Monday, May 23, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Tortilla Pie

It began with the tortillas. One of my colleagues picked up a packet of corn tortillas from a local Mexican restaurant at lunch one day and brought them back to the office. The package was hefty, so she offered me some, which I took home, put in the fridge and half forgot about. But one day, a week or so later, I was thinking about what to make for dinner, and I remembered the tortillas. I had a yen for some sort of tortilla pie or casserole, with vegetables and beans and cheese, something warm and comforting, hearty and wholesome. I looked up recipes and found all manner of variations--with meat, without meat, with tomato sauce, with large quantities of salsa, etc.-- but I didn't find exactly what I was looking for.

No matter. This is the kind of dish where improvisation works fine. After all, how wrong can you go with tortillas, vegetables, beans and cheese? On one burner of the stove, I set to sauteing some onions and garlic, to which I added 2 cans of black beans and a package of frozen corn. On the next burner, I sauteed some spinach with a bit of garlic.

Then, I made what turned out to be a crucial decision. I had a little can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce in the house. I pureed these and added a teaspoon to the bean/corn/onion mixture, which gave it a kick without excessive heat. (This meant I didn't have to dump in a whole jar of salsa later to avoid blandness.) Once everything was cooked, I began to layer. On the bottom of the dish went a layer of tortillas (3 or 4), overlapping. I covered these with half of the bean/corn mixture. Then I added about half of the spinach. Grated cheddar followed, along with dabs of salsa.

Another layer of tortillas followed, and then the beans and corn, spinach, cheese and salsa. You could add more salsa, tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, if you wanted the mixture to be wetter. You could put other vegetables in with the beans and corn. I'm still wondering why I didn't think to add red peppers. You can skip the spinach, if that's not your thing, but it's an easy and delicious way to get some greens in painlessly (if you (or your children) are looking for painless ways to greens consumption). Don't skimp on the cheese, which is a mistake I made the second time I made this. (It was still good, but not quite as delicious as the first time.) Finally, add one more layer of tortillas across the top, and grate more cheese to finish it off.

These top tortillas will crisp up when you bake it, and they will add some nice crunch to the dish.

This is not the loveliest or most photogenic dish, admittedly. But it's filling and tasty and very easy to make. I recommend eating it with cubes of avocado and a bit of sour cream.

Not long ago, I went to the Mexican restaurant and bought my own hefty packet of Cinco de Mayo corn tortillas ($1.75 for at least 30 tortillas that are much more substantial than supermarket tortillas). With the weather seeming to have forgotten that it's actually late May, I suspect there will still be at least a few opportunities to use them!

Vegetarian Tortilla Pie

10-12 small corn tortillas, Cinco de Mayo or other quality brand if possible
olive oil for sauteeing
2 onions, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans black beans (or 1 cup dried beans, soaked and cooked)
10 oz. frozen corn (or corn from 3-4 ears, if in season)
1 tsp. pureed chipotle chilies
1 10 oz. bag of spinach leaves, washed
4-6 oz. sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
salsa to taste
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Saute the onions and 2 cloves of garlic in 1 tbsp. olive oil until the onions are soft but not brown. Add the black beans and corn. When mixture is warm, stir in the pureed chipotle chili, making sure that it's spread out through the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate skillet, heat another teaspoon of olive oil and saute the third clove of garlic, briefly. Add the washed spinach and saute until spinach is wilted. Put into a colander and press to squeeze out any extra water. Chop finely.

In a casserole dish (I used an 8.5" x 12" Emile Henry lasagna pan), put a layer of tortillas across the bottom. It's fine if they overlap. Layer on half of the bean/corn mixture and half of the spinach. Add salsa to taste. Sprinkle not quite half of the cheese over the top. Repeat with another layer of tortillas, beans/corn, spinach, salsa and cheese. Top with a final layer of tortillas with the remaining cheese sprinkled on top.

Bake in 375 oven for approximately 20 minutes. Serve with chopped avocado, sour cream, more salsa, and any other garnish you wish.

Serves 4-6


Anjuli said...

this looks absolutely wonderful! I am going to try this-- it sounds like it will be very tasty...and spicy enough for my hubby's taste buds :)

kerry dexter said...

I have a sma;; can of chipotles lurking in the back of my cupboard...

Sue Dickman said...

Kerry, my can was lurking in my cupboard too, and I'd never cooked with them before. I saw the idea of pureeing them somewhere, and that made sense--I wanted to add a kick of heat, but I didn't want big chunks of chili. (And now the pureed chilies are still in my fridge for future use.) They add such a nice smoky flavor.

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