For two weeks every year my husband is numerically 1 year older than me. Then, in 14 days, I catch up and he no longer has a younger wife.
We always make jokes about this.
In a few years he will test-drive 40 for me. If he doesn’t like it, I may take the cue and stay 39 forever.
He always gets very excited about his birthday and likes me to make fuss over him. On his birthday proper I prepare a special meal for him and then, on the following weekend, I take him out to the restaurant of his choice. Of course, there are also gifts and a cake. This year he opted out of the cake and wanted me take him out to Marble Slab for ice cream instead.
Ice cream is his favorite dessert.
When I asked him what he wanted me to make for his birthday dinner, he replied “something Mexican”. When we did the week’s grocery shopping I was not yet in possession of my new vegetarian Mexican cookbook, but luckily I had a library copy of Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday lying around. I browsed through it and, although the cookbook is meaty, he does include some vegetarian recipes and vegetarian adaptions on some of his meat-based recipes, so I was able to find something suitable quite quickly. I love tomatillos, so I thought the Tomatillo-Sauced Enchiladas would taste fantastic. Rick Bayless has quite a reputation as a Mexican chef, rivaled only by Diana Kennedy.
Sadly, I could not find fresh tomatillos. He allows for this, by including instructions if you have to resort to bottled tomatillo salsa. I played it safe and went with Herdez tomatillo salsa. I am sure the dish would be much finer with fresh homemade salsa, but I will save that for next time. In fact, if you can find tomatillos and have the inclination, do yourself a favour and make the sauce from scratch. Finally, a warning about using store-bought salsa: you will not need to add extra salt to the recipe, as the salsa adds enough. I also found the salsa too mild for my taste, so I added a few dashes of cayenne pepper to liven it up.
I should also mention that I do not eat mushrooms.
Perhaps it is because I work with fungi all day and the thought of eating some when I get home just doesn’t sit well. However, I will include the original recipe for those of you who eat mushrooms and the modifications for those of you who don’t.
Tomatillo-Sauced Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Fresh hot green chilies, stemmed and quartered – 1 jalapeño or 1-2 Serrano peppers
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos (10-12 husked, rinsed and cut into quarters)
3/4 cup of rough chopped cilantro, save a few for the garnish
2 cups vegetable broth
*If using store-bought salsa you will need between 3 and 4 cups
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces of mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (I substituted 1/2 block of firm tofu (175 g), diced and 1 diced zucchini. Add after the onion)
1 large red onion, thinly sliced (reserve 1/4 of the onion for garnish)
10 cups of spinach, stems removed (I used 4 cups of spinach)
12 corn tortillas
3 tablespoons of Mexican crema, sour cream, heavy cream, or crèam fraîche (I used sour cream)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 cup of crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat (I used feta)
Preheat the oven to 350°C
To make tomatillo sauce:
• Drop the garlic and chilies into a running food processor one piece at a time until each piece in finely chopped.
• Add the tomatillos and cilantro, processing until smooth
• Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium saucepan and cook stirring frequently until the mixture is almost the consistency of tomato sauce (~7 minutes)
• Add the vegetable broth and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes
*If using store-bought sauce, bring to a boil in a medium saucepan and then let simmer
To make enchiladas:
• heat 1 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a large 12-inch skillet/
• Add the mushrooms and sauté for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms begin to brown (if omitting mushrooms, start with the onions)
• Add 3/4 of the onions and cook until the onion is translucent
• Add the tofu, if using, and sauté until it browns and then add zucchini and cook for 3 minutes.
• Add the spinach and cook while stirring until the spinach wilts.
• Lay the tortillas in a single layer on a baking sheet and spray or brush each side lightly with oil. Place in the oven for 3 minutes until the tortillas soften.
• Remove the tortillas from the oven and stack in a single pile, covering with a tea towel to keep them warm
• Stir the crema into the sauce (bottled or homemade) and adjust the seasoning with salt, or sugar if too tangy.
• Holding a tortilla by one edge, dip and coat with sauce.
• Lay the tortilla on the plate and spoon 2 generous tablespoons of filling in the centre, roll up and lay the filled tortilla seam side down on the plate. Prepare 3 tortillas per plate.
• Pour 1/4 cup of sauce over each plate of enchiladas
• Garnish with remaining onion, 1/4 of the cheese, and some cilantro springs.