Enchiladas Rojas for 15 Hungry Dancers

It’s dress rehearsal time again for my daughter’s dance company, and the parents are assigned to bring food for each meal. Sonia told me they needed a break from pasta, so we decided on enchiladas.

I made 21 enchiladas in a ¼ sheet baking pan. I made 10 more for the vegetarians, using pepper jack slices crumbled into Frijoles pintos along with the vegetables. You can make the broth below without the chicken for a vegetarian sauce.  I topped them with the heated sauce, more pepper jack, fresh cilantro leaves and olives after baking.

Broth ingredients:

16 cups (1 gallon) of water
2 chopped onions
8 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. chipotle powder
3 Tb cumin powder (comino)
2 Tb. dried oregano
2 cups diced Roma (plum) tomatoes or 15 oz can diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice)
1 sliced bell pepper
2 Tb. salt to taste
8 each pasilla and California chilies
6 – oz can tomato paste
1 whole chicken
 
Vegetables:
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
3 large red potatoes, peeled and chopped  in bite-size chunks
3 large chayote, peeled, seed area removed, and chopped in bite-size chunks

2 Tb flour

Non-stick spray

21 corn tortillas for chicken enchiladas, plus 10 more for bean and cheese ones

1 can black olives

1 cup cotija cheese

1 bunch fresh cilantro

Avocados to garnish

Ideally the best way to make this is to make the chicken first, then let it cool enough to handle. Pour the broth into a container and refrigerate it until the fat congeals, then remove it. Make the sauce from the defatted broth. I didn’t have the time to do this, so made it all in one day. I used a fat separator cup to de-fat the broth. This nifty little gadget pours out the broth from the bottom of the cup as the grease rises; I then discard the fat.

Making the chicken: For this batch, I boiled a whole chicken with the spices, onions and other ingredients above.  Toast the chilies on a comal or heavy skillet first to maximize their flavor. Reserve 2 Tb of tomato paste for the sauce. I used pretty much the same recipe I used for Tamales de pollo Chicken  Tamales. It’s true you have to watch out for the chicken bones and you will get the grease, but the broth will be richer and  it’s more economical than boneless breasts, especially if the chicken is on sale!

After 40 minutes, I add the carrots, potatoes and chayote. After the chicken has cooked an hour, I turn off the heat and pull the chicken out of the broth into a large bowl. Since I was running out of time, I set the bowl inside a larger bowl (actually the bottom of my salad spinner) that I filled with a layer of ice cubes, to cool down the chicken. Using a fork and knife, I pulled the meat off the bones until it’s cool enough to handle.

I discard the skin, gristle and bones, and use my hands to shred the chicken. I then pour a cup or two of broth into the chicken, mixing it with my hands, so that the shredded chicken can absorb the flavors. You can cook it in a frying pan for 15 minutes to help it absorb the broth. Save the leftover broth to make sauce and   or Cocido de Res – Mexican Beef Stew

Mix some beans (Frijoles pintos) and the vegetables (carrots, potatoes and chayote) into the shredded chicken.

Making the sauce: This will make a nice spicy sauce. Pour about 4 cups of broth into a fat separator cup. Pour the defatted broth into a blender and discard the fat.  Add 2 Tb flour and 2 Tb tomato paste. Fish out the chili peppers and bell peppers from the pot and add them to the sauce. Whir in the blender a few minutes until smooth. I don’t peel the chili pods or discard the seeds. They just go into the sauce. If you don’t want such spicy sauce, you can discard the seeds and you can add more tomato paste. But remember, the sauce will taste hotter alone than it will be over the enchiladas. The tortillas are bland, as is the cheese, and the cilantro and avocado will cool it down a bit too. Heat the sauce in a medium saucepan for about 20 minutes, stirring until thickened. Adjust salt and let cool enough to handle.

