You’d think that the food in Buenos Aires would be spicy, no? Well, it’s not. Like, not even the littlest bit. I don’t know why this was so shocking to me, seeing as how porteños are really a bunch of Italians that speak Spanish and think they’re English. Not really! I kid! That’s just an expression here. I guess I thought, you know, Latin America…spicy passionate people…spicy passionate food…umm, no. Fact is, Argentina is not big on the picante. I’m really not sure why that is, although a lot of the cuisine here is based on Italian food, which generally isn’t terribly spicy.
Thus, when it comes to Mexican food of the spicy variety, there’s quite the dearth of available options. I mean, Argentina is a looong way from Mexico, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that Mexican food and ingredients are not the easiest things to procure here.
The issue here is that I am a Mexican food junkie. Hello, my name is Jennifer and I am a Mexican food junkie. Say it all together now: “Hello, Jennifer.” Clearly, San Francisco is the holy grail of Mexican food in the US (fyi, I’m partial to La Taqueria on 25th & Mission). And while NYC is NOT — I repeat NOT — even close to SF in regard to its Mexican food, it has BsAs beat hands down.
So, my solution to this Mexican food dilemma is threefold:
1) Track down any and all hot sauces available in the city; Barrio Chino is the spot for this.
2) Have visiting friends and family bring hot sauce and other spicy things.
3) Make my own.
The great thing about enchiladas is that you can really throw anything in there that’s available, which is a good thing here because quite frequently, I’ll go to buy something I’ve bought for the last 9 months or so and the grocery store just doesn’t carry it anymore. Just like that. Poof. Gone. Like, peanut butter, for instance. Or black beans. I mean, really? They have 35 brands of dulce de leche, but not a single stinking jar of peanut butter lying around? Come on, people. Work with me here!
These enchiladas are freeing. So, there isn’t a black bean to be had in Buenos Aires? Never mind. I’ll throw in some alubia beans (cannellinis to Americanos). No cilantro? Pfff. I see your cilantro deficiency and raise you a handful of parsley. You really can’t screw them up. This time, I was feeling a bit time-crunched, so I found a nice little pre-chopped mix (swiss chard, celery, corn, leeks, carrots, squash and parsley), which is ostensibly for soup, but worked perfectly here.
Tortillas + veggies + cheese + red pepper sauce
= Pseudo-Mexican goodness
And that’s good enough for me. For now.
Recipe adapted from Tamra Davis’ Cooking Show
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
3 zucchinis, chopped (or 2 cups of chopped vegetables of your choosing)
½ an onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons of cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder*
1 cup of corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 14-ounce/210 g can of beans (I like black, but as they have fallen off the face of the earth here, I used cannellinis (kidney beans would also be nice)
Salt and pepper
1-½ cup of sharp cheddar (or mozzarella, asiago, goat cheese, go crazy)
12 flour tortillas
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
1 red pepper, roasted and peeled (you can buy them like that, no need to burn the house down!)
1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce (they sell cubed or cubierto tomatoes in tomato sauce here; that’s what I use)
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (yes! Found this here)
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon of cumin
½ teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice from one lime
Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Start by sautéing the onions in the olive oil on medium heat for a couple minutes. Add your veggies, then add the corn and spices. Cook for about 3-5 minutes; you want the veggies to soften up — not super crunchy, but still with a little bite to them. Add the beans and cook just til they’re heated through.
While that’s cooking, grate your cheese of choice (or open your package of pre-grated cheese and have a glass of wine; no judgment here).
Now it’s assembly line time. A great project for the kid or kiddies to help with. Take a tortilla, fill it with enough of the veggie bean mixture to spread out evenly across the lower-middle part of the tortilla (the tortillas here are really small, so I can only manage about ¼ cup, but if you have the big ones, you can put a lot more in). Don’t pile it too high, but don’t skimp either. You’ll work it out. Now squiggle (yes, squiggle) a nice handful of cheese over the veggies and then take the bottom of the tortilla, roll it over the top of the veggies and place seam down in your waiting 9” x 13” pan. If you have the big tortillas, after you roll the bottom over the top of the veggies, fold the two ends in and keep rolling, so your filling doesn’t fall out. My veggies often fall out and I just tuck them back in.
Once you’ve done all the filling and rolling and placing, pour the red pepper sauce over the tortillas. If you have any filling left, just add it on top of the sauce and then sprinkle liberally with the remaining cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
It’s nice to serve with some guacamole, sour cream or plain yogurt and hot sauce. Some brown rice with a little smoked paprika or cilantro tossed in there would be lovely as well.
* They don’t have chili powder in BsAs (see what I mean? No spicy!), so I use a combination of aji molido, ground coriander, ground nutmeg, oregano and a dash of cinnamon.