BLACK BEAN ENCHILADAS + THE BIG SIGH
(the carrots and the enchilada sauce await their mixing together, with other happy things)
(my parents have the best-lit oven I've ever seen!)
(best of all is not the enchilada or the fresh California avocados or the sparkling pink lemonade, it's our perfect dining companion and dish-licker extraordinaire, Vito)
Being in Santa Barbara again, in the house where i grew up (even snuggling up to my childhood teddy, Sara) is like one big, satisfying, full-bellied sigh. It's so amazing to not have to think about where, what, why and how of every little thing. There's some large portion of my brain that can just breathe easier, dial down a couple notches and soak it in-- my roots, old friends, familiarities, parents and comforts. I'm still amazed.
My hometown has a relaxing effect on nearly everyone who crosses its path, but I just feel ridiculously happy, slightly dazed and glorious at having made it back in one piece. All the way back to one of my favorite places -- my parents' kitchen! Not only is it spacious and kitted-out with great equipment and beautiful bowls and heavy pans, it is the location where magic has happened. Dare I say it's where dreams come true? Gastronomic heights have been set in this place -- with incredible signature dishes such as pumpkin chiffon pie (oh indeed), roasted vegetable lasagna w/homemade pasta, grilled black-pepper peaches, all-white dinner parties, fresh loaves of olive bread . . . the list goes forever. I aspire to the meals and feelings created here, in our family's sacred space.
I'm adding a nice dinner to the easy-dinner roster. It perhaps won't shake you to your core or make you go ga-ga for days, but it was a tasty and lovely meal. Black bean and carrot enchiladas. Kinda homey style, perfect for a girl who craves Mexican food the moment she touches down on SoCal soil. Everyone, even the dog who licked the plates, enjoyed it.
Black Bean and Carrot Enchiladas
preheat oven to 400 degrees F
1 12 oz. can red or green enchilada sauce
2 cans black beans, slightly mashed (I did this mashing with my fingers)
1 medium red onion, diced
2 large carrots, steamed slightly (about 2 minutes in microwave just to soften), medium chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps rice vinegar (any mild vinegar, such as apple cider, red wine, sherry vinegar, etc. would be fine)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt to taste
12-15 corn tortillas, depending on size/shape of pan and how full you pack the bean mixture
1/4 c cojita cheese, crumbled on top
1 tomato, sliced thin
First sautee onion on medium heat in large pan until slightly clear and fragrant. Add spice mixture and cook one minute more, spices will also release yummy scent. Add the beans, carrot and garlic and mix until uniform. Splash the vinegar onto the beans, stir and remove from heat.
Get out a 1-2inch tall lasagna (sometimes used for brownies) pan, pour about 1/4 can of enchilada sauce on bottom, evenly coating the pans surface. Place a dollop (about 2 tbsps) of bean mixture in each tortilla, rolling them up like little cigars. Try to keep them tight, and not too big, to not explode or tear. They will probably do that anyway! Continue with the rolling until all bean mixture is done and pan is full. Pour remaining sauce all over the enchiladas. Place tomato slices on top, finishing with a liberal sprinkling of cojita cheese. Use more than the recommended 1/4 cup if you like.
Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Garnish with avocado and cilantro and extra salsa, if you have it -- toast with lemonade and your darling parents.