I am always grateful to Mexican cuisine for its naturally gluten free corn tortillas and other creative uses of corn as a staple food. But even this relatively gluten free friendly cuisine has many hidden sources of gluten. Adobe sauce made from smoked jalapenos a.k.a chipotle is often thickened with wheat flour, and most enchilada sauces and green chili sauces served in American style Mexican restaurants are also thickened with flour. This makes it very challenging to order things that ought to be gluten free, like enchiladas, which are customarily made with gluten free corn tortillas. Chefs are sometimes willing to use something unconventional like salsa as a stand in for the enchilada sauce, but many restaurant chefs are too busy and/or set in their ways to make accommodations for gluten free diners. When I eat out at a Mexican restaurant, I often go with the boring- a corn tostada or taco, or the interesting but more pricey, a vegetable fajita substituting corn tortillas for the wheat. But partly because it is so rare that I can find a gluten free enchilada out, I have been highly motivated to develop my own recipes. I’ve made the recipe from “Mexico- The Vegetarian Table” several times, sometimes using salsa and other times experimenting with homemade enchilada sauce. This time I followed the recipe for enchilada sauce in the book. I calls for dried ancho chilies, fresh tomatoes, fresh chilies, garlic and spices that is simmered and then blended. I liked the dried ancho chilies, and they did give the perfect dark, authentic burgandy shade to the sauces, as well as smoky flavor and depth. But I found the recipe desperately needed some sweet element to counter the spicy, sour flavor elements. I think my search for the perfect homemade enchilada sauce is still on.
Nevertheless, I am pretty happy with the general recipe for enchiladas laid out in the book. Basically, you heat the sauce over low heat and baste both sides of your corn tortilla with the sauce. Next you heat the basted tortilla on both sides to soften and lightly brown it. This adds a lot of flavor to the simple corn tortilla. I used Mission corn tortillas, but homemade tortillas would be even better. Then you put 1 tbsp of cheese inside each tortilla, roll it up, and add the rest of the tortillas to the serving platter one by one. After coating the enchiladas with the left over sauce, I sprinkled the tortillas with cheese and served them with sour cream. In an ideal world I would have served them with guacamole as well, but we didn’t have any. I used a variety of cheeses, including gouda, pepper jack, and Cotija cheese, “or queso aÃ±ejado (Spanish: “aged cheese”), a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese which originates from Mexico.” (Source: Wikipedia) The enchiladas were yummy, as always, but in my opinion the real star of the night was the kale recipe I found in the same cookbook. It uses vinegary ingredients like capers and calamata olives to add real bite and interest to the greens- and was one of the best kale recipes I’ve found so far. It would go well with any meal served with a tomato sauce- and would also compliment savory dishes like grilled tofu. Enjoy and happy dining!
For further reading, here’s an interesting article on Cotija cheese from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Braised Greens with Olives and Capers
2 lbs leafy greens (I used 1 bunch of swiss chard and 1/2 bunch of rainbow chard)
1 tbsp olive oil (or more, to taste)
1 small onion, minced
1 or 2 garlic cloves, presed
1 poblano chili (or chili you like)
12 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup capers, drained, chopped
Rinse and drain greens and chop into bite sized pieces.
Heat oil and add onion, garlic, and chili. Saute for about 2 minutes or until onion turns translucent. Add greens, olives, capers, and cover pan , cooking over medium heat until greens are soft. Mix halfway through the cooking time- after about five minutes.
Surprisingly yummy dish! The vinegar in the olives and capers add a nice tang to the kale without being overwhelming. I will definitely make this again.