Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vegetarian Dinner Fails to Win Fans

My cousin and her family are vegetarians, so when her family came overfor dinner I had a complete, meatless Mexican menu planned. I had read one of the cookbooks by Jennifer McCann, author of the Vegan Lunch Box blog, that had a recipe for black bean tamales. So I hinged my hopes on making them for dinner, unaware of the obstacles that lay ahead. Chief of which being that corn husks are in very short supply in Central Massachusetts.

Since hope springs eternal, I started by calling the supermarket down the road from where I live. The grocery manager was incredulous that such a product exists, then he looked up and down the International aisle looking for them, with no luck. And when I asked him for masa
harina, the superfine corn flour that's used to make the tamale dough, he told me that they sell cornmeal but that was it.

I asked a friend if she knew where to buy corn husks, and she suggested buying some fresh corn and using the husks to wrap the tamales. This was an excellent suggestion, but I didn't feel like eating dry, out-of-season corn just to get the husks.

A Web search didn't reveal any bodegas in Worcester, so I drove to Fitchburg because I knew of one there. When I arrived, I found that it had gone out of business. Then it was on to the
Fitchburg Market Basket -- my last, best hope -- and struck out. They did have frozen tamales, however, which I bought. I also picked up the fixings for enchiladas and a box mix for little cheese breads.

I worked on dinner for about 90 minutes. Here are the stats:

Dinner was such a huge failure that Mike made quesadillas with customized queso for the kids: Olivia's had no cheese, only refried beans; Eli's had a microscopic layer of cheese; Henry's had a good amount of cheese; and Jack's also had turkey.

Oh, and I forgot to serve the tamales. Not that it would have mattered, I imagine.

So if you're ever entertaining some vegetarian adults, here's how you can wow them with dinner:

Vegetarian Enchiladas:
1 T. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 c. vegetable broth
1 26 oz. can crushed tomatillos
12 corn tortillas
1 c. grated cheese (leave out for the vegan option)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onions and garlic over medium heat until soft. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, broth, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook until the potatoes are done but not mushy (I left it about 10 minutes; check often.) Take the pan off the heat, then stir in the TVP, cover the pan, and set aside until the TVP has absorbed most of the liquid.

Pour about 3/4 c. of tomatillos into the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish. Microwave the tortillas for 30 seconds to soften them up. Fill each tortilla with some of the TVP mixture, roll it up, and place it seam side down in the baking dish. When done, pour the rest of the tomatillos over the enchiladas. Top with the grated cheese, if using.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil, turn the oven up to broil, and leave in the oven until the cheese is browned, about five minutes more.

If you're trying to please two vegetarian kids and two omnivores, I suggest Frosted Flakes.