East Meets West: Enjoy a twist on a classic with these Indian-inspired enchiladas

East Meets West: Enjoy a twist on a classic with these Indian-inspired enchiladas

Not the prettiest enchiladas, but the bold flavors make up for its looks.

Experimenting with food and flavors is a passion of mine and I love to “explore” the globe through its cultures and their cuisines. Sometimes, I like to be region-specific with my cooking, and other times I, in the immortal lyrics of Fleetwood Mac, like to “go (my) own way” by using a basic flavor profile and letting the creativity flow.

This past week, my culinary journey was at a fork in the road. You see, I had a craving for cheesy Mexican enchiladas with tomato sauce, but also had the itch to experiment with some Indian flavors and wanted make the dish a little healthier. Thus, these vegetarian, gluten-free Indian enchiladas were born. I used a few basic spices that can be easily found in the spice aisle at most grocery stores — save for the Indian chili powder that can be found at an Indian grocer or easily substituted with regular chili powder — and some easy-to-find ingredients commonly found in most Indian cuisines, like butternut squash, chickpeas and tomatoes.

Paneer cheese, a fresh farmer-style cheese that doesn’t melt, is a star ingredient in the filling. It holds up to high heat cooking and adds both bulk and protein to the filling. Paneer can be found at specialty and Indian grocery stores, but can be easily substituted with firm tofu (this would then make the dish vegan as well).

Even if you’ve never cooked Indian food before, this recipe is very approachable and can be adjusted to your taste and spice level: leave out the spicy chilies for a milder sauce or add more if you’re a heat-seeker, substitute the kale with spinach, and you can even use different types of winter or summer squash in the filling if you please.

Indian Enchiladas
Makes 6-8 servings

Butternut squash-chickpea-Paneer filling:

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 tablespoons curry powder (labeled as such)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 14 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/2 c. light coconut milk
8 ounces Paneer cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Tomato-kale curry sauce:

1 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 small, spicy chilies (like serranos or bird chilies), optional
6 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon Indian red chili powder or standard chili powder
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons paprika
2 cups kale, ribs removed and chopped
Red wine vinegar, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh cilantro for garnish, chopped

12-16 corn tortillas

For the filling, heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the squash, onion, turmeric and curry powder and saute for 3-4 minutes, until the onion has softened. Pour in the broth, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender. Add the chickpeas, coconut milk and paneer, then cook for another 5-10 minutes, uncovered, over medium-low heat. For firmer filling, take off the heat at this point. For mushy filling, cook until the squash falls apart.

For the sauce, heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onions through chili powder, stir to combine and saute until the onions become translucent, stirring occasionally. Then stir in the tomatoes, garam masala and paprika. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for a few minutes. Add the kale and cook until it has wilted. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper.

To assemble, first grease a large baking dish and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a small saute pan over medium heat and warm a tortilla for about a minute per side (so it’s pliable), then fill with about two tablespoons of filling. Roll up the tortilla and place seam side down in the baking dish. Do this with each tortilla, placing them side by side. Add sauce on top of the tortillas. Add a second layer of filled tortillas on top (if needed) and top with sauce. Bake for 15 minutes, dish them up and serve garnished with cilantro.

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