Blog Archive

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mediterranean-Mexican Fusion

Salsa ingredients ready to roast on top of the stove

Mediterranean-Mexican Fusion:  Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas
by Victoria Challancin

This has all the hallmarks of a post that might never have been:  a created-on-the-spot recipe, hastily snapped photos (one of which is slightly out of focus), nothing very pretty...I could go on.  But the end result was just so delicious that I had to share.  Luckily, I have the photos to help me remember what I actually did when I made this last week!

Fusion.  I am one of those people who rather dislikes this culinary term.  Modern cooking, just like this dish, is often truly a melding of different influences, unusual ingredients, and a blending of whim and mongrel inspirations.  Sometimes it turns out great, like this dish.  Sometimes, like a Jerk Chicken Étoufée I was once served by a rather famous chef, not so much.  But food travels.  Ideas travel.  WE travel.  And along the way we gather new ideas and new inspirations, and before you know it, new recipes are born.  

I didn't set out to fuse Mediterranean and Mexican ingredients.   Really, I didn't.  I was looking to make a hearty vegetarian main dish to go along with some beans my husband requested.  I had been to the store and market, where I loaded up on fresh vegetables and tortillas. Those, combined with a few other  ingredients I had on hand, led to this recipe.

The prepared dish, right out of the oven

Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

Note:  This particular selection of vegetables is just what I had on hand.  You can use any vegetables you like.  Turnips, kohlrabi, eggplant, celery root, winter squash, sweet potato, brussels sprouts...use your imagination!  Because I left my vegetables in rather large chunks, I couldn't really make rolled enchiladas, so I stacked them instead.

Tips for roasting vegetables:  Cut the vegetables into roughly the same size for even roasting.  Remember:  the smaller the pieces, the faster the roasting time.  Season with fresh or dried herbs such as thyme, oregano, or rosemary, if desired.  Do not overcrowd, or the vegetables will steam instead of roasting and caramelizing.  Remember that vegetables such as carrots will turn out firmer than soft, wet vegetables like mushrooms or zucchini.  You can remove the softer vegetables when they reach the desired texture or not--I never do.  You can also parboil dense vegetables such as carrots--I never bother with this either!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the roasted vegetables:
1 small head broccoli, cut into florets
1 orange bell pepper, or use any color you prefer, cut into squares
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
5 small zucchini, cubed
1 chayote, cubed
1 onion, in large dice
250g/1/2-pound crimini mushrooms, cut into quarters
2 medium carrots, cubed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the vegetables in a large bowl.  Toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread the coated vegetables onto a large baking tray.

Roast vegetables for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes of cooking.  Return to oven and roast for another 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetable pieces, stirring occasionally to ensure even browning.

For the salsa:
See the following recipe

For the cheese:
2 cups grated cheese 
(Note:  I used a pre-shredded mix of Italian cheeses including Parmesan and Asiago from Costco, but any good melting cheese will work:  Manchego, Cheddar, Asadero. etc.--see my article on Understanding Mexican Cheeses here)

Assembling the dish:
Pour enough salsa into a large baking dish to barely cover the bottom to prevent the tortillas from sticking.  Top with a layer of tortillas, tearing the tortillas into smaller pieces to fill in the gaps as in the photo.  Add a layer of roasted vegetables, being sure to peel the roasted garlic cloves.  Pour half of the remaining salsa evenly over the vegetables.  Sprinkle with half of the cheese.  Repeat with another layer of tortillas, vegetables, salsa, and cheese.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling around the edges.  

The out-of-focus, but delicious roasted vegetables

Note:  I roast a lot of vegetables because my family likes them.  Sometimes I flavor them with fresh or dried herbs, sometimes I just toss them in garlic-laced extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper, as I did here.

