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October Ode, and a Recipe for Enchiladas

We begin this blog post with a nod to the month of October, written by our friend and today’s guest blogger, writer Charlene Chew-Ogi:

October Ode

Think of my observations is that looking outside has you thinking

without limits. Something about the roof and the walls compresses you. When you look

while standing outside, when you watch the free flights of birds, butterflies and bees;

you get in touch with a greater energy than yourself. As much as our home offers us

protection, the roof and four walls also keep us from looking into the beyond...the

forever. Notice how high the sky goes up, forever. See the horizon which is probably a

lot farther away than we think...spaciousness forever. All the wild creatures see, smell,

and taste this. Maybe that is the reason walking in Nature stirs us. You can feel forever.

Maybe that is why a creature fights so hard not to be captured. They know the wild.

Maybe last night's thunder and lightning is our reminder that the wild calls. Way beyond

what we can see, we are electrified by it. October has tremendous possibilities, not just

the colors as the trees drop leaves but the shift into the longer nights. More time at

night, we dream and awaken to our wild nature.

-Charlene Chew-Ogi, 10/4/2021

When I heard this, I knew I wanted to share it on our blog. It makes me want to live outdoors. Thank you, Charlene, for your wise observations.

Here in Santa Barbara, the summer of moist, foggy, and damp has turned into the autumn of dry and crispy. I can’t put on enough skin lotion. Roses bloom in the morning and look spent by the evening. And talk about bad hair days!

I don’t know why this surprises me. I’ve lived in southern California my whole life, and October is almost always dry and windy. It’s also gorgeous. Acorns drop everywhere you walk. Sycamores are golden, and the stunner, our persimmon tree, has leaves to rival any eastern forest.

Okay, we did have a little fire last week up the coast. It scorched part of our county landfill, unfortunately, and filled the air with smoke, but now the fire is nearly out, and the temperatures have turned cool again.

I promised you a recipe for enchilada sauce, for what to do with all those dried Anaheim chiles (when dried, they are often called New Mexico chiles.) And so, I made a pan of enchiladas, too.

In Mexico, enchiladas tend to reflect their region. Near the beach, enchiladas might contain fish or shrimp. Inland, perhaps chicken, or shredded beef. And there might be vegetables, too, depending on what is in season: little cubes of potatoes, or carrots. A friend of mine liked to use broccoli in hers.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve become the queen of leftovers. It occurred to me that enchiladas are the perfect thing to make if you have the right leftovers. Hmm, we had a small piece of skirt steak from a dinner we made a couple of nights ago, and some tandoori chicken from an Indian dinner the next night.

I already had enchilada sauce in the freezer – the same recipe I’m giving you here, made in early summer from the last batch of our chiles. I had 2 cups, enough to generously sauce 6 fat enchiladas. I had three blue corn tortillas left from a batch I’d bought at farmer’s market (made from blue corn grown in Santa Barbara!), and so I used those, plus three cassava tortillas (gluten-free, they are more like a small flour tortilla.) I filled the corn tortillas with shredded beef and cheese, the cassava tortillas with the chicken and cheese, and placed them side by side in the pan, topping them both with the flavorful sauce. After they were baked, we topped them with lots of chopped fresh cilantro, slices of avocado, and a dollop of sour cream. Mmm-mmm goodness. A side of fresh steamed green beans made a lovely dinner.

This freshly made enchilada sauce is quite simple to prepare, and it is so far above canned sauce that once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back. Full of earthy and fruity chile flavor.

The Queen’s Enchiladas

Sauce makes 4 cups, enough to sauce 12 enchiladas. Use 2 cups to sauce the pan of 6 enchiladas, below, and freeze 2 c. for later use; or if feeding a crowd, double the enchilada part of the recipe, and fill a 9x13” pan with 12 enchiladas

Chile Sauce

30 dried red chiles, such as New Mexico, pasilla, California or guajillo

4 c. water

1 16-oz. can plum tomatoes

1 onion, quartered

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbs. dried oregano, crumbled

1½ tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. coarse salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbs. olive oil

Enchiladas (Makes 6 – use 8” square pan)

6 oz. Spanish/Basque cheese, such as Idiazabal, or a young Manchego

2 c. shredded cooked chicken, turkey, or beef

6 corn or cassava tortillas

1 c. cilantro sprigs for garnish

Avocado slices for garnish

Sour Cream for garnish

To make the sauce, wash the chiles and remove their stems, seeds, and veins. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add the chiles. Cover and remove from the heat. Let stand 1 hour, or until softened. Drain, reserving the soaking water.

Combine the chiles and 2 c. of their soaking water in a blender with the tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, sugar, salt, and pepper. Puree until smooth, adding a bit more of the reserved water if necessary.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Carefully pour in the chile sauce; it will spit and splutter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add water if necessary, so that sauce has the consistency of paint. Adjust the seasonings, then keep a little warm, on a very low flame.

Preheat the oven to 325 d.

Dip a tortilla in the pan of warm sauce to coat lightly. Place on a plate, add the shredded meat and a little cheese, roll up, and place in baking dish. Repeat until you fill the pan. Top with the remaining sauce, then top with cheese. Cover pan with foil, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling around the edges. Remove from oven. Serve enchiladas sprinkled generously with cilantro, some avocado slices, and a dollop of sour cream.

Sauce recipe is adapted from Cooking with Too Hot Tamales by Milliken, Feniger and Siegel

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