Chef Ayinde’s Vegan Enchiladas


These vegan enchiladas are savory enough to win over carnivores.  In fact, vegan chef Ayinde Howell developed the recipe to please a non-vegan girlfriend. The secret is sauteing the tofu long enough to make it chewy (adding essential texture) and adding lots of seasonings to the tofu and the enchilada sauce (giving the rich flavor).

The method of making the enchiladas is this: (1) make enchilada sauce; (2) make tofu filling; (3) warm tortillas, dip in sauce, fill with tofu filling, roll and line up in casserole with the rest of the sauce; and (5) bake. The warming and dipping of the tortillas may seem overly fussy, but this is what helps fuse together the tortillas and the sauce. The tortillas absorb the sauce, becoming soft and chewy in a way that reminds me of the sauce infused breading on eggplant in eggplant Parmesan.

The only difficulty with the dish is that it only serves 2-3. I would double it or serve it with other Mexican dishes (like the creamy rice). I also think that it tastes best when first made, so I would assemble and bake it just before serving.

Ayinde’s Vegan Enchiladas
Adapted from Chef Ayinde, as it appeared in the NYT and in Elaine Louie’s The Occasional Vegetarian. Serves only 2-3, so plan accordingly.

First, make the sauce.

Saute until translucent:
1/4 cup safflower or other vegetable oil
Half a medium onion, diced (I used Vidalia)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced (I skipped this)

Add the seasonings and flour to the sauteed vegetables and cook until brown (I just stirred it around a bit for a minute):
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder (I used 1/2 tsp.)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Stir into the flour/onion mixture:
3/4 cup water
8 ounces canned organic tomato sauce (I used a kind that had basil and garlic added in)
sea salt (didn’t need this because the canned sauce was really salty)

Simmer the sauce on low for 15 minutes. It will be thick and dark orange color. Keep the sauce warm while you cook the tofu and warm up the tortillas.

At this point you need to make the filling:
In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the tofu, cooking until the tofu browns and crisps up, stirring regularly to keep the tofu from sticking:
1/4 cup oil
16 ounces of tofu, drained dry and crumbled (tofu comes in 14 ounce packages, irritatingly enough, and you really need to squeeze it dry; even with that it takes forever to brown, way longer than the fifteen minutes suggested.)

When the tofu finally seems as close as it is going to get to being browned and crisp, add the onions and red peppers:
Half  a medium onion, finely diced (Don’t saute all of this! Reserve a third for sprinkling over the top of the dish)
Half a red bell pepper, finely diced(Don’t saute all of this! Reserve half of this for sprinkling over the top of the dish)

Add in the following:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced (I skipped this)
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves (I skipped this)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin, or more to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, or more to taste (I used 1/2 tsp.)

Add in the following:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
sea salt, to taste (didn’t need it)

Saute for about 5 minutes, or until onion is tender. You can add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water if mixture seems too dry. If tofu stuck to the bottom of the pot or if there are stuck on browned bits, add the water and then cover the pot off heat to let the stuck on bits steam off.

Meanwhile, wrap the tortillas tightly in foil and warm up for 10 minutes in a 375 degree oven:
6 corn tortillas, 7″ diameter
Remove the tortillas, still wrapped, and set aside until you are ready to assemble the casserole.

In a small casserole (9×7 or 8×10) spread 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom. Dip each tortilla in the sauce, coating both sides. Then fill each tortilla with 1/6 of the tofu filling and tightly roll it up. Place the filled tortillas side by side in the casserole and top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle over the reserved onion and pepper.

Bake the enchiladas at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until heated through.

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