Salsa ingredients, after 10 minutes of roasting

Note:  When I was testing recipes as culinary producer for an American cooking show a couple of years ago, I wrote up this technique for a quick way to roast vegetables for salsa that makes for an easy clean up.  The head producer in New York nixxed that idea as being too unattractive for television.  Trust me, if you ever start roasting your veggies for salsa in this way, you'll never give it up.  Unattractive or not--it just yields rich and satisfying results.  And who wants to scrape their pans of the burned skin of charred tomatoes?

Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

Note:  Because I wanted a creamy sauce, I added Mexican crema, or sour cream to this recipe.  If using as a dipping salsa for chips, simply omit this step.

3 plum tomatoes
8 golf-ball sized tomatillos, husked and rinsed
3 garlic cloves
2 small serrano chiles, or to taste (jalapeño chiles can be substituted)
1 medium white onion (you can also use a large slice of onion instead of a whole one as in the photo)
1/3 cup of fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Mexican crema, crème fraîche, or sour cream
Sea salt, to taste

Line a heavy skillet with aluminum foil.  Place the tomatoes, tomatillos, unpeeled garlic cloves, serrano chiles, and onion in the skillet.  Roast over medium-high heat, turning frequently, for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are charred all over.

When cool enough to handle, peel garlic and remove the stems from the chiles.  Place contents of the skillet in a blender with the cilantro, sour cream, and salt.  Blend until smooth.  Check and adjust seasoning, adding more salt and/or cilantro as preferred.


A bit of salsa topped with a layer of fresh blue-corn tortillas--it's hard to go wrong with freshly made tortillas

The enchiladas, with one portion removed

A steaming pot of beans

Note:  This is a drier version of a typical Mexican pot of beans.  Instead of the usual epazote (see my article on epazote here), I used bay leaf; instead of lard or vegetable oil, I substituted olive oil. In Mexico, a bit pot of simply spiced, brothy beans are a daily staple in most homes, traditionally made in an earthenware pot called an olla.  Typically eaten with salsa and fresh tortillas, they can be a meal in themselves.  The version of beans I prepared to go with these enchiladas, is less soupy, but equally simple in its spicing.  It helps that these beans are locally grown organic beans from the most recent crop.

Mediterranean-Style Frijoles de Olla
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

1 pound dried pinto beans, or other dried bean of choice, soaked overnight in water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 medium-sized bay leaves
Water to cover by three inches
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the beans in a large, heavy pot and add enough water to cover beans by about three inches.  Turn heat to high.  Add the olive oil, onion, garlic, and bay leaves.  When the water begins to boi8l, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for an hour, checking occasionally to see if more water needs to be added.  Keep the beans covered by at least an inch of water.  Traditional recipes for these beans uses a lot of water, yielding a very soupy dish of beans.  I used less for this recipe, but it is optional.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Cook over low heat for an additional 30 minutes.

Add salt and pepper (pepper usually isn't added to Mexican-style beans).  Continue checking every 15 minutes or until beans are quite soft.


A study in brown:  an unadorned plate

The last of the sunflowers, taken in October--just because they are pretty and make me smile

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.
Recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using text or images.  Thanks!


Lucas said...

Photogenic schmotogenic, that looks awesome.

And some of the best food doesn't look good. See the entirety of Portuguese food for examples.

Also, I'm terrified to use dried beans & always end up with tins.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

These accidental dishes are often the best aren't they! That looks really delicious and I love your description of "a melding of different influences, unusual ingredients, and a blending of whim and mongrel inspirations." said...

I'd never heard of fresh blue corn tortillas - they look so good. The whole thing looks appealling - real food always does.

Ben said...

Nothing wrong with a pastel azteca/vegetable lasagna fusion :) I find it rather tasty looking.

Laura Loveland said...

As always, Victoria, your recipes, photographs, and background explanations of different foods and ingredients are wonderful! I also make my enchiladas ala your lasagna since it is not only easier, but I think much tastier and not as dry. Many thanks for your continued amazing site. Laura

Victoria Challancin said...

Thank you all for your comments. I sincerely appreciate them!

Platanos, Mangoes and Me! said...

I find that dishes done at the spur of the moment work out so well.