Enchiladas for the journey

Remember how I said on Thursday night that I push deadlines but don’t miss them and that I’d report back about BlogHer, um, yesterday?

Well, make that tomorrow. The conference is still going on, it’s been an amazing weekend of networking and experiences and the occasional gratis glass of Prosecco (OK, maybe the occasional two glasses?), and I’ve gotten very little sleep because even when I get home, my brain is racing so hard I can’t get myself to go to bed.

And, in the meantime, I have a story to tell that has nothing to do with BlogHer, but is time-sensitive. Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen has made some tweaks to the rules for Weekend Herb Blogging, and technically, this story fits under the rubric of the old rules rather than the new. The new rules go into effect this coming week, so today is my last day to sneak this in under the wire. Sure, I could just post it without participating in WHB, but where would be the camaraderie in that?

And see? I’m just making a deadline!

So, even though I’m writing this from a conference room on Union Square in San Francisco, this goes back to my last days in Iowa, for a recipe that, much like my move to California, is not so much specific measurements, and more a wing-and-prayer approach of combining things that go well together, tossing them in the oven to bake, and enjoying what comes out.

I spent the first half of my last week in Iowa in California, actually, looking for an apartment. It was a crazy weekend of hoofing it around Oakland, following leads off Craigslist and taking deep gulps at the rents and the deposits required to move in. I signed a lease that Tuesday evening, boarded a red-eye back to Cedar Rapids, and then crawled into bed as soon as I got home in an attempt to avoid the amount of packing I had to finish in three days.

Because the move happened so quickly, I didn’t really have a chance to properly eat down all the food in my fridge and freezer, and because the winter had been so fraught with delayed travel, I hadn’t been home enough or rested enough to manage the proper cooking program I usually maintain.

This meant I still had some slow-roasted tomatoes in the freezer, and as anyone who reads Kalyn or Alanna of Kitchen Parade knows, you don’t waste slow-roasted tomatoes.

I also had made my last visit to the Iowa City Farmer’s Market that Wednesday night, planning mainly to pick up a few gifts for the folks who would be hosting me on my journey west, but deciding, while I was there, to grab a bunch of locally-grown asparagus. Even though I knew I had to stop using my cooking gear and get it into boxes, the asparagus looked to good not to buy it.

So, on Thursday night, I told Betsy to make time for one last dinner cooked in my big Iowa kitchen. It was time for enchiladas, which, over the course of my last year in Iowa, became one of my favorite go-to comfort foods. Fast, easy and, as I made them, arguably not that unhealthy, I started making large batches every couple of weeks, taking the leftovers for lunch or, on days when the comfort was necessary earlier in the day, eating them for breakfast.

Spinach and slow-roasted tomatoes

Spinach and slow-roasted tomatoes

I use an informal recipe, so informal that I’m not going to write it out in traditional fashion. But trust me…anyone can do this. I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, then pulled out my stoneware 9” x 12” pan (stoneware’s not required). I sauteed the slow-roasted tomatoes and a bag of baby spinach over medium-high heat until the spinach wilted, then mixed the tomatoes and spinach in a bowl with a diced package of baked tofu (hickory flavored) and three or four spoonfuls of salsa. These ingredients, it should be noted, are not written in stone—if you like mushrooms, or chicken, or black beans, or corn, try any or all of that.

I rolled that filling into spelt tortillas, but you can use flour tortillas or even corn, although warming the corn tortillas first will help keep them from cracking as you roll them up. I placed each tortilla seam-down in the pan, nestling them against each other so they held each other together. I poured a 12-ounce bottle of Trader Joe’s enchilada sauce (that’s my favorite brand, but any enchilada sauce will do) over the top and then sprinkled the whole pan-full with shredded Colby Jack. Eyeball the cheese until it seems right to you – there are days when just a light touch works great, but other days when extra cheese makes all the difference. Gauge your own mood accordingly.

Then I baked them up, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the cheese had melted and the sauce around the edges bubbled and hissed.

Enchiladas, between asparagus and avocado

Enchiladas, between asparagus and avocado

I also roasted that asparagus, and plated up the enchiladas with the Iowa asparagus on one side and sliced avocado, which just happened to have been flown in from California, on the other. Betsy and I ate dinner at the kitchen table gleaned from another friend who passed it along just when I needed it most, as the light faded over my garden in the back. There would be no more cooking in Iowa, but it seemed just the right dinner to end on: one that featured ingredients from both states, that I served to a friend in the kitchen I’d loved since I first walked into it, and that offered nutrition and comfort for the journey.

This is my post for Weekend Herb Blogging, which is hosted this week by Archana of Archana’s Kitchen. Please stop by later in the weekend for the full round-up of posts!

15 Responses to “Enchiladas for the journey”

  1. 1 Alanna @ A Veggie Venture July 20, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Aiii, a lovely farewell supper, perfect given the departure … and the destination … point. Can’t wait to hear more re BlogHer too.

  2. 2 Karen Ledebur July 20, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    You have such a fun life!

  3. 3 Zannie July 20, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I hate to say it, but… Mexican food fail.

  4. 4 inadvertentgardener July 20, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Alanna, thanks! We missed you at BlogHer — wish you could have been there.

    Kären, it has definitely been fun lately!

    Zannie, to each their own, but I don’t believe I, at any point, claimed this was authentic (or even close to authentic) Mexican. This is quick, easy comfort food, plain and simple. And trust me…no one who has ever tasted it would call it a fail.

  5. 5 hotfessional July 21, 2008 at 6:08 am

    I’ve just drooled into my keyboard.

  6. 6 inadvertentgardener July 21, 2008 at 6:14 am

    Hotfessional, a hair dryer on cool will fix that problem. Then, get thee to the kitchen!

  7. 7 Dee/reddirtramblings July 21, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Those sound so very good.~~Dee

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener July 21, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Dee, thanks — I’ve enjoyed them many times.

  9. 9 spiritinthecity July 21, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Hi Genie – It was great to meet you at BlogHer. I didn’t realize you were so new to town… welcome!

  10. 10 Kitchen Gadget Girl July 21, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    great to meet you this weekend at BlogHer – I enjoyed our talk at the food bloggers lunch on Saturday. And, this recipe looks great. We are big fans of enchiladas in my house, and I like to be creative about what I put in them too – anything to get veggies past my husband and kids!


  11. 11 Diana July 21, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Ohhh, how bittersweet.

    I’m adding your “recipe” (that, by the way, is just how I cook – eyeballing it and improvising) on our menu. My kids will love it!

  12. 12 inadvertentgardener July 21, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Alison, it was terrific to meet you, too! Looking forward to discovering all kinds of cool activities and places to visit via your blog.

    Kitchen Gadget Girl, it was so great to talk to you, as well! I really enjoyed our conversation and hope we can get together again soon.

    Diana, it’s totally kid-friendly — all that stuff inside masked with cheese? Works well. Let me know how it goes!

  13. 13 Kalyn July 22, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Very good job of making the deadline! Sounds delicious to me! Glad the tomatoes did not get wasted too. (Also, I have a photo of your writing this post, so it will be fun linking to it when I finally get my photos posted!)

  14. 14 inadvertentgardener July 23, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Kalyn, I love the photo! Thanks for posting it. :-)

  1. 1 Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB)( July 14 - July 20) | Archana's Kitchen Trackback on July 20, 2008 at 9:37 pm

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