Welcome to the Melting Pot

Tex-Mex Vegetable Enchiladas

We have friends who just returned from adopting their son in China. Welcoming a child into your family through adoption has its own set of joys and challenges. Instead of watching an ever growing belly, prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) carefully gather and tend sheaves of Apostilled documents from a minion of professionals like social workers as well as government agencies you don’t know exist. This pile of documents – the dossier – can weigh as much as a newborn baby when complete. If adopting internationally, the physical and emotional fatigue of travel rivals hours spent in labor. A family may be in the air or on the road for as long as 24 hours. The resulting jet lag from traveling to some place where it is yesterday can make one feel like they took a hand full of sleeping pills and chased them with a bottle of vodka – that was my experience anyway. This is a time to get to know each other and set up a routine . . . a time when it is helpful to not have to worry about getting food on the table.

With this in mind, a friend has arranged meals for the newly expanded family. I have a few go-to meals for such occasions. They can best be described as comfort foods – lasagna or calzones along with salad and brownies perhaps. This time, I opted for Tex-Mex enchiladas (Everybody Likes Sandwiches is a great site, by the way). I came across this recipe years ago and it became a favorite immediately. I had relied on a tomato-based sauce for enchiladas before this, one from Mollie Katzen of Moosewood Restaurant fame. I experimented with dried chile sauces once or twice, but the results were bitter. I do love this Tex-Mex version, but healthy, it is not – an oil-based roux with spices and broth added. I increase the vegetables to make up for lack of nutritional content in the sauce. I have stuffed the corn tortillas with diced, pan-fried zucchini and mushrooms, chopped onion and grated sharp cheddar . . . even cauliflower florets, onion and cheese. This time I added – you guessed it – kale! I chopped kale, sauteed it with some oil and a pinch of salt until wilted and added it to diced onions and grated sharp cheddar. Any combination works. You just need about 2 cups of filling. A simple slaw rounds out the meal in the winter; corn on the cob in the summer.

In addition to enchiladas, Sean will be introduced to curry and frittata the first week he is home. Welcome to the melting pot, sweet little boy!

P.S. Lori, a dear friend, is making her way to China to adopt her third daughter in just a few days. Check out her blog if you want to follow along.

Tex-Mex Enchiladas

Recipe adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches

for the chili gravy
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or epazote
1/8 teaspoon dried chipotle (I have also omitted this – it depends on how spicy you want it.)
2 tablespoons chile powder
2 cups vegetable broth or water (I use water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon Better The Bouillon)

In a medium-sized pot, heat up oil over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the flour mixture browns, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the garlic powder, cumin, oregano, chipotle and chili powder and cook for another minute, all the while stirring like the dickens. Add in broth and turn heat to low, whisking sauce to smooth out any lumps. Let the sauce simmer and thicken. If the sauce gets too thick, add in a bit of water and whisk.

for the enchiladas
8-10 corn tortillas
1 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 small onion, diced (reserve some to sprinkle on top)
about 3/4 cup mix of diced or chopped sauteed vegetables (see above)
2 cups chili gravy

Preheat oven to 400F. Wrap the corn tortillas in a damp towel and microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds. They should be pliable and bend without cracking. Set aside, keeping them wrapped in the towel while assembling.

Mix together the cheese, most of the onions and sauteed vegetables into a medium-sized bowl. Pour half a cup of the gravy into the bottom of a square baking pan. Assemble the enchiladas by putting a few tablespoons of the cheese-onion-vegetable mixture into the center of the corn tortilla and bringing the edges together so they overlap. Place each rolled tortilla into the baking pan seam-side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Pour the gravy over the enchiladas until covered (you may have a little left) and sprinkle more cheese and reserved onions over top. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese has melted. Makes 8-10 enchiladas.