A funny thing happened on the way to the pool. I needed enchilada sauce, imagining it to be readily available in tins or some such, and so as I rode my bike through Sunset Park I stopped in at an authentic–looking* Mexican bodega (*ie old guys smoking outside on folding chairs, dog napping on the pavement, faded advertising posters I couldn’t read). A quick scan of the two shelves yielding nothing promising, I approached the counter. A bespectacled man peered out from between ribbons of lottery tickets at the incongruous sight of a lanky white girl in his store.
“Do you have enchilada sauce?” I asked, suddenly filled with doubt. “Is that even a thing?”
He rummaged below the counter and emerged grinning, a Ziploc bag weighty with chile-red sauce in his hand.
“Is it very spicy?” I asked, wary of the almost-neon hue of the stuff.
“The people, they love it,” he replied.
Sold. He gave me a fifty cent discount and as I took the mysterious bag I felt meaty chunks. When I asked what it was, the man performed an elaborate pantomime of various animals as he pointed at other Ziploc bags – this is cow, this is chicken, this is not that. Right. When I got home and started assembling my enchiladas, I went to heat up the sauce and opened the bag to discover about six thin pieces of the-meat-that-remains-a-mystery. Those removed, I was left with about two tablespoons of sauce. After a brief tantrum I made a very random tomato sauce from scratch and fried the meat out of curiosity. We’re pretty sure it’s pork. The lesson here is that language barriers create culinary adventures that aren’t always convenient, labels are the unsung heroes of grocery shopping, and the man in the bodega doesn’t always know what’s best for you. (See also: cigarettes, malt liquor, bulk gummi bears).
The enchiladas were ridiculously good though. How could they not be, stuffed with goats cheese and roasted zucchini? File under “how can something this good be vegetarian” and “to cook, immediately”.
Roasted Zucchini & Goats Cheese Enchiladas
- 2-3 big zucchini (approx 4 cups in ¼ inch dice)
- Olive oil
- 1 ¼ tsp lemon pepper/garlic salt
- ½ red onion or 4 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 cups black beans, rinsed and drained
- 120g goats cheese
- About 10 small corn tortillas
- 12oz enchilada sauce
- 1 bunch coriander, chopped
- Fresh avocado
- Fresh lime
- Heat oven to 425F (220C). Spread zucchini on a baking tray and toss through 2 tsp olive oil and the lemon pepper so it’s all coated. I’m not even sure what lemon pepper is, though I love the sound of it, so I used fresh ground black pepper and some grated lemon zest. Roast the zucchini for about 30 minutes. Remove to cool and turn the oven down to 375F (190C).
- In a big bowl combine the onion (I used both red onion and a couple of scallions), beans and 80% of the crumbled goats cheese (keep some to put on top of the enchiladas). Add cooled zucchini and stir together gently. Try not to eat it all at this stage.
- Char both sides of your tortillas over a burner. The recipe said this would help the tortillas be sturdier and given the structural integrity of my end product, I wish I had charred mine a bit more! Plus they look good.
- Pour a quarter cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of a rectangular baking dish. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of filling onto each tortilla, roll it tightly and place seam-side down in the dish. Tuck them all in tightly in a row, like a bed full of orphans in one of those Disney movies that makes poverty look romantic. When you can’t fit in any more, pour over the remaining sauce and top with remaining crumbled goats cheese. You’ll probably have some stuffing left over – now you can eat it, or save it for quesadillas or something.
- Bake about 20 minutes until warmed through and cheese-melty.
- Serve with sliced avocado and chopped coriander on top, and a squeeze of lime.
I also served a no-brainer fresh salsa from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine:
Corn & Tomato Salsa
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels (2 ears)
- 1 tomato diced small
- 1 scallion thinly sliced
- 2 tbs chopped fresh coriander
- 1 tbs fresh lime juice
Toss all in a bowl and season with salt and ground pepper. That’s it.