Pinto Bean Enchiladas

These are from Ann Gentry's new book, "Vegan Family Meals". She is the founder of the life-changing Real Food Daily restaurant and accompanying cookbook). If you've seen this blog before today or met me or Davey, you know that we eat RFD either from the restaurant or the book at least once a week. Their food is mind blowingly amazing. So, I was really looking forward to new recipes from Ms Gentry, since, as amazing as RFD is, you can burn out if you're eating the Taco Town tacos a few times a week (Davey would beg to differ, but still.) However, this book is a bit different. She explains that the RFD cookbook recipes are so complex because they are literally what the restaurant uses. So, they have one person making seitan, another making sauce, another making cashew cheese, etc. So this book is supposed to be more geared for a home cook who has to do it all themselves and may not have time to make 4-6 recipes for one dish.

I gotta say, though, so far- I give it a firm 'meh' for a review. This dish (the pinto bean enchiladas) was actually one of the best that I've tried, and so far, I've tried; the Hippy Granola, Baked Kale Chips, One Pot Vegetables, Lasagna Rolls and this. The recipes are a bit shorter than the RFD ones, but they really are no where near the amazing heights of those either. Which kind of points to a truth that I think all of the cooking that I've done with this blog has taught me- generally- great meals take time. You'll notice a huge gap in this blog where I hadn't posted much for about 6 months until last week. It was because I was working a job that took up about 60 hours a week and about 100 hours of head space a week. So I wasn't making great meals. I was using a lot of jar sauces and pre-made things, and none of that is really worth exploring on here, because it's food, but it's not a meal.

So, back to these enchiladas. They had a load of Asian ingredients, which I found odd for a Mexican dish; Tamari, Umeboshi Paste and Kombu. They used soaked bean water as a stock (versus chilis or tomato based sauce, like enchiladas usually do). They were alright. They were actually pretty good- but you have to readjust your "enchilada" expectations, because they just aren't what your mouth is expecting. I may make them again, but it's kind of unlikely. They did take hours with the bean prep and all, and if I'm going to invest that time, I'd rather make the enchiladas verde from the RFD book. I am a bit let down at this book, but I have no bad feelings because RFD literally changed our lives- we eat so much better and so differently than before we moved here. I'd buy any book that she comes out with- if only as a thank you.

Bayless Mole Enchiladas starring "chicken style seitan"

This sauce recipe from Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill is the single most involved thing that I have ever cooked- ever. It took a total of four and a half hours from start to finish yesterday! A bit over two hours of that is simmer time, but that leaves two hours and some change of actively cooking to make this. It involves roasting, frying, blending, and then the hours of simmering.

Now, I have to say, it tastes amazing. It tastes like it was labored over- which is good, or I probably would've thrown it and the pot that I made it in out of the window. It's not at all heavy on the chocolate taste. In fact, no one flavor (of the eighteen ingredients) dominates. If I had to choose one that stands out, it's the peppers (there are three kinds), but just when you think you're tasting the cinnamon, then you taste the almonds or the anise or the garlic or the tomatillos. It's kind of a dance of flavors going on, which is amazingly interesting. It is probably the best mole that I've had.

However, that doesn't change the fact that you need the bulk of the day to make it, so it will be a very special occasion sauce. And really, it's not a sauce that would be good to eat weekly anyway. I have no idea what the calorie count is, but I'd guesstimate it at about 400 cals per serving (for the sauce alone). This is, of course, completely pulled out of thin air, but based on the fact that some of the ingredients have a lot of calories (almonds, raisins, chocolate, oil), and the peppers, almonds, garlic and raisins are all oil fried before going into the sauce (and that oil stays in the sauce).

Which leads to the other down side of this sauce. It is ridiculously messy. So there's that oil that I mentioned- it's a 1/2 cup (or starts out as that before you fry all the aforementioned ingredients). Then, after soaking the chilis for a half hour, you puree them with some of the soaking water and then add that puree into the oil. If you've ever put water into hot oil, you'll have an idea of what you're in for. Now make that splatter mess reddish brown and that's the treat that you're in for for the next hour of cooking until you get to the point where you add broth to calm that noise down (then have that all simmer for two hours).

Having said all of this, it is a decadent sauce to behold and will surely make you feel like a master saucier for having gone through all of this work. I kept the enchilada filling simple since I spent so much time on the sauce that it would be lunacy to then have other flavors battling the mole. I just sauteed onion, garlic, green pepper and cubed "chicken style" seitan (from the RFD book, see Fajita post), added a bit over a cup of sauce to the mix and used that for the filling. A lot of the mole that was in the pan and on top of the enchiladas dried during baking, so I saved about 2 cups to use for dousing before serving and froze another 2 cups to have another time.

Also, I halved his recipe which makes 3/4 of a GALLON of sauce. As I said, I still got to freeze 2 cups after making a saucy dish, but if you feel that you would only be up for this mole production once in your life, it may be a good idea to make the whole recipe and freeze a whole bunch to then pull out when you don't feel like cooking all day but want the mole fix.

If you're up for it, you can find the recipe HERE

Enchiladas Verde (that's Spanish for "awesome")

Hey, guess what? I got a new cookbook! It is: The Real Food Daily Cookbook by Ann Gentry. Real Food Daily is an L.A. restaurant chain that is vegetarian and organic. Disclaimer- I've never been there (to any of the locations). I've read good and bad reviews and live no where near any of them, so I just have never bothered. But the cookbook is beautifully designed, full color (unlike most of my books- not that I have anything against low and minimal budget printing, it's the content that counts). But this one is damn pretty. What really caught my eye with it though was the seasonal sections in the back. The chef lists recipes by seasonal ingredients after the usual sections (soups, salads, entrees, etc).

One thing that I noticed when I got it home and really delved into it, was that the recipes that are most interesting to me are rather complex. there's a lot of listing of ingredients and then buried in the list will be "x sauce (see page blah blah)". Meaning that you have to make things to have the ingredients to make things. Which undoubtedly makes them better, but also takes up some serious time.

But anything worth doing is worth doing well, right? So this is the Enchiladas Verde (more or less) from page 152. I say more or less b/c I cheaped out on making my own Seitan and just bought some. I'm ambitious, but I have limits.

I did make the Salsa verde, which was my first foray into tomatillos. They're kinda creepy as I found a large dried up spider in one (in between the husk and the fruit). Anway, the salsa is an excellent recipe in itself. I did hit on a happy accident with this too. I made the salsa and had a minor catastrophe last night (almost lost my engagement ring while making it- we found it after 2 hours of looking. It was in the onion drawer). Anyway, I didn't feel like finishing up enchiladas, so I stuck the salsa in the fridge. It turns out that having it steep overnight is really good for the flavor.

Today, I made the enchilada part with store bought seitan (oh, whatever, it's good). The recipe is delicious! Davey thinks it's the best green salsa that he's ever had. It has great flavor, and after the addition of the second chili in the enchilada sauce, a nice simmery spice to it. the seitan takes on a very faux chicken feel, and the whole combo of flavors is really over the moon.

I also got ingredients for a nice peanut noodle salad that I'll be trying. I'm hoping that all of the recipes from the book are as out of the park as this one. And, I have to get around to trying out the restaurant as well!