Sunday, January 24, 2010

Surrealistic Bean and Veggie Enchiladas

Right now, I'm really wishing that Frida Kahlo had done a painting of enchiladas, because it would be exactly what I'd use to illustrate my post about this surreally delicious casserole. I briefly considered using Dali's The Persistence of Memory, since the clock faces could be read as unfilled flour tortillas, but that would have just been silly, right? In the event, I've substituted Frida's 1938 Fruits of the Earth, which also kind of works, since this dish is filled with many of those, in the form of vegetables and legumes. (Besides which, it's weird and cool and I like it.)

And so to my text. My earliest encounter with enchiladas was the recipe for "Spinach Enchiladas Suizas" in The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two; in fact, I have a vivid memory of filling a baking dish with carefully rolled tortillas and pouring my laboriously crafted sauce over them, only to drop the whole thing on the floor of my then-boyfriend's parents' cottage. I also recall standing there in stupefied horror, fighting tears, before figuring out a way to salvage the situation - which I did. It's amazing what can be achieved with a little extra sauce. Anyway, thereafter, enchiladas became one of my signature dishes, and the recipe has evolved over a number of years, undergoing various changes along the way. (I don't mind saying that at this point I've got the filling down to a science; this stuff is good.)

Since being vegan, the only major adaptations have been non-dairy substitutions for the relatively trivial amounts of milk and cheese in the original sauce; the filling was always comprised of sauteed vegetables, beans and spices. To the blushing enchilada virgin, it might look like a lot of steps, but the whole thing actually comes together in under two hours, and is guaranteed to fill your kitchen with the kind of irresistibly warm, comforting aroma that keeps luring members of your household in to ask "Is it ready yet?" long before it's anywhere close to finished. With some rice, guacamole, salsa, and green veggies or a nice salad on the side, this makes a very filling meal with lots of leftovers - which, as we know, are always even better. Just be careful not to drop it on the way to the oven!

Surrealistic Bean and Veggie Enchiladas
The Filling
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tsp. hot chili oil
~ 1 large red onion, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
~ 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 1/2 cup each: carrots, celery, bell pepper, scallions
~ 1 small yellow zucchini, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, chili powder, marjoram, cilantro
~ 4 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
~ 1/4 tsp. each: cinnamon, nutmeg
~ 1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained
~ 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
~ 1 15 oz. can vegetarian refried beans
~ 1/2 of a 28 oz. can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes (set the other half aside for the salt)
~ 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tbsp. dried)

~ In a large, deep skillet, heat the oils and saute the onion over medium heat about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, carrots, celery, bell pepper, squash, and dry seasonings. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the vegetables are softened and the mixture is fragrant.
~ Stir in the kidney beans, refried beans, tomatoes and spinach. Combine thoroughly and cook, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes more, unto you've achieved a sort of sloppy joe texture.
~ Add the parsley, give the mixture one last stir, then remove from heat and set aside.


The Sauce
~ 1 tbsp. oil or vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
~ 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. hot sauce (more to taste)
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, cumin, sweet paprika
~ 2 tbsp. barbecue sauce (or 1 tsp. smoked paprika)
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 cups vegetable stock
~ The other half of that big ol' can of fire-roasted tomatoes
~ 1 cup grated vegan cheddar (I used Daiya), or 1/2 cup nutritional yeast

~ 1 package large, whole wheat tortillas

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Combine the soy milk and vegetable stock in a beaker and heat in the microwave for about 3 minutes.
~ In a saucepan, heat the oil or margarine over medium-low heat, then add the garlic. Cook for about a minute, until golden but not brown.
~ Add the flour, dry seasonings, hot sauce, barbecue sauce and a splash of the milk/stock, and stir to make a smooth paste.
~ Raise the heat to medium, stir in about half the remaining milk/stock mixture, followed by half the vegan cheese or yeast.
~ Whisk for a minute or two until well combined, then add the rest of the liquid and the cheese or yeast, continuing to whisk until you have a smooth-textured sauce; this should only take about 5 minutes.
~ Taste for seasonings, remove from heat and set aside.

The Assembly
~ Coat a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray and ladle some of the sauce into the bottom.
~ Place about 1/3 - 1/2 cup filling in the top third of each tortilla and roll up into a tube. Place the filled tortillas snugly up against each other, seam side down, in your baking dish until all the tortillas and filling are used up.
~ Pour the sauce over the whole business, making sure to let it ooze down into the filled tortillas, and smoothing the top. If possible, set the assembled casserole aside and allow to sit for awhile before baking, so all the elements can get better acquainted (I left my most recent batch about 3 hours, and they were amazing).
~ Garnish the top with a little extra cilantro and paprika, cover with foil, and bake at 400 degrees about 20 minutes, until bubbling.
~ Remove the foil and bake uncovered another 15 minutes, until brown and lovely.
~ Set aside to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving with guacomole, salsa, and maybe some extra hot sauce and vegan sour cream, if you're into that sort of thing. (A pitcher of margaritas or sangria wouldn't hurt, either; I think Frida would have wanted it that way!)


  1. This sounds incredible! I'm wondering how long you think it takes to assemble, pre-baking? I would like to plan this for a dinner date,I and could use the 20 min. rest time for travel. Also, how many enchiladas did you come out with, and what size tortillas did you use?

  2. It only takes about ten minutes to assemble, and it could easily sit in the car while you drove somewhere else to bake it (Just wrap it tight!). I like the larger size flour tortillas, and this recipe used up a package of ten. Hope that helps!