Tuesday, August 31, 2004


It turns out that vegetable tortilla stacks = surprisingly difficult to photograph in all their glory.

This isn’t a remarkable recipe; we probably don’t even really need directions telling us to sauté vegetables, put them on tortillas with some cheese, and bake them. It’s mainly in my rotation because I realize one can’t eat pasta every night (although I should add that it's one of A's favorite meals). But it’s easy to make, the combination of vegetables is nice, and it’s a good way to use up things I’ve accumulated from other recipes—in this case, the rest of the tortillas and cheese from last week’s black bean flautas. Sometimes, if I use pepper Jack, this recipe is all about the cheese for me. This time, it mainly became a vehicle to eat as much Trader Joe’s Salsa Especial as I could handle. I’ve never been so excited about a salsa before—where have you been all my life, Salsa Especial?

Apparently, when this recipe says “small tortillas,” it means small tortillas. The ones I had, Trader Joe’s Hand-Made Tortillas, which I like because they almost look like lefse and get nice and bubbly and flaky when they bake, were pretty large, maybe 8 inches in diameter. Hence, I didn’t really have enough vegetables to cover them. (Good thing there was Salsa Especial to mask that fact!) Rather than using dinky snack-size tortillas to match the vegetable proportions, I suggest making maybe 1-and-a-half times what the recipe calls for (which I think I’ll try next time). It doesn’t really need more onion or carrot, but maybe 2 (small to medium) zucchini and 2 large portobellos?

1 tablespoon canola or corn oil
1 red onion, sliced thin (honestly, I usually use about half a medium red onion and that’s enough for me)
1 (or perhaps 2) large Portobello mushroom, cap and stem, sliced thin
2 carrots, cut into thin strips
1 (or perhaps 2) zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced thin crosswise
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
5 ounces (about 1½ cups) grated Monterey Jack cheese
12 small tortillas

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

2. When the oven is hot, put the tortillas directly on the oven racks, fitting as many as possible without overlapping them (my oven is one of those small built-into-the-wall kinds, so I had to bake the tortillas in several shifts). Bake them 2-3 minutes, until they have hardened. Watch them closely—I always forget and they start to get really brown and crispy, which is kind of tasty but really awkward for stacking, and means they just break into a thousand little pieces when you try to slice them into fourths for serving. You just want them to be relatively stiff and firm; they’ll brown a little more in the oven later. Remove the tortillas when they're done, but keep the oven on.

3. While the tortillas are doing their thing, heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When it's hot, add the onion and sauté 3-4 minutes (maybe longer—I like my onions limp), stirring frequently. Then add the mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini, and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes (or possibly a little longer) until they're tender. Remove the pan from heat and stirr in the salt and pepper.

4. Next, place 4 of the tortillas on a large baking sheet. (Actually, I could only do 2 at a time because my tortillas were so freaking huge that 4 didn’t fit. But let’s stick with the recipe here.) Arrange a spoonful or two of vegetables on each tortilla, then sprinkle grated cheese over the vegetables (“a small amount of grated cheese,” says the recipe, but I’m slightly more generous; honestly, I don’t even measure the 1½ cups of cheese, I just use however much looks good to me. It’s not like I pile it on or anything, but you want decent cheese coverage). Place another tortilla on top of the cheese for each stack, add another spoonful or two of vegetables, then add more cheese. Top each stack with a third tortilla. Put the baking sheet in the oven until everything is hot, cheese is melted, and tortillas are slightly brown. The recipe says “about 10 minutes,” but for me it’s more like 2 to 5. Perhaps this is because of my problem with overcooking the tortillas the first time around. But also, the vegetables are warm to begin with and melting cheese takes a minute, so I think if you went for 10 minutes you’d end up with briquettes. Just keep an eye on them and take them out when they look done to you.

5. Cut each stack into fourths and serve with salsa for dipping. Mmm...salsa....

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes

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