I wrote an article about spinach and chard for Salt Lake City’s monthly Catalyst Magazine, June 2012 issue. Enjoy my story and recipe for Chard Enchiladas.
“Enchilada” literally translates to “seasoned with chile sauce.” Most of us are familiar with the Tex-Mex version, filled with chicken or other meat, and gooey with melted cheese. Truly, enchilada variations are endless. You can include beans, maybe black or pinto. Or switch to whole wheat flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas. “Stack” the tortillas, with filling and sauce in between instead of rolling the filling inside each tortilla. The sauce can be green or red, purchased or homemade, it all depends on what’s in the pantry and how much time you have to prepare it all.
Cotija cheese, which is akin to Greek feta, is the classic enchilada cheese; try cheddar or Monterey jack instead—or since these enchiladas are fairly mild in their heat quotient—substitute pepper jack cheese if you want them more incendiary. Vegan cooks can skip the cheese altogether.
I learned to make enchiladas from my mother, who learned from a neighbor who owned a Mexican grocery store. Mom and many Mexican cooks fry their corn tortillas in oil to make them pliable, so they don’t absorb too much sauce and easily disintegrate. In the interest of lowering calorie content, mist the tortillas with cooking oil and warm them in the oven. Bathe the tortillas in sauce just before baking, as in the recipe below. Fresh jalapeño chile, especially with the seeds removed, is quite mild and hardly detectable in the filling; again if you want more “picante” heat, mince the jalapeño including its seeds. And if you don’t have a fresh jalapeño, use a smoked one from the can–these are the chipotles en adobo you may have used in chipotle mayonnaise or another recipe with Southwestern flavors.
As far as the yield, it will depend on the diameter of the tortillas and how much filling you put in each tortilla. Be cautious not to overfill, so you can easily roll the tortillas. It seems there is always more of one filling item leftover—just fill the last tortilla with whatever is left. Makes about 6 servings.
1 bunch chard, or fresh spinach, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons olive, canola or grapeseed oil
1 medium onion, cut in ¼-inch dice
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño chile, seeds removed, minced
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
½ teaspoon dried or 2 tablespoons fresh minced oregano
1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
Salt, as needed
12 to 14 (preferably organic) corn tortillas
Oil mist, from purchased cooking spray, or from a refillable pump oil sprayer
1 bunch green onions, cut in ¼-inch dice
½ cup sliced black olives
8 ounces Cotija or feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups enchilada sauce, purchased or homemade
Wash the chard well. Trim the leaves away from the ribs. Cut the ribs in ¼-inch pieces and set aside, and then chop the leaves in 1-inch strips.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir the onion, chard ribs, garlic and chile for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and the chard ribs are soft. Add the chard leaves, the cilantro and the oregano and continue to cook and stir until the chard leaves have wilted and shrunk in volume. Sprinkle with the vinegar and season to taste with salt.
Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Lightly coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with oil and spread about ¼ cup of the enchilada sauce around the oiled dish. Place tortillas on a baking sheet, 4 to 6 to a pan, depending on the size of your pan. Lightly mist both sides of the tortillas with cooking spray. Heat in the oven 3 to 5 minutes, until the tortillas are soft and pliable, no more.
Fill the tortillas in assembly line fashion, filling all the warmed ones on the pan before rolling them and placing them in the baking dish. With your fingers, spread a heaping tablespoon of the chard filling down the middle of each tortilla. Follow with a sprinkling of the green onions and olives, and finally with about a tablespoon of the cheese. Roll the tortillas around the filling and place them seam side down in the dish. Mist, heat and fill the rest of the tortillas repeating the first assembly line. (You can cover the pan at this point and refrigerate overnight..)
Ladle the enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas, making a point to cover the ends first and spreading lightly over the middle. You want to be sparing vs. generous with the sauce, even if there are thumbnail patches of tortillas showing. Sprinkle with cheese or olives, for optional eye appeal. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.