I’m not a Vegan or a Vegetarian. I love meat. I also believe that if you love food and cooking, you should love and cook all types of food. One of the lessons I’ve learned from cooking and watching cooking shows is that people are forced to be more creative when there are restrictions placed on their projects. I’ve been thinking about doing a Vegan/Vegetarian dinner party for a while, and while I was researching for recipes, I came across the Vegan Enchiladas one. There was no photo to go with the description or the recipe, but based on the ingredients list, it looked like something that would be very interesting to try.

There are 3 main components to this dish. The cashew “sour cream”, the Tomatillo enchilada sauce, and the filling for the enchiladas. The cashew “sour cream” is what interested me the most, and also what ended up being the best part of the dish. Cashews are soaked in hot water for 2 hours, then pureed with some lime juice, vinegar, and smoked hot paprika for heat (You can find smoked sweet and hot paprika from Central Market). It was so simple, but so tasty. My boyfriend, who is raised on Tex-Mex food, was surprised by how rich and flavorful the vegan “sour cream” was. One issue I had with the cream was how much thicker it was than actual sour cream, so I had trouble spreading it on the final Enchiladas. I would suggest adding a little soaking water to the cashews while blending to lighten the viscosity.

the Tomatillo sauce is made from chopped Tomatillos, onions, Serrano (or Jalapeno) peppers. The vegetables are cooked in a vegetarian broth for 15 minutes on medium heat, then pureed.

Seasoning (salt and pepper) can do wonders for food. People tend to think that a dish without fat or oil will be bland, but with just the right amount of salt and pepper, you can dress up any dish. For those of you that follows Top Chef Texas, Paul Qui won the elimination challenge for the finale by making a vegetarian soup. A SOUP! It goes to show that you don’t need meat or bacon to give a dish flavor. Just add salt and pepper, and let the vegetables speak for themselves!! On that note, don’t forget to season your Tomatillo sauce.

Now the filling of the Enchiladas is composed of a sauteed mixture of onions, shitake mushrooms, roasted butternut squash, fresh corn (or frozen if you follow the recipe), and swiss kale. The butternut squash is cubed and roasted for 15 minutes in a 400F oven.

The onions and shallots are sweated in a heavy skillet, then sliced shitakes are added and sauteed until lightly browned.

The kale is finely chopped and added to the skillet along with the corn.

Once the kale has wilted, the skillet is removed from heat, and the roasted butternut squash is stirred in. Remember to season the vegetables to taste.

Corn tortillas need to take a quick dip in hot oil before using. If the tortilla is not quickly fried, it will not roll easily and will break when filling. Be careful not to leave the tortilla in the oil too long though, they will get too soft and break apart; just a few seconds on each side will work.

The tortillas should be drained on paper towels and set aside until all tortillas are ready for Enchilada assembly. The tortillas should not be filled too much. I used 5-6 inch diameter corn tortillas, so about 1/3 cup of filling was enough.

About a cup of Tomatillo sauce is spread on the bottom of the baking dish, and then the rolled Enchiladas are placed in the dish in rows.

The rest of the tomatillo sauce is poured over the enchiladas in the dish, covered in tin foil, and baked for 25 minutes in 375 oven.

After baking, the enchiladas should look puffy. I spread the cashew “sour cream” over the Enchiladas, and sprinkled some red onions, cilantro leaves, and pepita seeds.

I also made a simple chickpeas salad with yogurt, cumin, and pepita seeds to go with the Enchiladas.

I will definitely make the Enchiladas for my future vegan/vegetarian dinner party. The vegetables blended together really well, with the mushrooms and squash giving the Enchiladas a savory almost meaty flavor. The cashew “sour cream” was incredible, and I think you can almost eat it as a vegetable dip, similar to hummus.

Vegan Enchiladas: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/vegan-enchiladas
Vegetarian Chickpea Salad: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/chickpea-and-arugula-salad-with-creamy-cumin-dressing-and-roasted-pumpkin-seeds