Sometimes life feels more like a race to the finish line than anything else. Like a cross country ski marathon on slushy snow or a face-first ride on a skeleton sled at 80 mph. On the craziest days, we might as well be careening over a ski cross jump—one minute we’re in gold medal form, the next, a jumbled mass in the ditch. It’s exhausting. Terrifying. Unpredictable. And more. Our to-do list spans multiple pages, but all we really hope for is a clean pair of pants—without too many wrinkles—and a jug of milk in the fridge—that’s not too far past the freshness date—to start the day. These are times when texting family members in the next room seems perfectly normal. When dishes pile in the sink and dirty clothes in the corner, and no one notices. Clearly, we’re just trying to hang on, and at the end of the day, what we need is food on the table without a crash. Food that’s soul-soothing—because really, that’s what’s getting us through this patch in one piece.
These are enchilada days. With a bit of homework done ahead (Olympic gold isn’t won without the training runs), the classic tortilla bundles are a cinch to pull together, and receive raves around a hungry table. How perfect is that?
Our sauce recipe makes enough for two dinners. I often stir up a double batch and freeze dinner-sized portions for later. Besides the homemade sauce I’ve got an extra package or two of tortillas and cheese stashed away, so I’m enchilada-ready for just this sort of stretch.
Nearly any vegetables nestle happily into a tortilla. Mushrooms with sautéed greens one night, chopped carrots, onions and rutabagas on another. In summer months we turn to shredded zucchini with sweet peppers, and when the crisper is nearly bare, potatoes and cheese do the trick. I create a quick sauté with whatever I find, then wrap large dollops in corn tortillas with a sprinkling of cheese. Laid snuggly, side by side in their earthenware casserole bed, the lot gets blanketed under a layer of homemade sauce, and baked for half an hour. My job now is simply to chill. Thanks to enchiladas we’re not only saved from a close call with carry out, we’re eating as well as we do on the best of nights.
Sweet Potato and Chard Enchiladas
The filling for these vegetarian enchiladas combines seasonal greens, sweet potato and black beans with luxurious, slightly sweet results. Vary the greens as you like: spinach, kale, chard, arugula, any will substitute for another. And if you don’t have sweet potatoes, go for the Yukon golds sitting on the shelf. The sauce makes enough for two dinners. I freeze half for another day.
Serves four (8 enchiladas)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium-large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1 28 ounce can tomatoes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or raw sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium-large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 2-3 cups chopped chard or kale leaves
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 8 corn tortillas
- shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese (about 1 cup)
- sour cream and chopped cilantro for serving
For the sauce:
- Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and oregano and cook until spices are fragrant and garlic has softened a bit, but not browned.
- Add tomatoes, salt, tomato paste, maple syrup/sugar and water to the pan. Stir and cook at a gentle simmer for about half an hour, or until the sauce has thickened up a bit. Purée with an immersion blender (or transfer to a food processor) until smooth—a few chunks are good. Taste and add more salt as needed.
- Divide sauce into two portions and set one aside for later use.
For the enchiladas:
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, stir and cook for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, poke sweet potatoes in a few spots with a fork, and microwave until they feel soft all over (time will vary depending on the strength of your microwave). Cool slightly, then cut in half and scoop the flesh from the potato skin. Discard the skin and roughly chop the cooled potato.
- Add potato to the skillet, along with the greens and black beans. Stir and cook until greens are as tender as you like. Chard will cook quickly, kale may need a few more minutes.
- To assemble the enchiladas, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and choose a heavy casserole dish (about 9 by 12 inches in size). Spoon a bit of sauce into the dish and spread in a thin layer. You just need enough to moisten the bottom of the dish, not cover it. Spoon filling into each tortilla, being mindful to portion out somewhat evenly to fill all 8 tortillas. Add a sprinkling of cheese and tuck the tortilla edges snuggly around the filling and cheese. Place seam side down in the casserole dish. If the bundles insist on popping open, lay a wooden spoon across the top to secure them as you work. Once all the enchiladas are in the pan, spread the remaining sauce evenly across the top. No worries if any tortilla shows through. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle some cheese across, and return to the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt. Serve enchiladas with chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.