Two Spring Vegetarian Entrees from Cafe Drake HRV

I.   Enchiladas Verdes, Faster Than Ever

Unless you're working with a huge casserole or baking vessel, it's best to use two dishes; the enchiladas shouldn't be crowded or they'll become soggy and stick together.

Cafe Drake HRV is wildly partial to corn tortillas but whole wheat flour ones work best with this recipe's super-fast, truncated method.

Seasoned yellow rice is always a good side dish for enchiladas of any stripe, but a lighter choice, as seen above, is also delectable - shredded cabbage dressed with vinegar and oil, shaved red onions, sliced chilies and a few steamed veggies.

Definitely serve the enchiladas though with more warmed sauce to pass at the table.

First, make your salsa verde. If you don't have the time or inclination, you could always use a perfectly acceptable store-bought green salsa although the taste won't compare to freshly made. Plus, it takes only a few minutes and you're gonna have lots left over for dipping chips so let's just do it: Remove the papery husks from 10-15 medium size tomatillos (use less or more if the fruits are large or tiny) and simmer them for 10 minutes in a saucepan with water. Drain and add to a blender along with 1/3 cup chopped onion, 1 garlic clove (chopped), 2 jalapeno peppers (roughly chopped, seeds in), 1-2 T. lime juice, a large pinch of sugar and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Puree until smooth and then season with salt and black pepper. Tomatillos need quite a bit of salt, just FYI. 

Pour enough salsa to just cover the bottom of 2 medium-size casserole dishes or one very large baking dish. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. You'll need 8 8-inch whole wheat flour tortillas. Take one tortilla and spoon about 2 T. room temperature refried beans (your favorite canned variety) along the bottom. Roll it up, like a cigar, and place in the casserole dish. Repeat with the remaining 7 tortillas, using all of the beans.

Spoon the sauce over each of the tortillas. Make certain all surfaces are covered with salsa. Sprinkle about 3 cups grated Monterrey Jack cheese evenly over all the tortillas. It sounds like an excessive amount of cheese we know but hey, we're talking about enchiladas here. Cover the dishes with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly all over. Remove the foil and bake an additional 5-10 minutes; this final step prevents soggy enchiladas (always a very real threat).

Let rest no more than a couple of minutes before serving very hot with your choice of accompaniments and side dishes.

II.  Creole Tofu with Red Rice

Tofu, in its marinade, before hitting the oven.

And after being roasted. True "blackened" tofu would require grilling or cooking in a very hot iron skillet. While those are simple enough options, baking the bean curd in a seasoning mix typical of Cajun and Creole cuisine produces excellent results.

At Cafe Drake HRV our Red Rice has plenty of shades of orange from habanero peppers and diced carrots. Both add flavor, nutrition and visual appeal.

We cook often with tomato paste but if it's a rarely used ingredient in your kitchen, eliminate waste by buying it in a tube.

Ohmygosh just captioning this photo we've already decided we'll be making this again for dinner tonight!

The only accompaniment necessary to our Blackened Tofu and Red Rice is a green salad; above, spinach with crumbled Roquefort cheese, sliced endive and walnuts.

Start with one 14-16 oz. block of extra firm tofu. Wrap it in a kitchen towel (or two paper towels) and press gently to extract as much water as possible without breaking apart the tofu. Slice in half by placing your knife in the middle of the tofu and cutting in a horizontal sweep. Now cut the tofu in to triangles or rectangles, whichever you fancy this moment. 

Mix the marinade in a large zip-lock bag: 2 T. water, 2 T. tamari or soy sauce, 1 T. lemon or orange juice, 1 T. apple cider vinegar and 1 clove of minced garlic. Add the tofu to the bag, seal and gently swirl to coat. IF YOU CAN it's best to marinate the tofu overnight in the fridge but, failing that option, let it rest at room temperature for one hour while you do something else. For example, you could make the red rice completely in that time and just reheat gently once the tofu is cooked.

After the tofu has marinated, lightly spray one large baking sheet with vegetable oil. Place the tofu (and a bit of its marinade) in a single layer on the oiled sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Sprinkle the tofu on both sides with  - and this is all to taste so use as much or little as you like - paprika, ground coriander, ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Finally, lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20-30 minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through the cooking time. A longer stint in the oven will yield a chewier, more "meaty" texture, but be careful it doesn't burn.

Remove from the oven and serve the tofu warm or at room temperature with the hot Red Rice and a salad or steamed vegetables.

Our recipe for Red Rice is lightly adapted from Bryant Terry's awe-inspiring cookbook Afro-Vegan

Begin by warming 2 T. vegetable oil in a saucepan or deep skillet over low heat. Add 1/2 cup diced red onion and saute until soft and golden, about 15 minutes. While the onion is cooking, rinse 1 cup basmati rice (white) in several changes of water, washing off as much starch as possible. Drain the rice well and when the onion is browned, add to the pan. Stir-fry the rice until is begins to smell nutty, at least 2 minutes.

Add 1 clove of minced garlic, 1/2 cup finely diced orange or red bell pepper, 1 minced habanero chile (remove the seeds of you don't like things too hot) and 1 peeled and diced carrot. Stir and cook for 2 minutes and then add 4 T. tomato paste. Stir some more. The tomato paste should be well incorporated in to the rice and veggies. 

Pour in 2 cups vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Immediately cover the pan and reduce the heat to very low. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat, let rest 10 minutes, still covered, and then fluff with a fork. Serve hot or very warm, topped with sliced scallions.


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