Monday, August 22, 2005

The Mexican Gourmet

Most of the time I try to stick with interesting, yet fairly easy, meals. With an 18-month old baby threatening to have a temper tantrum at any moment, and a husband who gets home at a different time every day, it is hard to put together any kind of complicated, time-consuming meal. Of course, since I love cooking, since it actually reduces my stress to spend a few hours tinkering in the kitchen, I will still pick out Deluxe Recipes every now and then.

Once a week, while I make the grocery list, I generally pick out 5 or 6 dinner recipes for the upcoming week, including 1 or 2 new recipes. I have tried planning day-by-day menus, but I get extraordinarily frustrated if life happens and we end up having to alter the plan in any way. It tends to work out better if I just have a small selection of recipes to choose from each day, knowing that the ingredients are definately on hand, and picking and choosing from the selection based on how much time I have to get dinner on the table. I almost always pick out one complex recipe per week, whether it be a dessert or an entree, and try to make it during the weekend when I know The Carnivore will be around to entertain the Fat Baby.

This week, of course, I picked out two new recipes that both appeared to be difficult. I couldn't help it. Part of it is because I'm a glutton for punishment, but honestly I didn't have much choice. I found both recipes within a few pages of each other in Cooking Light's Five-Star Recipes: The Best of 10 Years, and they both tickled my fancy nearly to distraction. As is almost always the case, both recipes had me traipsing to numerous grocery stores to find all the ingredients I would need.

Tonight, I tried the Mushroom and Cheese Souffle recipe, one that called for Asiago cheese and shiitake mushrooms, both fairly expensive ingredients. I worked solid for an hour and a half, using three pans, two mixing bowls, the mixer, the food processor and nearly every wooden spoon and measuring cup that I had. The kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off before I even had the entree in the oven. And then I still had to make a side dish. Sadly, though the souffle looked beautiful, and the texture came out perfect, The Carnivore and I were both, well, bored with it. Anytime I try a recipe this complex for the first time, I follow the instructions to the letter, preferring to do any tweaking the second time around, after I have had a chance to sample the dish and get to know it a little better. Mushrooms don't have a lot of taste to begin with, and the Asiago, which would normally jump out and bite you on the nose, wasn't included in enough of a quantity to have much of an impact. A little salt would have helped, and more pepper was certainly needed. Regardless, anything that takes that much effort for so little payoff just isn't worth a permanent page in my recipe binder.

The other recipe was the stand-out. I made the Rice Enchiladas with Black Bean Sauce on Sunday night, and I loved it so much I ended up downing four enchiladas without even batting an eye. The Carnivore seems to think enchiladas can't live up to their full potential without meat, but this recipe was so perfect to me that I would have made it again tonight if I had married a fellow vegetarian.

  • 1 ancho chile (I couldn't find fresh ones, so I used a dried ancho instead)
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, undrained
  • 1 14.5-oz can vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  1. Cut chile in half lengthwise, and discard seeds and stem.
  2. Combine chile, beans and liquid, broth, onion, garlic and bay leaf in a large saucepan.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.
  4. Discard bay leaf.
  5. Process mixture in food processor until smooth.
  6. Stir in hot sauce.


  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup cooked long-grain rice (I used brown rice, of course)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup seeded, chopped tomato
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. Process cottage cheese, 1/4 cup sour cream, and goat cheese in a food processor until smooth. Stir in rice, onion and jalapeno pepper. Set aside.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a large skillet. Working quickly, dip 1 tortilla in water. Spread about 3 Tbs rice mixture down center of tortilla; fold sides over, and place, seam side down, in a 9x13x2 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Repeat with remaining tortillas and rice mixture.
  3. Pour 2 1/4 cups Black Bean Sauce over tortillas; cover, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
  4. Uncover and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake, uncovered, 5 additional minutes.
  5. Combine tomato and cilantro in a small bowl and stir well.
  6. Spoon 4 Tbs Black Bean Sauce onto each of 2 serving plates; top with 3 or 4 enchiladas and 3 Tbs tomato mixture. Dollop each serving with a Tbs or so of sour cream.

I have leftover Black Bean Sauce, and it was so incredibly delightful (ancho chiles give a unique flavor to the sauce) that I have been trying to decide all day what to use it with. Should I spoon a little bit into my next batch of salsa? Should I thicken the sauce with a little sour cream and use it to drizzle over nachos? The options seem endless.

I should point out that in the cookbook from which I acquired this recipe, there were all sorts of extra instructions in the ingredients list, such as 1% low fat cottage cheese and low-fat sour cream, etc. I find all that boring. While I understand that the whole point of Cooking Light is to teach you how to make good low-fat, low-calorie recipes, I just simply do not care about that aspect. Additionally, I have found that using low-fat dairy in recipes can alter the finished product so much as to render the texture runny. Frankly, I would rather not waste taste just to save a few calories.

On a complete aside, the picture above just doesn't do justice to how exsquisitely gorgeous this meal was. I tried 4 different shots trying to get the perfect pic, but I got too hungry and ended up eating the subject before I got the picture right. I keep putting it off, but I think it might be getting time to replace the 5-year old, refurbished, purchased on Ebay, embarassingly low-quality, 2.1 megapixel digital camera. I feel like Wilma Flintstone.

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