What the Gods Really Ate: Enchiladas for Dinner


green enchiladas


I know I should be happy–and I am happy, I am–that restaurants are increasingly offering alternative vegetarian and even vegan meals. I am grateful, I am. But I just have to begin by asking, as I dig into still another microwaved slightly cardboard-like garden burger (served on a whole wheat bun! with salad and even rice on the side if you ask) would it be so hard to do a bit more? And as I am once again served a dish of pasta (probably white) that’s been doused with a handful of tomatoes and onions and perhaps an olive slice or two, I can’t resist wondering can’t we move vegan cuisine a bit beyond this?

I’ve had well meaning friends smile with pleasure as they present me with a just decanted block of warmed up tofu (which I dutifully consume with gusto). And my own sweet husband (who is not vegan but trying to eschew meat) has asked me do we really have to eat rice with vegetables yet again?

There are days when everything seems the same, when I am over (even my beloved) avocado sandwiches, when PB & J just seems silly, when salad makes me yawn and vegetables appear punitive. Pasta, really? Again?

What I mean is that vegan food, like all culinary genres runs the risk of becoming repetitive, uninspired and even–sadly–dull.

When I hit these moments when no burger, or soup or noodle dish is going to do the trick, when life seems dull, I whisper the magic word: enchiladas.

Can you hear the magic and smell the spice?

My son who gobbles meat, upon hearing the enchilada chorus changes course and embraces veganism. My spouse’s mood spikes upward. The dinner hour now hovers luminous on the gustatory  horizon.

I always make two types–green sauce (my personal favorite) and spicy red. Add a green salad, and maybe some Spanish rice and the most demanding bon vivant will be satisfied.

Enchiladas Two Ways

green enchiladas


A perfectly acceptable way to begin is to purchase two large cans of green sauce and a similarly sized can of red. But, if you’re a purist, you can begin by making your own.

Green Sauce

1 onion

2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour

1/2-1 teaspoon cumin

1 1/2 cups vegetarian broth

3 cans chopped green chilis

1 small can jalapeños–use to taste

2 roasted & chopped poblano chilis

salt, pepper and red pepper to taste

  1.    Chop and brown the onion. (Use a tablespoon of olive oil, or spray the pan or just use a bit of broth.)
  2. Add cumin and seasonings, and then stir n flour. Continue to saute lightly.
  3. Slowly add broth and stir to avoid lumps. (Or, put a bit of the broth with the flour in a small jar. Shake. Then slowly add to mixture.)
  4. Add all the peppers. Check taste. Cook until appropriately thickened.
  5. Briefly blend–with an immersion blender, a Vitamin, with whatever. But be careful. Check consistency and taste. Your sauce is ready.

Red Sauce


red enchilada


1 onion

4 Tablespoons of chili powder

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

Red pepper, black pepper and salt, to taste

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 cups vegetable broth

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 canned chipotle chili chopped and a little of the juice (according to taste. These peppers are hot!)

2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour

  1.  Chop and brown the onion
  2. Add seasoning and flour. Mix well and saute.
  3. Add broth and stir well to prevent lumps. (Or, again, place some of broth with flour in jar and then shake. Add it to the pan.) Cook for a few minutes.
  4. Add chipotle and vinegar. Cook until thickened. Check flavor and adjust seasoning.
  5. Use a blender of any type create a smooth consistency.

Enchiladas (!)

12-16 corn tortillas

1 cup vegetable broth

4 cups browned shredded potatoes. (Pre-shredded frozen potatoes work just fine. And I use an air fryer for extra crispness. Just putting the potatoes in the oven works fine too.)

2 1/2 cups greens–spinach or kale

1 1/2 cups corn kernels

3/4 cups sliced black olives

2 small cans chopped green chilis. Add chopped jalapeño if you like the added spice.

  1.    Mix the potato, corn, chilis and 2/3 of the black olives.
  2.    Chop the greens well and cook them for a minute or two. Drain well.
  3.   Add the greens to the mix.
  4.   Dip the tortillas briefly in the broth and microwave them for a minute or until just pliable. Don’t overcook! And don’t worry too much if the tortillas break. All will be covered by the sauce.
  5. Divide the mixture in half. Add approximately 1/2 cup of green sauce to one bowl and 1/2 cup of red sauce to the other. Don’t add too much. You want the mixture to adhere and to be tasty but not runny.
  6. Pour 1/2 cup of green sauce into a 9 ” pan. Pour 1/2 cup of red sauce into another similar pan.
  7. Fill half the tortillas with the green sauce mixture and place in the pan with green sauce. Fill the other half with the red sauce mixture and place in the other prepared pan.
  8. Top each pan with the remaining matching sauce. Green on green sauce, red on red!
  9. Sprinkle the remaining olives on to of each pain. Splash the green pan with chili powder. Bake at 350′ for about 40 minutes, until some of the tortilla points stick out and roast crisply.
  10. Toss a salad. Maybe cook some rice. (More about that later.) Put on your bibs! Blah is over. Enchiladas are here!

And just one final jubilant note: here in California or nearly anywhere in the Southwest, these enchiladas can be locally sourced (except for maybe the flour. Although I’ve found two sources of local whole wheat flour.)

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