200th Post

Not only is this my 200th post, according to WordPress, it is also the post that follows my Julia post, which was chosen to be “freshly pressed” by WordPress.  So, no small amount of pressure here.  It’s sort of paralyzing, really- should it be a Grandma recipe?  A family story?  A long over-due letter to my six month old son?

Yipes.  The pressure….

After much thought, I’m throwing caution to the winds and giving you a recipe from my father.  On this blog, I talk a lot about my grandmother who was a fantastic cook and poke fun at my mother, who was not.  I’ve written a bit about my father before but perhaps now I can say a bit more.

My dad and my mom divorced when I was 8.  They had been married 13 years and together for many years prior to that.  They were college sweethearts and managed to maintain a strong relationship after the divorce.  In fact, they remain friends now. Part of this was due to a mutual desire to co-parent me, part of it is just who they are.

A large piece of it was how close my dad was to my mother’s family.  Dad wasn’t close to his own family after high school and he and my (maternal) grandmother hit it off right away.  In fact, my parents are together- they both say- because when they broke up after college, my dad still spent time at the house with my mother’s brothers and parents.  When my mother pointed out to her family that they’d broken up and so maybe my dad shouldn’t be around all that much, her family replied, “But we didn’t break up with him, you did!”  My parents could see they weren’t going to win that battle and so, got married.

My father’s favorite memories of my grandmother are from when he would stay at the house.  He and my grandmother were morning people and so would sit together at the table, before anyone else was up, and have coffee, toast and chat about everything: stuff they read in the paper, things about the family, random thoughts.  They were very close.

So it’s only natural that my father was the other big cooking influence in my immediate family.  I mostly recall him cooking breakfasts for me but when I was in college, he’d cook dinner for me when I visited.  His range has expanded over the years but I most associate Tex-Mex with my college visits.  This is because we were in Colorado, not New England.

So, it’s no surprise that when he was here last, he cooked enchiladas for me.  He likes to cook when he comes to visit.  I cook with him- much like I did with my grandmother- and we chop vegetables, stir and gossip as we go.   In the end, we’re rewarded with yummy food and another bonding experience to add to our list (which includes wiffle ball games, walking on the beach, cook outs and attending CC  hockey games.  It also includes having “adventures”- which were everything from getting lost to trips to historical places.).

Here he is with my daughter, having an adventure (we visited the zoo). I’m pretty sure I have the exact same photo somewhere, only it’s me and we’re wearing more 70’s clothing.

I give you Dad’s bean enchiladas.  They’re quite good and other than the filling/rolling, not too hard or time-consuming.  You could, if you wanted to, add chicken or another meat but they don’t really need it.  The spice level can also be tailored to suit your tastes.  Dad eyeballed it and may have added a touch more cayenne than we meant to but in the end, it was all good.

Ingredients

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped (I don’t like green so we used one orange pepper)

1/2 onion, chopped

28 oz can tomato sauce

1 1/2 cups of corn (frozen is ok)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped (if you’ve been reading along you will not be surprised by my hiss as I left this out- cilantro is the devil)

2 Tablespoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1/2- 1 teaspoon cayenne or 1 chopped jalapeno with seeds

1 package corn tortillas

4 cups of shredded mexican cheeses (usually cheddar and montery jack along with others)

1 28 oz can red enchilada sauce (you can actually make your own enchilada sauce without too much fuss- Cooks Illustrated has a great recipe)

Directions

Saute the peppers and onions in a little bit of olive oil over medium-high heat.  I’d throw in the onions first and let them brown a bit and then add the peppers. You want them soft but not burnt, crispy or caramelized.  Stir in the tomato sauce and the beans.  Then add the corn and seasonings.

Here’s Dad, adding ever so slightly too much cayenne pepper. Spicy!

You can vary the amount of sauce, adding a bit more if it seems too dry or thick.  Once it’s all combined, simmer over low heat for about five minutes.

Meanwhile, line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil.  Trust me- it makes for easier clean-up.

I was going to add these tomatoes to the sauce but we ended up just snacking on them as we cooked.  Sungold tomatoes may be the best thing about summer.  I’m just sayin’.

Here is where I diverge with my dad.  He says to use the faucet to thoroughly wet two tortillas at a time and then to microwave them on a paper towel for 8-10 seconds.  He claims this will heat and soften them enough to fill and roll them without cracking.  This was not true for me.  Mine cracked anyway.  I usually dip each one in the enchilada sauce and then roll them.  And they crack anyway.  So, I’m open to tips on how to do this without cracking?  I suspect the brand of tortilla as well as its age may be a factor.

At any rate, pour a little bit of enchilada sauce into the baking pan and preheat your oven to 375.  Get your tortillas ready any way you please and spoon a bit of the filling into each one.  Be careful, the filling is probably hot.  I’d say about a solid tablespoon or two should do it.

Add some cheese. Or put in the cheese first.  Either way.

Then roll it up- carefully, as it will crack, unless you’re a wizard or something- and place it, seam side down in the pan.  Continue until you have run out of filling.  Or are too impatient to do any more. (If that’s the case, the filling is yummy over rice or pasta or just all on its own).

Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the pan, making sure to cover all the tortillas so they don’t dry out.  Top with cheese.  Lots of cheese, if you’re me.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is all melted, gooey and yummy.

These freeze really well, too, so pop a few into a freezable container and then you’ll have dinner all ready when you’re craving something warm and comforting.

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