Assembling the enchiladas: Preheat oven to 375’ and grease a large pan with nonstick spray. Pour a few inches of sauce into a shallow flat-bottomed bowl. Place a large plate nearby. Heat a comal or heavy griddle or skillet and place one or two tortillas on it until they are hot and softened, and barely crisp. Take out one of the tortillas and briefly immerse each side in the sauce until it is coated with the sauce, then place it on the plate.

Take a few tablespoons of the chicken mixture (double-check with your fingers that you have removed all the little rib bones) and place it inside the tortilla. Then roll it up and place it seam side down on the greased pan. Repeat. It’s nice to have a partner place the tortillas on the comal for you. When the pan is full, place it in the oven for 20 minutes, until the tortillas begin to dry out.

While enchiladas are baking, crumble cotija cheese in a small bowl, and add a few handfuls of cilantro leaves. Open a can of black olives and drain it. Heat remaining sauce to boiling. When enchiladas have baked, pour a line of sauce down the middle of the enchiladas. Sprinkle the cotija cheese – cilantro mix over them and place a black olive in the middle of each enchilada. Nice served with soft sliced avocados.

Blushing Hummus bi tahinah


The Arabic word hummusحمّص means chickpeas or garbanzo beans. It’s the main player in the popular Middle Eastern dip of the same name. Add some tahini (sesame butter),  lemon juice, red pepper for a nice blush, and a garlic clove, a bit of olive oil and water, sprinkle in salt and a dash or two of cayenne pepper for a bit of zing, top with a small handful of pine nuts, and you have an easy and tasty dip for a crudite plate or pita bread spread.

I got my beans from a local Middle Eastern market (Indus Foods in Berkeley) for 33 cents; the whole dip cost about $1, much cheaper and fresher than shelling out $4 for the commercial version.

Makes about 1 1/3 cups

1 clove garlic

1/4 fresh  red bell pepper. Roasted red peppers work well also – use one.

1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained

¼ cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice (one medium lemon)

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 Tb to pour on top.

1 Tb water

shake of cayenne to taste

¼ tsp salt, to taste

2-3 Tb toasted pine nuts (pignolias)

1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro to garnish

Peel garlic and mince in food processor using blade. Add rest of ingredients except pine nuts, and run processor for at least a minute until hummus is smooth. Sprinkle pine nuts on top. If desired, pour a bit of olive oil on top and garnish with cilantro.

Serve with carrot or celery  sticks, cucumber, jicama and red bell pepper spears, pita chips, or wedges of toasted pita bread.

Makes a great sandwich spread on pita or olive bread with cucumber slices.

Lentils

Fragrant with cumin and a touch of curry, ginger and garlic, these lentils are flavorful comfort food on a cold evening. This recipe was inspired by Faryal, a Pakistani friend who showed me how to cook her delicious lentils. I also use this recipe for Chana Dall, which is a South Asian yellow lentil.

Ingredients:

2 cups washed lentils

6 cups boiling water

1 Tb olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tb of cumin

½ tsp to taste red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

1 tsp of curry powder

½ tsp ginger powder

1/2 tsp grated ginger

several grinds of black pepper

1 tsp salt to taste (after lentils are cooked)

Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large heavy pot. Add a finely chopped onion When onion softens, add cumin, garlic, red pepper flakes, bay leaf,  curry powder, ginger. and several grinds of black pepper. Heat a few minutes then add 2 cups washed lentils and 6 cups boiling water. Bring to a boil, then turn on low and cover. It should take about an hour. Stir every so often. Keep an eye out to add more water if needed.

Do not add salt until the lentils are fully cooked, as the salt toughens them. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with grated sharp cheddar, if desired. Also good with fresh cilantro. To make lentil soup, add broth to cooked lentils.

Kale and Bean Soup

Here’s another rainy day soup. I just dreamed it up and made it. Luckily everyone in the family liked it on the first try. The rosemary, thyme and garlic give it a lovely aroma.

I dice the kale, celery, leeks, and red bell pepper in the food processor for faster prep and cooking. Just discard the kale’s thick stems first.

