Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

Bring out the mariachis! I’m doin’ a little cha cha in my cucina. We were feeling spicy last night and decided on enchiladas for dinner – something easy, something different, something fun. One of my favorite fillings for enchiladas is butternut squash, because the sweet meshes so well with the spice and the texture blends perfectly with tortillas soaked in sauce. This was actually our main holiday meal this year which was SO much better than the usual surf and turf or roast with potatoes. As my token omnivore had no recollection of this being our Christmas meal despite that being one month ago, I was totally game for remaking the dish and reminding us of the terrific flavors.

Enchiladas are a wonderful, flexible meal because they can be easily customized to your personal preferences or easily made to please a whole crowd. Sometimes I roll them in individual tortillas; in this recipe I layered them as a casserole. It’s really all about the sauce. If you have a good, spicy sauce, then the form in which the enchiladas take is trivial. What I like about casserole style is how the sauce covers everything.

So what makes the sauce so special? I really don’t know. I’ve made a few different kinds of sauce: tomato based, pepper based, and a blend of the two together. I’ve loved them all. The first recipe I tried was incredibly spicy which I loved, but it's not for the faint hearted. The second sauce was concocted by mia bella sorella over Christmas who used tomato sauce and a blend of spices. The recipe here was derived from Veganomicon and uses diced tomatoes with roasted green peppers. I happened to add a little chipotle in adobo sauce which took it up a notch.

I only covered half of the casserole with Daiya cheese, because I actually like it without cheese. But I loves me some cilantro and I highly recommend topping off your slice with a couple of sprigs and a pinch of cayenne. Whether you’re making this for Navidad or when you’ve got a case of the Mondays, it’ll be sure to scratch you where ya itch.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas
Makes: 3-4 servings
Cook time: 1 hour


For the sauce
1-2 poblano, pasilla or anaheim pepper
2 tsp olive or canola oil
½ medium onion, diced
1 T. fresh garlic, minced
1 T. chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp marjoram
½ tsp oregano (Mexican)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, roasted or fresh
1 tsp. raw vegan sugar
½ - ¾ c. almond or soy milk
Salt to taste

For the filling
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed, about 2 cups
3 c. spinach, rinsed

For the enchiladas
9-10 corn tortillas
½ - ¾ c. Daiya cheddar cheese
Cayenne pepper to taste
Fresh cilantro, chopped


For the sauce: Preheat oven to 450° or high broil setting. Roast whole peppers 15-20 minutes until skin is blackened and blistered, rotating once or twice to ensure all sides are cooked. Remove and set aside in a paper bag to cool before handling.

Heat a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Sauté onions in oil until they begin to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, chipotle peppers, spices/herbs, and a pinch of salt. Stir and let cook another minute before adding tomatoes. Bring sauce to a low boil and reduce heat medium low. Let simmer 15-20 minutes to let flavors blend. Add a small pinch of sugar to balance the acidity and bring out the spice.

Meanwhile, return to peppers. Peel the skins off, remove seeds and discard. Chop peppers coarsely and set aside. When sauce is done, transfer to food processor or blender and puree until smooth, adding almond milk until desired thickness is reached. Transfer sauce back to pan and stir in roasted peppers. Season with additional salt if necessary.

For the filling: While the sauce is simmering, bring another pot of water to boil. Add squash and lower heat to medium. Cook until squash is tender and falls apart easily. Place spinach in a medium mixing bowl in the sink. When you strain the squash, strain the hot water over the spinach to blanch. Set squash aside in a mixing bowl and strain spinach once it is slightly wilted. Mash squash until smooth but slightly chunky and fold in spinach.

To assemble enchiladas: Preheat oven to 350°F. In an 8x8” square pan, coat with cooking spray and spoon sauce to thinly cover the bottom, using about 1/3 cup. Place 3-4 tortillas over sauce and spread half of squash filling over tortillas. Spoon another ½ cup of sauce over squash and lay another 3-4 tortillas. Repeat with the next layer, spooning remainder of squash and another ½ of sauce. Finally, place another layer of tortillas over the top and cover with remaining sauce.

Bake for 20 minutes or until sauce sets. Set oven back to broil (optional), and sprinkle the top with Daiya cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese has melted. Remove and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with cayenne pepper and cilantro.

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