I know, I know. I keep writing about it—the surprise factor of dinner. Or maybe I keep talking about it every other post on Instagram. We’re getting to that point in our relationship when I can’t remember what I’ve told you. But everyday come 5, I’m shocked that it’s dinner time. Again. Didn’t I just finish cleaning last nights dishes? I’ve tried meal planning, but since it’s not a permanent fixture in my calendar, it only takes a week or two to lose steam. And thinking about the whole week in advance gives me hives. I’m a one-day-at-a-time girl, which works quite well until 5:00 pm.
This post was created in an ongoing partnership with Muir Glen Organic. Muir Glen harvests organic tomatoes at the peak of ripeness. Tomatoes go from field to can in 8 hours or less. When I shop for canned tomatoes, I stock my pantry with Muir Glen. Of course, all opinions/endorsements are my own.
A Couple Cooks gave me a call on their latest podcast about canned tomatoes (which will always be a major honor). I talked about how they’re my lifeline for quick weeknight pantry dinners and shared some of my favorite quick recipes. You can find the latest podcast here. But at the very end, Sonja asked me who I liked to cook for besides Hal, my three year old sous chef. I couldn’t recall the last time our table, big enough to fit 8 people with knees touching, was full. Three years into parenthood, and I’ve yet to figure out dinner time, especially the kind of dinners that involve thinking ahead and inviting friends over.
I’m learning to acknowledge and accept seasons of life—that this one will look different than the last one and the next one. But my biggest worry is that I won’t be able to shift with the seasons when they shift. That my patterns will run so deep with a layer of cement on top. Will I remember how to cook for friends on a regular basis?
I can’t cook the long way like I used to before having friends over for dinner. So in the meantime, I’m trying to trick myself into cheating—making way more than we need and freezing the extras—so we can actually invite people over to a homemade meal. That’s how this dish came about. I had a batch of sautéed peppers, onions, kale, and beans in the freezer. In a typical night of desperation, I pulled out the bag, made a quick enchilada sauce and topped it with a layer of masa. There was no time to shape and cook arepas or stuff corn husks to make tamales, which is what I really wanted.
So I deconstructed my craving and did what moms do best—made a casserole which I’m calling a “bake” because my ego is still bruised from not being able to get a good hold on dinner. This “bake” is a cross between tamales, arepas, and enchiladas. Sautéed butternut squash, kale, and black beans sit underneath a layer of precooked corn meal (P.A.N.). It’s topped with a quick enchilada sauce made from Muir Glen organic tomatoes, chipotle peppers, and a secret ingredient (unsweetened chocolate!). It comes together as fast as you can pour everything into a blender and blitz. Even if you don’t make this bake, at least make this enchilada sauce. It’s best served with a single serving margarita and the “Spanish Guitar” station streaming from Pandora.
As with all latin-inspired dishes, I love the tango between the spicy and sweet flavors. This bake does that well. The chipotle and unsweetened chocolate powder lend a mole-like flavor to the quick enchilada sauce too. Aside from the vegetable prep, this bake comes together easy. See notes for make-ahead prep.
Make enchilada sauce. In a high-powered blender or food processor, add all enchilada ingredients. Blitz until smooth. Set aside.
Make the filling. Chop the butternut squash into 1/2″ cubes. De-stem the kale and chop into small, edible pieces. Drain and rinse black beans. Preheat oven to 375°. Into a skillet warmed on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add in the butternut squash and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt to taste. Add in 1/3 cup of the enchilada sauce. Cover and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until just barely ready. Don’t cook it all the way through. Add in the kale, black beans, and additional tablespoon of oil. Cook for another 3 minutes. Salt to taste. Remove from heat. Stir in 2/3 cup more of enchilada sauce with 1/4 cup of cheese (more if you like things cheesy). Use the skillet as your baking pan, or place in an 8″ x 10″ pan (or something similar in size).
Make the topping. Add the pre-cooked white or yellow corn meal to a bowl. Stir in the warm water a kosher salt. Crumble evenly over the pan and press out until flat. Top with remaining enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with cotija and bake for 25-30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and avocados. Serve.
• To make this in advance, prep the vegetables only and freeze in a container or bag. Thaw before assembling. Make the sauce and topping just before assembling. Of course, you can freeze the uncooked assembled bake, but I find that it takes much longer to bake though, so I prefer the previous method mentioned.