I made this  using dried beans as well. I boiled them in chicken stock for 5 minutes, then transferred them to a crock pot and added the rest of the ingredients. I cooked it on “high” for 3-4 hours until beans and kale are tender. You can also heat the crock pot to high, then let it cook on low while you are at work, or overnight. This way you don’t have to worry about stirring the pot so the cheese won’t stick to the bottom! And homemade beans are so much better than canned ones!

In case there are leftovers, this soup is even better the next day, when flavors have developed even more..

serves 8 bowls

½ gallon (8 cups) homemade chicken or vegetable stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version) (you can use boxed stock, but it won’t be as good!)

1 rind Parmesan cheese

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 Tb extra virgin olive oil

2 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic, minced, or 3 frozen cubes garlic

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp fresh rosemary needles, minced

1 tsp dried thyme plus 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

several grinds black pepper

1 or 2 bunches kale, finely chopped. I chop the whole thing, leaves and ribs. I’ve used Dinosaur and curly kale.

1 large leek, white and pale green parts only (use dark green parts in making the stock)

3 ribs celery

1 seeded red bell pepper

1 carrot, cooked in making the stock, chopped

1 15-oz can Great Northern beans OR 1 1/2 cups dry Great Northern beans

1 14-oz can artichoke hearts in water

salt to taste (sea salt is nice)

2 Tb Parmesan cheese, freshly grated per bowl

Heat broth to boiling. If using dry beans, rinse in a sieve, then boil in broth for 5 minutes. Let beans soak in the hot broth while you prepare the herbs and vegetables.

Add Parmesan rind, red and black pepper, oregano, bay leaf, garlic and rosemary. Chop kale leaves, leek, onion, celery, and bell pepper in the food processor in batches, or chop finely by hand, and stir into broth.

If using canned beans, rinse and add to pot. Chop artichoke hearts and carrot, stir into soup. Let cook 20 minutes on medium, and salt to taste. Discard Parmesan rinds when serving.

Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

¡Frijoles! Mexican Pinto Beans

This recipe evolved from my mother-in-law’s frijoles al charro. She made hers with bacon to flavor the beans. I usually omit the bacon, but it’s good either way. The chipotle powder and smoked paprika give it a nice smokiness.  It’s a favorite of my friends and family.

There are many opinions  in this family about cooking beans. My husband is  insistent about not soaking the beans first, as he swears that takes away the flavor. I boil the beans with all the flavorings on the theory that they will soak up the flavors. My mother-in-law says the garlic will help eliminate the gas from the beans. She told me never to put salt in until the end because it will toughen the beans. And I add cocoa powder to bring out the flavor of the chilies, just as the ancient Aztecs did.

Add chipotle powder to taste depending on how spicy you like it. I pick mine up at Mexican markets in the cellophane packets. If you can’t find chipotle powder, you can add a one or two whole dried chipotles, and snap off the stems before adding them.

8 cups of water

1 chopped onion

4 minced garlic cloves

2 – 4 tsp. chipotle powder (to taste)

1 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)

1 Tb. cumin powder (comino)

1 tsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. dried oregano

1 diced Roma (plum) tomato

1 diced bell pepper or 1 cup frozen diced bell peppers

3 cups dry pinto beans

2-3 tsp. salt to taste

Wash beans thoroughly, checking that there are no stones.

Heat water to boil in large pot.

Add  chopped onion, garlic and seasonings.

When water is boiling again, add beans and boil for a minute or two.

Pour into a crock pot. Cook on low until very tender, usually 5 hours. You can make it in the evening and let it cook overnight or make it in the morning and it will be ready for dinner. Add 2-3 tsp salt to taste when cooked. Serve with fresh cilantro, either queso cotija, queso fresco, cheddar or jack cheese, and chopped onion if desired.  Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Excellent for making tostadas. Simply mash well-cooked beans with the pot liquor, no frying necessary.

Vegetarian/ Vegan tacos: Fill a warmed tortilla with beans, fresh tomato, avocado and cilantro. Top with salsa and a shake of sea salt.

Store beans in small containers in the freezer. Sure beats opening a can!