I was reading a thread on Serious Eats about how the poster was feeling uninspired in the kitchen since going vegetarian. In many ways, I sympathize. All the more so because I’m not vegetarian (or pescatarian, as the case is in our household) but economics and convenience tend to force my hand into cooking that way most of the time. And most of the time, I truly don’t mind. I eat meat when we eat out (it might contribute to my beef tartar obsession at The Greenhouse Tavern when my dad generously treats me to lunch there every couple of weeks¹), or cook a small serving for myself while Zak fends for himself (duck wings are popular for that).
But sometimes, I just can’t think of anything interesting. What we end up with might be good, but it’s a good variation on what we’ve made a thousand times, or not-quite-good-enough to share. That lethargy is compounded once I head back to school and don’t get out of class until late, so dinner either has to be quick or pre-made (or made by my awesome husband, who does his fair share of the cooking).
This, though … this is interesting. This started with the idea of a simple sweet potato taco, evolved into a sweet potato and black bean taco or burrito, and then in a stroke of madness (genius) morphed into this dish – a cheesy, spicy, sweet, and creamy sweet potato and black bean enchilada. The enchilada sauce is made from charred green peppers and jalapeños which in one fell swoop uses up my copious green peppers and adds a hint of bitterness and an big punch of spice that tempers the sweetness of the honey-glazed sweet potatoes. The flavors work really well together, with the sweetness of the potatoes balanced out perfectly with the heat of the pepper sauce, jalapeños, and creamy cheddar and beans.
This was really good both with and without the bacon. It added a salty, meaty bite but was totally not necessary to the overall effect of the enchilada – in fact, I added it as an afterthought. I mean, let’s face it, bacon makes almost anything better and this was no exception. At the same time, it was truly amazing how complex and interesting the flavors were without it. This really reminded me how fun, interesting, and inspirational vegetarian cooking really can be.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas:
4 medium flour tortillas
3-4 slices bacon, optional
3 medium sweet potatoes, diced into 1/2″ cubes (no need to peel unless you don’t like peels) (yield: 2 cups)
2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbs. water
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. Arizona Gunslinger jalapeño pepper sauce (or other hot sauce of choice)
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 350°.
If using, cook bacon for 5-7 minutes in a microwave on paper towels until crispy. Cool, and roughly chop. Set aside.
Toss sweet potato cubes with olive oil and season with ancho chile powder, salt, and pepper. Spread on a tinfoil lined baking sheet and roast 15-20 minutes until easily pierced with a fork but not falling apart. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a medium sauté pan, add water and heat over medium-low heat until steam begins to rise. Drizzle in honey, whisking continuously. Once smooth and incorporated, add pepper sauce. Add sweet potatoes and toss to coat.
Cook, raising heat to medium-high and stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes until a sticky glaze forms on the sweet potatoes. Add beans and 1/2 cup of cheese and stir to combine. If using, add bacon.
[Note: I added bacon to 2 of the enchiladas, so I could have some porky goodness but the rest remained vegetarian.]
Spray a 9″ x 13″ casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon about 1/4 cup of green pepper enchilada sauce (see below) on the bottom of the pan.
Take a flour tortilla and, using a pair of tongs, dip it in the green pepper enchilada sauce on both sides to lightly coat. Place in the casserole dish. Add about 1/2 cup filling to the center. Carefully roll into a tube shape, careful not to burn yourself. Position so the seam side is down. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Pour any remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Cover with tinfoil.
Transfer to oven. Bake 25-30 minutes, removing tinfoil for last ten minutes, until cheese is bubbling and golden brown. Serve immediately.
Green Pepper Enchilada Sauce:
2 green bell peppers
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
Coat peppers in olive oil and place under the broiler and broil 3-4 minutes per side, turning frequently, until outside is blistered and flesh is tender, for a total of about 20 minutes.
Transfer to a ziplock bag. Let cool. When cool, remove charred outer skins from the peppers and discard. Remove stems, seeds, and inner membranes. Dice flesh.
Heat canola oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add diced pepper flesh and stir to combine.
Add water, ancho chile powder, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes to incorporate flavors.
Using an immersion blender or transferring to a blender, puree until smooth. Set aside.
¹ And when I say obsession, I mean it. I wax poetic about it every time the subject even obliquely comes up, with anyone. Oh, cows, you say? Yes, I had this delicious beef tartar dish at The Greenhouse Tavern the other day. It is so moist and delectable, served with a variety of condiments (finely chopped red onions, pickles, a red pepper condiment that is BEYOND WORDS, mustard, mayo, an oh-so-perfectly cooked three minute egg). There is an obscene amount of steak for what you pay and it is perfectly chilled and beefy and delicious. Plus, some crispy chip type things to scoop with, that are buttery and oh-my-god. And rosemary garlic pomme frites that are, just wow. I haven’t been able to bring myself to order anything else there since I first tried it. Yeah, I’m obsessed. Clearly. And I’m really fortunate to have a father who indulges me by taking me out to lunch (since we work basically across the street from one another) and walking several blocks and then paying for my delicious raw beef obsession that makes me drool every time I think about it in ways that are both unladylike and inappropriate for someone who isn’t a caveman.