Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Squash Enchiladas

It's been a while since I posted here, but as I promise with all of my blogs, I will post on an irregular and unpredictable schedule. It really tends to throw my followers, so I I apologize to both of you.

Several weeks ago someone gave us a bunch of Summer Squash. I know that Summer Squash does not grow in bunches, like bananas. But, they gave us a lot. Summer Squash is not one of my favorite things to cook or eat. It's one of those blandish things that can take on other flavors, but it can be hard to make the star of a dish. I tend not to gravitate toward the paler vegetables, anyway. I'll rarely touch wax beans because they look like...well, I'll spare you what I think they look like.

This is what my Summer Squash looked like:

I looked up recipes for Summer Squash and found several for Summer Squash Enchiladas. We had just celebrated the 4th of July with a huge Mexican feast (Make of that what you will, Just remember, I wont judge you.) and had a lot of those ingredients left over. And I had never really made enchiladas before. Since my thing is learning techniques and not necessarily  following recipes word for word, this sounded like a fun challenge. But, I still wasn't sure that I would like the squash.

As it turned out, I did like the squash. The end result was really delicious. So here, in general terms, is what I did. (And I don't guarantee that I'll remember to include everything since it was so long ago. OK, it was two weeks ago, but that's really taxing my memory.

First, I made the sauce. 

I took some dried peppers, about 6 or 7, two different varieties (don't ask me to remember their names) put them in a dry pan. I toasted them for less than a minute, just to get a little color on them and to deepen their flavor. Then I poured enough water to cover them and brought it just to a boil, and then poured all of it into another container to let it steep for about 30 minutes.

While they were steeping, I chopped and sauteed onions and garlic. I used white onion. Also, you don't have to chop very finely because it will all go into the blender.

Saute the onions for a while first since they will take longer, and if you have the garlic on the heat for too long, if it gets too brown, it will be bitter.

Then, everyone into the pool, or in this case, the blender. And, by the way, that was just an expression. Never swim in a blender. It could be very dangerous.

I added some canned tomatoes, one or two Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce, cumin, a little salt, and oregano. Mexican oregano would have been best, but I didn't have any. Many recipes called for chicken stock, but I decided to keep it all vegetarian so I just used the water that the peppers had been steeping in. I didn't have anything else to do with that water, and it was packed with flavor now. It would have been a shame to have wasted it. Then I blended until smooth. 

I heated a little olive oil in a sauce pan and poured the sauce in to simmer for a while. That helps to bring it all together and develop the flavors. At some point during the next phase, I took it off the heat to cool so I could work with it later. It is necessary to plunge your fingers into it, so, you know.

The next phase is the filling. Lots of chopping going on here. Squash, onions, garlic and a Jalapeno Pepper.

You do want to pay attention to the size of your dice here, because it will not be blended. You want a nice, uniform, medium dice on the squash - this is the "meat" of the filling, so to speak - and the onions, and a pretty fine dice on the garlic and Jalapeno. Nobody wants a large chunk of either of those in their mouth. 

Saute time again. Same as before: Onions first. Then garlic and Jalapeno. And finally squash. You want the squash to have some bite to it in the final product, which also gets baked, so don't overcook it.

Fresh herbs! Parsley and cilantro.

I had some leftover corn on the cob that had been rubbed lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with chili powder, then wrapped in foil and roasted over the coals on a grill, so I decided to use it.

I kept it on the heat just long enough to warm the corn through a little. It didn't really matter at that point. I didn't want to overcook the squash and it was all destined for a big bowl to cool enough to handle. 

I also had some Mexican cheeses that I didn't see a recipe call for, so I used it anyway. The two that I had on hand were Queso Fresco and Cotija. Queso Fresco just means "fresh cheese." It's salty and melts nicely. Cotija is a harder, stronger cheese, and does not really melt as much as soften. They both crumble. So, I crumbled and added.

Now, the fun part. And messy. I assembled my sauce in a shallow dish, and my filling near by. I heated some corn tortillas (in the microwave, but you can do it in the oven if you prefer) and had them at the ready. I put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of an oiled baking dish. Then, the assembly begins. Dip a tortilla in the sauce and shake it off (gently), fill with filling, roll, put seem side down in the dish.

Repeat until your dish is full.

I ladled most of the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas, sprinkled with more cheese plus some shredded "Mexican cheese blend," and some sliced green onions.

You can pop it in the oven and bake it at 350 until it is heated through and the cheese is melted and just beginning to turn golden. I covered it with foil and put it in the refrigerator and put it in a cold oven the next night. I set the oven to 350 and did as above. It was a pretty amazing dish.

This may seem like a lot of work - and it was. But, you know, if you love cooking, it's not really work. And it probably took me longer to write this blog post than the actual preparation of the dish. And it's always worth it to prepare good food from scratch.

Eat Well. Have Fun. Be Kind.

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