As a former vegan, I’ve learned a thing or two about meatless cooking. These enchiladas are hearty and filling and perfect for a Meatless Monday meal!
Smoky Potato and Cauliflower Enchiladas
These veggie enchiladas are filling, smoky and even better the next day.
In my 30-plus years of existence (more specifically, in my 15 or so years as a teen and adult), I’ve tried probably half a dozen diets along with countless “lifestyle” changes in an ongoing and constantly evolving effort to find what works for me in terms of eating healthy while still enjoying my food. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel like as I get older I’ve refined a few of my own “food rules” that work really well for me. One of these “rules” is to go somewhat easy on eating meat. Now, this doesn’t mean that my diet in any way resembles something vegetarian or even plant-based, I love and thoroughly enjoy meat of all kinds and I eat it often, but I find that eating meatless meals a few times a week helps me feel energized, helps me keep my weight under control and, of course, helps force me to challenge myself to come up with new and inventive recipes.
I’ve tried entirely meatless diets before, but they didn’t work for me. For a few years before law school, I was completely vegan. I liked that veganism forced me to come up with some really creative recipes (and I still think the fact that you can make something that pretty closely resembles bleu cheese dressing from pureed cashews, lemon juice and other spices is pretty amazing), but it wasn’t the right lifestyle choice for me in the long-run and I gave up on veganism after about two years. However, I still have some holdover knowledge from my time as a reformed carnivore, and it helps me in the kitchen when I’m trying to come up with meat-free meals. These smoky enchiladas use a few of my old tricks, one of which is using a smoky spice in a meal that I would usually add meat to (enchiladas are a great example) to give the dish some depth and richness that would normally be the product of cooking up a fatty meat like beef, which is the enchilada filling that I grew up eating.
Another thing I’ve learned about meatless cooking – and cooking in general – is that you really don’t want to leave people hungry after a main course (or any meal, for that matter, but you really don’t want people to leave the dinner table hungry). That can be sort of challenging when you’re trying to come up with a vegetarian meal. A main course, especially one covered in cheese that just looks so damn appetizing, should be hearty and filling so that people aren’t disappointed with how hungry they are after they’ve cleared their plates. This is compounded when you’re serving non-vegetarians who, I’ve found, tend to be skeptical (at least at first) about whether they can fill up without meat.
With those two ideas in mind, I created this recipe for smoky potato and cauliflower enchiladas in a yummy, traditional red sauce (which I buy at the store and dress up to make my life a lot easier). The filling is super hearty; no one will leave the table hungry, and the smoky chili flavor gives the dish some depth that a hastily thrown together veggie dish can often lack. This recipe takes about an hour start to finish, and keeps well in the fridge if there are leftovers.
There are three main components to the dish: the spice mix, the filling and the sauce. Here’s how I make them and put them together:
For the spice mixture
*I usually make this first so it’s ready to go when I need it.
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder and cumin
½ teaspoon each of oregano, salt and pepper
For the filling:
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks (I like to cut all of the veggies for the filling into fairly small pieces so that everything inside the enchiladas is small enough to just bite right into. Plus, cutting them up into smaller chunks helps everything cook quickly and evenly.).
½ head of cauliflower, diced
½ yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4- 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed (the peas area nice addition to this dish because they’re sweet and help balance out the smoky, hearty character of the rest of the ingredients)
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, diced (with seeds)
For the sauce:
To one small can of red enchilada sauce (I use Las Palmas brand), add:
½ teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder and oregano
2 teaspoons sauce from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo
*the addition of these ingredients to your store-bought enchilada sauce will a) give your sauce more depth of flavor and help get rid of any ‘store-bought’ taste, and b) create consistency in this dish: the enchiladas and the sauce shouldn’t taste like they’re from two different sources (even though they are!). By mimicking the spices we used in the filling in the sauce, we’re tricking our taste buds into thinking that both were created in the same place – our kitchen!
Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat.
Add potatoes, and cook for about five minutes, until they begin to get tender.
Add cauliflower, and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
Add onion and bell peppers, and cook for 5-7 minutes, uncovered.
Add the chipotle peppers and peas. Stir to combine,
Add spice mixture, and stir to coat all veggies in the spices. (The mixture might stick to the bottom of the pan or look ‘thick,” but that’s fine! Just stir it until the veggies are coated with the spices.).
Put a lid on the pan, reduce the heat a bit, and cook the veggies in the spice mixture until the potatoes are fork tender but not mushy, about 3-5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the veggies sit, uncovered to cool a bit.
Heat the enchilada sauce in a pot and add the spices and chipotle pepper sauce. Stir to combine and remove from heat. Set aside.
Warm small corn tortillas in the oven or microwave, until just soft (about 10-15 seconds in the microwave).
Spray the bottom of a glass baking dish with a thin coat of non-stick spray. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the enchilada sauce to the bottom of the pan and spread it around so that the pan is coated with the sauce.
Add a small amount of grated cheese (use whatever cheese you like – I use a finely shredded blend of cheddar and monterey jack from the grocery store, but I think sharp cheddar or pepper jack would be great as well) to the inside of one of the tortillas, and on top of that add a scoop of the filling (enough so the enchilada is full, but not so much that you can’t roll it without ripping the tortilla). Close the tortilla and place it seam-side down in the glass dish. Repeat this with all of the tortillas until the pan is full and the enchiladas are tucked in nice and tight! Some of the tortillas may rip a bit, it’s not a big deal! Just tuck them into the dish; the cheese will act as an adhesive as it melts down into the nooks and crannies of the pan. (See? Another advantage to liberal cheese-usage!).
Top the enchiladas with the sauce so that each enchilada is covered, and top the entire pan with cheese (I’m pretty liberal with the cheese, I like my enchiladas super cheesy, hot and bubbly right out of the oven!)
Stick the pan in the pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and starting to brown on the edges.
I garnish these with cilantro, fresh chopped raw white onion, a dollop of sour cream, a few slices of avocado and a squeeze of fresh lime. This recipe makes enough filling for about 12-15 enchiladas. If there’s leftover filling, use it on nachos or in quesadillas the next day! I scrambled my leftover filling with some egg whites the morning after I made these and it was the perfect pre-workout breakfast. Enjoy!