Second-Hand Enchiladas

Leftovers are a staple in my family's refrigerator. We often intentionally cook more than we can eat in one sitting, just so we can have leftovers the next day. Sometimes the Tupperware contents can be the best source of inspiration for a dish. Just the other day I was the only one home for dinner and was scrounging for ideas in the fridge. I came across three small containers from three separate meals and I asked myself, "what could I make with leftover pork tenderloin, onion-jalapeno relish, and crushed tomato sauce?" And then in came to me: Pork Enchiladas. (When in doubt, I always go Mexican...plus I haven't made enchiladas much so I thought I would give it a trial run). I was pretty satisfied with the way my experiment came out and was proud that I successfully cleaned out three leftover containers in one dish. (They probably would have sat in there for days...) Here's the recipe, along with a picture of my creation (a little food photography practice...)


1 whole wheat tortilla
2 slices leftover pork tenderloin, chopped
1 cup crushed tomato sauce with garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
leftover onion-jalapeno relish
black beans
fresh cilantro, chopped
shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. In a medium skillet, heat crushed tomato sauce over medium heat. Add chopped pork and jalapeno pepper; heat through.
3. Take tortilla and add a generous amount of the tomato-pork mixture from the skillet. Top with onion-jalapeno relish, black beans and cilantro. Roll up tortilla and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle rolled tortilla with cheese and top with additional tomato mixture if desired.
4. Bake for about 10 minutes until cheese melts and tortilla is slightly browned.

Operation Chili: Part 2

As I continue on my quest to widen my chili expertise, I look for unique deviations from the usual beans and ground meat. My trusted source of inspiration --Cooking Light-- provided me with two novel ideas for the third and fourth installments of my chili series: CHILI WITH CHIPOTLE & CHOCOLATE and PORK AND HOMINY CHILI. The first, though fairly standard in its core ingredients, integrates the smoky spice of chipotle chiles with the earthly sweetness of chocolate for a complex richness of flavor. I tried the Chili with Chipotle & Chocolate recipe a few weeks ago, though much to my chagrin it was a bit too spicy for the delicate palates of my mom and brother. I, however, more adventurous with the heat of my dishes, found it a perfect marriage of spice and sweet, and a very interesting way to play with the usual chili ingredients.


Cooking spray
2 cups diced onion (about 1 large)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey breast

3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce, minced

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup light sour cream
Chopped green onions (optional)

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, and turkey to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until turkey is browned and vegetables are tender.
2. Add sugar and next 9 ingredients (through chipotle) to pan, stirring to blend; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Add chocolate, stirring to melt.
3. Ladle 1 1/4 cups chili in each of 8 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream. Garnish with green onions.

(Note: This chili recipe does have more of a kick than most --at least ones that I have made. I thought it was successful, but others might not agree. Perhaps using 1 chipotle chile instead of 2 would take some heat off if you prefer milder chile. I mistakenly forgot about the dollup of sour cream initially, which also would have cooled the spice factor down a bit. After adding some to her bowl, my mom admitted that it was more enjoyable for her tastebuds.)


The second recipe, Pork and Hominy Chili, struck me as interesting since it uses pork chops instead of the standard ground turkey, beef or chicken, and rather than using beans, it highlights hominy -- an ingredient that I had no familiarity with until I came across this dish. I learned that hominy is a nutty, tender ingredient made from dried, hulled corn kernels. Unfortunately, the market at which I went shopping for my ingredients for this dish did not have canned hominy, but I was told that canned corn could easily be substituted. I also opted out of using the pork chops and instead used chicken breasts, which I cooked and then shredded with a fork before adding to the chili. So, I guess my take on this recipe must be re-named as the alliterative Chicken and Corn Chili. Here's my creation:


2 teaspoons canola oil
8 ounces chicken breasts (I used 1 full breast), trimmed

1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic

1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 cup no-salt-added tomato paste
1 (15.5-ounce) can golden corn, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove from skillet and transfer to cutting board. Shred breasts with a fork and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken, chili powder and next 4 ingredients (through red pepper). Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in tomato paste, corn, tomatoes, and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10+ minutes.


Tis the Season for Green and Red

Let me preface this post by admitting that although I usually don't dabble much in Reality TV-watching, I became religiously devoted to "The Next Iron Chef" on Food Network this past season. After weeks of challenges and astounding culinary creativity to gain the newest throne in Kitchen Stadium, one superb chef -- Marc Forgione -- came out ahead of the rest. But the true test of his prowess came the week following the show's finale -- his first official Iron Chef battle. And the secret ingredient for that episode was: Bell Peppers.

When I set out to attempt the intriguing recipe I saw in Cooking Light -- Fennel and Spinach Soup with Roasted Pepper Yogurt , I did not intend or expect to produce a cuisine that could have reigned supreme in Chef Forgione's Battle Bell Pepper. But after tasting the magic produced by simply combining roasted red peppers, greek yogurt, lemon juice and lemon zest in a food processor, I'm convinced my dish could have put up a solid fight.

A complementary pairing in color and taste, the Fennel and Spinach Soup topped with the Roasted Pepper Yogurt was a winner to my taste buds. It was an interesting role reversal with regard to the respective temperatures and colors of each part -- the cool, green soup was actually the warm part of the dish, while the warm, red-colored yogurt sauce acted as a cooling agent in this case. Here's the recipe:


2 red bell peppers
2 large fennel bulbs with stalks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped leek (about 2 medium)
1 cup chopped shallots (about 2 large)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
4 ounces fresh spinach
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Dash of ground red pepper

1. Preheat broiler. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 15 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; fold to close tightly. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and chop; set aside.

2. Trim tough outer leaves from fennel. Mince feathery fronds to measure 2 tablespoons; set aside. Remove and discard stalks. Cut bulbs in half lengthwise; discard core. Chop bulbs to measure about 4 cups.

3. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add fennel bulb, leek, and next 3 ingredients (through salt); cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth, water, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Stir in spinach and black pepper. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes at room temperature.

4. Pour half of fennel mixture into a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining fennel mixture. Return pureed soup to pan; heat over medium heat 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

5. Combine roasted bell peppers, yogurt, lemon rind, lemon juice, and ground red pepper in a food processor; process until smooth.

6. Ladle soup into bowls; top each serving with 2 tablespoons yogurt mixture. Garnish with fennel fronds.

The recipe is really quite outstanding and the roasted pepper yogurt is honestly good enough to drink. I had the soup the following day for lunch and added some leftover chicken to make it into a hearty meal. And I polished off the red pepper yogurt -- drizzling it over leftover Ahi Tuna, using it as a dipping sauce for crusty bread -- there was not a speck left after I licked the bowl clean...