My husband is a painter. He can work on a painting for years, revisiting it every so often to try to figure out what needs changing or what can be improved upon. His art is a little wacky, a little unsettling, somewhat graphic and very, very hard to pigeonhole. It’s an intuitive thing – he just “knows” when a painting is finished and he just “knows” when a combination of colors, figures and shapes comes together. It’s not something that can really be taught.
It’s the same with cooking. Cooking is intuitive to me. The look, smell, texture, and taste are the factors that determine if a dish is “done” or not. It’s sort of like creating art in that way.
Frequently, my status on Facebook is about some meal I’m making. Invariably, someone will pop on and ask for the recipe. While I would love to share the actual food with people, sharing a recipe is hard for me, because, more often than not, there isn’t one! I’m sure I’m a constant source of frustration to my friends, so I thought I would try to share the process of making a recipe, in this case an eclectic mixture of burritos and enchiladas.
Whenever I cook, I am cooking for the people in my home. I always try to use healthy ingredients, whole grains, lots of fresh veggies, products with low saturated fat, etc. I try to make meals sturdy enough for my carnivore husband, yet completely animal product free for my vegan daughter. This way, I know for sure that my family is getting good nutrition and eating something satisfying. However, I also work on a very tight budget and tight time schedule, so I do use some store-bought products in almost every dish I make. I’d love to make my own tortillas and corn my own beef, but those are luxuries of time that I don’t have right now.
Vegan Enchiritos (yes, I made that up)
Look in your fridge and find vegetables. All kinds of veggies. Zucchini, carrots, onions, bell peppers, chiles, potatoes and whatever else you have lying around. Leftover peas and corn? Sure! Leftover broccoli from the chinese food place? Sure, rinse the sauce off it and use it. (side note: don’t keep onions and potatoes in the fridge – they go bad faster.)
Peel, seed, and dice all your veggies into 1/4″-1/2″ dice. Keep them in separate piles. Saute your hard veggies (carrots, potatoes, celery, etc.) in a little olive oil until they are beginning to soften. Add the softer veggies like onions, zucchini and peppers. Add minced chipotles in adobo if you have them around, making sure to use some of the adobo liquid. Saute until everything is cooked to your liking, seasoning well with salt, pepper, cumin, Mexican oregano and cayenne. I usually add as much spice as will fit on my finger without falling off – about 1/2 tsp. to start. Then I adjust to taste. Don’t be shy with salt – it brings out the flavors of everything else.
Drain and rinse a 15-oz. can of beans. In this case, I used black beans because I had them. Throw in baby spinach leaves or chopped fresh cilantro or parsley at the end so the flavor stays fresh. Use your imagination! You should wind up with about 6-8 cups of vegetable mix. Taste it. If you think it would be improved by adding dried fruit or some other sauteed veggie, add them. Add more spice if it needs it. Then taste again. This is your only chance to make the filling taste good. If there’s a lot of liquid in the bowl, drain it out and reserve it to mix with the enchilada sauce – it’s pure flavor!
Prep your pan. Spray a large rectangular baking dish with Pam and put a layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom. I used Old El Paso this time, with a HUGE squirt of Sriracha, which is a Thai hot sauce. I added more spice, because I cannot stand wimpy enchilada sauce. Taste it to make sure you like it.
Take your first large tortilla (10″-12″) and flop it down on a flat surface. Top with a generous 3/4 cup of filling, and liberally sprinkle with cheese.
My favorite vegan cheese is Daiya, which is made from tapioca starch. Tapioca comes from cassava, which is a tuber grown in warm climes. Great stuff.
Fold both sides of the tortilla in to the center, and fold the bottom away from you.
Carefully roll the tortilla away from you, folding in the sides if they try to escape and squeezing the filling in toward the center. You should end up with the seam of the tortilla on the bottom, and a neat looking burrito. If some filling escapes, no sweat. Put it back in the bowl and reuse it. If your burrito is silly looking, either re-roll it or cover it with more cheese so nobody will notice. I found that microwaving each tortilla for 15 seconds softened them and made them easier to roll.
Neatly place burritos side by side in your prepped pan. I got 7 in mine. Of course, there were only 6 tortillas in the bag, so I had to trot out a round lavash bread and use that so the pan was filled. If that happens to you, no sweat. Go with it.
Generously pour the remaining enchilada/Sriracha sauce over the top of the burritos. This adds the enchilada component, and this is the point at which the burritos become enchiritos.
Top with a very healthy layer of shredded cheese. I used two varieties of Daiya, mixed together.
Spray a piece of aluminum foil with Pam and cover pan (sprayed side down). Bake at 350F for about an hour. The enchiritos should be bubbly and the cheese should be completely melted. I usually test the temperature near the middle of the pan and am satisfied if it is 160F or higher. Hot enough to eat.
Carefully remove enchiritos from the pan with an offset spatula. If you don’t have one of those, try using two forks, one on each end. Serve with a side vegetable or refried beans or a cool, crunchy salad. These usually taste better the next day, so be sure to bring them to work for lunch!
There is no magic about cooking. It, like painting, is an art. Baking is a science and needs real recipes, but cooking is part inspiration, part knowing the ingredients and how they react to heat, and part mad scientist. In a word, it’s play. So get out there, buy some interesting ingredients and play with them. See what you come up with! And always remember to taste, taste, taste!
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