You could call me an enchilada enthusiast. I like them in all their varied forms: from straight-up Mexican recreations like these enchiladas from Rick Bayless to the baked Tex-Mex variety.
But I can safely say I've never thought about eggplant enchiladas. Ever. That is, until I stumbled upon this recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook. The more I looked at it, the more it actually reminded me of a pork picadillo filling I once made for chiles rellanos. Of course, this contains no meat. But the combination of cheese, spices, and especially almonds, seemed right on. I couldn't wait to see where this would end up.
These vegetarian enchiladas come out meaty and filling, with just a tinge of heat. Oddly, since the Moosewood Cookbook cares about healthy cooking, this dish is way more balanced than most baked enchiladas. Too many Tex-Mex versions of this dish blanket the tortillas in cheese. Restraint helps in this case. It's delicious.
The only change I made was frying the tortillas briefly in oil, instead of just dampening them with water. I've made enchiladas one too many times to do anything else. If you don't fry the tortillas they tend to turn to mush once covered in sauce and baked in the oven. Don't fear the oil. It'll help the tortillas stay together.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups onion, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 3 cups tomatoes, chopped
- 6 cups eggplant, diced (about 1 large one)
- salt and black pepper
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 cup jack cheese, grated
- 12 corn tortillas
- Canola oil for frying
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour half of the olive oil into a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add half of the onions and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Stir well, and cook for 5 minutes.
Dump in the tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Halfway through cooking add half the garlic, and black pepper to taste. Puree the sauce when done in a blender when it has cooled slightly. Be careful.
While the sauce is cooking, pour the rest of the olive oil into a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the rest of the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the eggplant and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The eggplant should be soft.
Add the garlic and green bell pepper. Stir well, remove the cover, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat, and then add the cheese and almonds. Stir well.
Pour enough canola oil into a skillet to cover the bottom. Turn heat to medium high. Fry each tortilla for just a few seconds on each side. You want to cook them until they become leathery, not until they crisp up. honestly no more than 3 seconds a side. Transfer each to a paper towels, and remove as much oil as possible. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
Place about 1/4 cup of the filling into each tortilla, and then roll up. Place them seam-side down in a baking sheet. Pour the sauce over. Place in the oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until warm. Serve.