Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Baker's Corner: Vegetarian Tex-Mex Casserole

I can't tell you how much I'm savouring the Chinese New Year long weekend break we are having in this part of the world. Waking up late (8:30am for me is like super late 😝), lazing around home, catching up on some reading, cooking and eating hazardous amounts of food, taking ridiculously long naps, catching up with pals, taking the kids to the pool and on outings.....I'm talking 100% pure fun! 

So on one of the days, we had company for dinner and decided to go for a Mexican-inspired menu. We had a grilled corn salad, tortilla chips and quesadillas with sour cream, guacamole and salsa, black bean burgers and a continuous supply of Margaritas to wash it all down. The food was good and company even better so at the end of the evening, everyone had a little too much to eat (and drink!) 😜  

The next day, I opened my fridge to discover half a can of black beans, half a tub of sour cream, an almost full jar of pickled jalapeños, a container of leftover homemade salsa and an unopened packet of flour tortillas. I usually hate it when I find a bunch of stuff in my fridge that I have no idea what to do with. I didn't want to repeat any of the dishes of the previous night coz we had eaten way too much of it already. It was then that I remembered a Mexican enchilada casserole that I had at my friend's home last year that I really loved. It was ordered from a home-based caterer so I couldn't get my hands on a recipe but I had picked and prodded the dish long enough to make a mental note of what had gone into it. I was so glad that in addition to the leftovers, I still had a wedge each of green, red and yellow bell peppers in the fridge so got to working on my version of a Tex-Mex Casserole.


I'm pretty sure you will not find this exact same recipe anywhere on the internet or in any book (if you do, I will be thunderstruck!). There is a randomness to this dish that comes from tossing in whatever one finds at the time of their culinary experimentation! I have attempted to recreate the taste of the delicious casserole I have described☝ but I made a few deliberate changes along the way. I've named this dish 'Tex-Mex Casserole' because it suffers from a serious identity crisis 😆 Notwithstanding issues with authenticity, this dish has rich, bold and bright flours incorporated into it so I would recommend it as being worthy of consideration. I took the time to jot down and carefully measure all the ingredients to create a tested and reproducible recipe. I'm stoked I did that because the dish received positive feedback from whoever ate it! It was so good that even the leftovers were gone by the end of the day! The next time, I don't even have to wait until there are specific ingredients languishing in the fridge to make this dish...I can serve it at our next dinner party and I'm sure it will be appreciated 🙌

One thing I need to mention before I forget - a casserole is ideally made in a 9x13 inch baking pan but since I don't yet own one of that size, I split it into two - one round and one square 8-inch baking dish. Whatever works for you guys, okay?

I need to rush back and enjoy what is remaining of this glorious 4.5 days of break 😊  Signing off now....do make this dish and let me know how it turned out! 



i
Vegetarian Tex-Mex Casserole

Prep time: 20 min; Cook time: 15 min; Baking time: 30 min
Total time: Slightly over an hour
Makes: One 9x13 inch casserole dish or two square or round 8-inch dishes
Serves: 4-5
Recipe category: Main course/Mexican-inspired
Recipe level: Easy

Ingredients:

For the Mexican spicy rice:
1 large onion, chopped
4 pods garlic, minced
1.5 cups bell peppers, chopped (any color or a combination)
1-2 tsp canned/pickled jalapeños, finely chopped 
1/2 cup cooked sweet corn kernels
1 cup cooked black beans (I used canned black beans, rinsed and drained)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (adjust according to taste) 
1/2 tsp sugar 
Salt to taste
A sprinkling of oregano 
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice (I used basmati)
2 tbsp sour cream 
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese, Optional
A generous bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil

To assemble:
6 flour tortillas, lightly fry both sides in a tsp of olive oil
2-3 cups tomato salsa (homemade or store-bought)
Mozzarella cheese or any cheese blend, as required (I used a blend of mozzarella, cheddar & parmesan)

Method:

For the Mexican spicy rice:

1. In a large skillet/pot, heat the oil and fry the minced garlic followed by the chopped onions.

2. Once the onions turn translucent, add the chopped bell peppers and sauté for 3-5 mins.

3. Add in the chopped jalapeños, sweet corn kernels and black beans. Mix well. 


4. Now add the cumin powder, paprika, oregano, red chilli powder, salt and sugar. Mix well and sauté  for a few mins.


5. Keep the heat on low and add in the cooked rice, sour cream, parmesan and cilantro . Gently mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Take care not to over mix or else you will end up breaking up the rice.


To assemble and bake the Tex-Mex Casserole:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F (~180 deg C).

2. Place the flour tortillas on a clean surface. Divide the Mexican spicy rice into 6 equal portions and place in the centre of each tortilla.


2. Now spoon a layer of salsa on the bottom of your baking pan. Roll the rice stuffed tortillas as tightly as possible and arrange on top of the salsa layer.

3. Top off the stuffed tortillas with more salsa


4. Sprinkle cheese on the top and bake for 30 min or until the cheese turns golden brown.



5. Serve hot as is or with sour cream and guacamole on the side.


Notes:
  • You can use any kind of long-grain white or brown rice in this recipe. Make sure it is cooked and cooled so that it doesn't turn into mush once you mix it along with the other ingredients
  • I have suggested flour tortillas in this recipe (you can use plain or whole wheat) since that is what we use at home more commonly but fresh corn tortillas would work too
  • I believe some amount of heat is needed in the rice to make this dish taste good but if you don't like your food spicy, you can leave out the red chilli powder
  • Any kind of tomato-based salsa will do. You can use homemade or store-bought salsa based on time and convenience. Smooth or chunky is up to your liking. 
  • You can use mozzarella, cheddar, Monterey Jack or a combination of two or more of these varieties of cheese
  • If you already have cooked rice and salsa at home then making this dish is a cinch


Cheers,
Megha


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