September 30, 2008

Spinach Enchiladas with ranchero sauce

I recently posted about making quesadillas for the first time after being inspired by a Public Television cooking show. The TV chef (TVC) was really into shredded chicken and cream, but he cooked enough stuff that I was able to take a little of this and a bit of that and concoct my own version of his dishes. One of the things he made was ranchero sauce. He used the ranchero sauce for a spinach-stuffed poblano pepper dish, but I decided to stuff corn tortillas with spinach and use the ranchero sauce (no cream) to make enchiladas.

I try to stick to a theme of "easy vegan cooking" when I prepare food for these posts. This doesn't always translate to "fast" vegan cooking. This dish truly is easy, and can be made faster with jarred ranchero sauce, but I was staring at a giant bowl of plum tomatoes just picked from the garden, and was not about to go buy a tomato-based sauce. So I'm going to give a recipe for the sauce and then the enchiladas, and anyone who wants to make this can make or buy whatever. However, if you have access to fresh, ripe plum tomatoes, please make this sauce.

TVC said to use 3 pounds of roasted, peeled and cored tomatoes, but he didn't say how to roast them. I love roasted veggies and make them often, but would you believe I've never roasted just tomatoes for the purpose of making sauce? I tried to find a recipe, but all the ones I saw were for slow-roasted and reduced tomatoes. I filled a 9 x 12 pan plus a 9 x 9 pan with tomato halves drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano. These I put into a preheated 400˚ oven for about one hour. (Cooking time will vary with the size of the tomatoes. Larger tomatoes will take longer.) Maybe because I used plum tomatoes which have a much lower water content, or maybe because I didn't slow roast them for hours, my tomatoes really didn't reduce much. The picture you see is how they looked when I removed them from the oven. Although they didn't reduce, the flavor was intensified to the woohoo stage! I let them cool a little and started to remove (and eat) the skins but the skins were so tender and delicious that I abandoned that idea and decided to just puree the whole lot.

After pureeing, I froze one pint unseasoned, and used the remaining 2 to 2-1/2 cups for the recipe below.

Ranchero sauce
  • 3 pounds ripe, roasted tomatoes, peeled if the skins are tough (see above text)
  • 2 serrano chiles or jalapeños (or unidentified medium hot peppers!) I used 2 jalapeños and the unidentified choice
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (TVC used 1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Puree the tomatoes, peppers and garlic until smooth.
  2. Cook onions in oil until translucent (about 4 minutes) and add to tomatoes.
  3. Stir in salt, cinnamon and sugar.
  4. TVC said to simmer the sauce 30 minutes until slightly thickened. Since I was planning to bake my sauce, I skipped this step. Besides, my sauce was already really thick and delicious beyond belief.
Now for the filling. Normally I use fresh vegetables but TVC suggested using frozen spinach to save time. He said it would take 2-1/2 pounds of fresh baby spinach and you'd have to wash, chop, steam and squeeze it. This sounded like a lot of work so I decided to make the project seem more manageable by taking his advice and using frozen spinach. My bags of frozen spinach were from Whole Foods and really, when it was cooked, I couldn't tell it wasn't fresh. Anyway, the spinach was supposed to be defrosted and squeezed out, but of course, I planned poorly and was faced with using the spinach frozen or not making the enchiladas. It worked perfectly so I don't know what to say about this step. Here's what I did.

Spinach with pine nuts and raisins
  • 20 ounces frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup plain unsweetened soy yoghurt (optional but recommended)
  1. Sauté the pine nuts and raisins in the oil until the pine nuts begin to brown and the raisins plump up. BE CAREFUL NOT TO BURN THEM. Stir in the spinach and cook until fully defrosted and dry.
  2. Season if desired.
  3. Stir in the yoghurt if using.
We're almost done. And really, I think it's taking longer to write this post than it did to make the enchiladas. The last part involves softening corn tortillas, stuffing them with the spinach and baking them. TVC used 1/4 cup of oil in a skillet to warm each side of the tortillas before draining them on paper towels. I sprayed them with a little olive oil, heated them in a small cast iron skillet, flipping them over until they were pliable. If you know a better way to soften corn tortillas, please let me know.

  • 12 softened corn tortillas
  • spinach filling
  • ranchero sauce
  • vegan cheese
  • plain unsweetened soy yoghurt (optional, but creates a sour-cream-like effect)
  1. Divide the spinach filling in the pan into roughly 12 parts.(you know, spatula lines)
  2. Place the ranchero sauce in a 9" x 12" heavy baking dish.
  3. Soften, then fill the tortillas with spinach and roll up.
  4. Place the tortillas in the dish and spoon a little sauce over them.
  5. Place shredded or thinly sliced vegan cheese over the top.
  6. Drizzle soy yoghurt here and there.
  7. Bake at 350˚ for 30 to 40 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

Post Script I mentioned before and I'll mention again that we just had our first taste of Teese. That's what I used on the enchiladas. I sliced rather than shredded it and it didn't quite melt all the way but it was totally my fault. I probably should have waited a little longer or covered it for a few minutes. No matter. It's really in a class by itself as far as vegan cheeses go. It's scarily like the real thing. I was actually a little embarrassed at work when I reheated my lunch and it smelled like actual cheese!

On the other hand, the nutritional value of Teese is somewhat suspect in my mind. According to their Web site, there is zero protein, 9 grams of fat and zero everything else, per serving. I see it as a condiment rather than an actual food. Kind of like drizzling olive oil on hummus. It does taste great though!


  1. Wow--those sound fabulous! Roasted tomatoes are great...I bet your sauce was delicious!


  2. I'll definitely try this sauce, it sounds great. I've been making lots of fresh tomato puree in the food processor, and I've found that even the tough skins of the tomatoes from my garden get so pulverized you don't notice them.

    I soften tortillas by wrapping them in a slightly damp dishtowel and microwaving them for a couple of minutes. They don't taste as good as if you fry them, but I get lazy!

  3. The enchiladas sound yuummmmy!!!! This is another thing I just might have to attempt to make haha :)

  4. Courtney and Lulu, I definitely recommend the sauce. It was easy and delicious. And thanks for the microwave tip, Lulu, except would you believe, I don't have a microwave!

    Becca, It really wasn't hard. You could cheat and buy a can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes for the sauce. And use frozen spinach like I did for the filling. It's worth the effort! :-)

  5. Gauri Radha गौरी राधा5/7/11, 2:23 AM

    Those look very good!
    I am a fan of vegan enchiladas.


Thanks for visiting Andrea's easy vegan cooking. I love, and read, all of your comments! Please share your thoughts.

There are a few Amazon links in the posts. Thanks in advance if you click on one.

Note: ALL THE IMAGES FROM THIS BLOG WERE ACCIDENTALLY DELETED ON 1-21-12. I'M RESTORING THEM, POST BY POST, BUT IT WILL TAKE A LONG TIME. Recipe pages you visit may be missing photos, but all the text in intact. If you find a post without images, let me know so I can fix it. Thanks!