Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Enchiladas with Chayote and Verde Sauce

I love wandering a farmer's market or produce aisle at a well-appointed grocery store and discovering things that I never knew existed or had heard of but never seen. Chayote have been on my list for a while now, having read about them in a magazine a year or so ago. I was perusing the peppers at Central Market the other day and there they were.

A chayote is a type of squash native to Mexico and South America. They don't look like much, but they're quite tasty and very easy  to work with. They're also called the "vegetable pear" and you can see why:

These two were smoother than the average chayote, so you get one that's deeply wrinkled, don't worry. This picture makes them look like limes a bit, but the skin of the chayote is much thinner than a lime peel and is also edible. Basically, all you need to do is avoid the center when you're chopping. Two will get you about 4 cups diced up, which is perfect for this recipe.

If you can't find chayote, or if your garden is overrun by summer squash and zucchini that you really should use instead, don't worry. These will be just as good with any squash substitution.

This is a nice change from my other enchilada recipe, which is satisfying but sort of heavy. Good for winter but not for the dog days of summer. This recipe is light and flavorful and really hits the spot. They're a bit of work, but they're worth it.

8 flour tortillas
1 bunch rainbow chard, leaves stripped off stems and rinsed
1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 chayote, diced small
2 poblano peppers, sliced in half and seeded
1/2 of a sweet yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced (divided)
1 small bunch cilantro
2.5 cups veggie stock
2 tsp cumin
canola oil

Make the verde sauce: Fill a large pot 2/3 full of water. Put the tomatillos, onion and peppers in and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. The tomatillos will be pale and soft when they're ready.

Use a slotted spoon or spider to fish everything out of the water (don't dump the water out!) and transfer it all over to a blender. Add 2 of the minced garlic cloves and a small handful of the cilantro leaves. Blend until smooth and pour into a small saucepan. Cook for about five minutes on medium heat until it thickens and starts to stick a bit. Stir it often, but carefully as it will be sputtering at you. You can use the lid of the pot to shield yourself a bit. Add the stock and let it simmer for another 20 minutes or so, stirring often.

Make the filling: using the pot of water from the sauce ingredients, blanch the leaves over medium heat for a few minutes, then put them immediately into a bowl of cold water. Drain them well and chop them up.

Next, put the chopped chayotes into the water and boil them for about 10 minutes, until fork tender. Drain them through a colander. In a medium skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil and add the remaining minced garlic. Cook for a minute or so, until fragrant, then add the chopped chayotes and chart, stirring it all together to combine. Add the cumin, salt and pepper to taste, and a cup or so of the sauce. Stir it well and remove it from the heat.

Wash out the  skillet and return it to the stove over medium heat. Using oil or cooking spray, coat the surface of the pan and cook the tortillas. Put them into the skillet one at a time, letting them cook until they puff up a bit, then flipping them and repeating on the other side. Watch this closely because they can get away from you very quickly. Put the finished tortillas on a plate lined with paper towels.

Assemble the enchiladas: Set up a space at the table or on the counter so you can make an assembly line. Start with tortillas on the left, sauce, a plate, filling and then a place to put the finished product (I used a baking dish so I could keep them warm in the oven).

Working individually, dip a tortilla into the verde and lay it flat on the first plate. Place about 1/4 cup of filling just off the center of the tortilla on the side toward you. Tuck and roll the tortilla nice and tight and place it seam-side down on the platter or baking dish.

When you're ready to serve, place two on a plate, top with a little more of the verde sauce and whatever else you like. I used some more cilantro and homemade tofu-based queso fresco.