Making up a recipe is something I never would’ve considered a little while ago. That’s what cookbooks are for, right? But my confidence in the kitchen has grown. And my biggest source of inspiration for this project is food blogs. I see them throw something together that comes out amazing and I think, “I could do that. Right?”
Mostly it’s a matter of finding something where I don’t have an adequate recipe and figuring out how to put one together. I’m still not a person who can just throw things together. If I’m going to make it I want it to be just right. My spaghetti sauce was made up mostly on the fly and I’m still tinkering with it to this day. I’d really love to be able to write it down when I’m done and say, “Here it is!”
Step 1: Inspiration
The other day I got a frozen Black Bean & Veggie Enchilada for lunch and liked it more than I expected. I did wish they’d used less tofu and more beans or veggies, but I thought… Hmm, I could do this.
Step 2: Background Info
Next comes a little research. I’m not the kind of person who just throws stuff in a pot. I haven’t made enough enchiladas to know just how to do them and I’ve only made them with meat & cheese.
First, I pulled up the product page for the enchiladas I ate. Mostly I wanted their list of veggies, though I already had my own planned. Zucchini, corn, tomatoes, onions and peppers were on my list. I wasn’t too far off. These are the veggies I normally use in my Calabacitas (Mexican veggies, mostly zucchini). I could use frozen/canned corn and canned tomatoes. Plus I use zucchini, onions and peppers often enough that I feel comfortable with them. Just a good dice and I’d be covered. And I’ve got plenty of cans of black beans in my pantry.
When I’ve made enchiladas before, the longest part has been making the filling. Cooking and shredding chicken doesn’t happen in a flash. It seemed to me that these could potentially be done a lot faster and easier if all I had to do was a little chopping.
Step 3: Search other recipes
I thought I’d see if anyone had any recipes already out there that I could riff off of. To search I went through Allrecipes, which has pretty basic recipes and a huge database. Then I googled things like “black bean enchiladas” and “vegetarian enchiladas.”
I found these zucchini enchiladas at Allrecipes. Definitely different than what I had in mind, but I knew I’d need the most help with seasoning and sauces, so I definitely stored this one away. Plus it uses jack cheese, which was my plan as well. It uses a cheese sauce with the zucchini–an interesting thought–but doesn’t have a real enchilada sauce. I’d definitely prefer enchilada sauce. I’d use canned if I must, but I definitely wanted to see more.
I avoided recipes like these black bean enchiladas, which calls for picante sauce and salsa. It’s always been my understanding that enchiladas are made with small corn tortillas and have either a red or green enchilada sauce. It was clear right away that a lot of what I’d find online would have flour tortillas and jarred salsa, which are definitely not the same.
These black bean enchiladas have an interesting seasoning mixture, though I’m not a big fan of cilantro. I’ll keep them in mind. They did bring up an important question: should I do any cooking of the beans and veggies in advance? This one puts everything in just plain and then bakes. But with the veggies would I need a light saute first?
These enchiladas have peppers and beans and don’t pre-cook their filling, either. Otherwise, this recipe and I don’t see eye to eye. I only use taco seasoning for tacos because, well, I’m not really trying to get terribly authentic with those.
There are some drool-worthy candidates, especially in the green-sauce department. If I made my own sauce, it would be amazing to knock-off this from Rick Bayless, who I learned from Top Chef Masters is the king of Mexican food.
Here’s one last recipe that helps me put my plan together. This one has a make-your-own red enchilada sauce that seems pretty simple. A good alternative if I’m not quite Bayless-level ambitious. Plus, yet again, no pre-cooking of the filling. I like the style of this recipe, not a ton of ingredients, lots made from scratch.
Overall, I felt like my idea to put this recipe was good. Most enchilada dishes I found are just for smothered burritos. (They’re different, people! I’ll forgive you for not knowing, but just this once.) And even though they’re mostly vegetarian, the fillings seem to be mostly beans without nearly as much veg thrown in. I think I could make these pretty darn awesome.
The only real question that remains is what to do about the sauce. I pull up a couple more salsa verde recipes for inspiration (this one, another one that claims to be just like the sauce at Cafe Rio and one from my foodie crush, the Homesick Texan) and now I just have to finalize my plan. Oh, and Salsa Verde is NOT the same as “salsa.” Okay? (I usually sub out salsa in recipes for Ro-Tel anyway.)
Next I have to make a plan for ingredients and cooking. Then to cook!
Part 2 will be very exciting, I can already tell…