? Ohh yeahh.
Roll them all up, spoon the remainder of the sauce over the top, then cover the whole pan with a generous helping of cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes or until bubbly and crisp.
Finally...here's Poppy in the midst of her seventh nap of the day. It's a hard life being a cat, isn't it?