October 17, 2011 by Sara Kreidler
File this one under “sometimes things don’t go as planned.” I don’t know where exactly I got the idea to make Mexican lasagna – no doubt I saw a recipe for it in a book or on a blog somewhere — but last week I decided to throw one together, without following or referencing a tested recipe. I figured I could build it the way I build traditional lasagna, but with corn tortillas in place of sheets of pasta, enchilada sauce in place of marinara, and assorted veggies, beans and cheese in between. It would be delicious, colorful, and the perfect casserole to take to my friend who is still mending a broken ankle! I would take pictures and blog about it! All would be right with the world.
Well, I didn’t end up taking it to the aforementioned friend because Toby accidentally took my GPS with him when he went out of town, and I’m such a spaz about driving anywhere I don’t know well without my GPS that I postponed my plans to see my friend. This ended up being for the best anyway, because my Mexican lasagna needs some major tweaking. So, the recipe is below, but I don’t recommend making it…yet. The flavor was good, I really liked the combo of veggies and the enchilada sauce, but the bottom layer of tortillas got really, really mushy. And I think the bean and cheese layer should be at the bottom, not the top, because it’s pretty heavy. I still enjoyed eating it (and I froze the leftovers for some future night when Toby’s out of town and I’m not feeling motivated to cook just for myself), but I wouldn’t make it this way again; revisions are needed.
So why am I posting the recipe, even though it was a flop? Because sometimes things don’t go as planned, and things get mushy and don’t meet your expectations. But you roll with it (or douse it in taco sauce and sour cream) and try to do better next time. It’s a metaphor, really…
One last note; the recipe below is for vegetarian Mexican lasagna, and it is not very spicy – I made it this way because the friend for whom this dish was intended is vegetarian and does not like very spicy food. If I were making this dish for Toby and myself, I would add more chili powder (about 2 tablespoons) to the enchilada sauce, and I might add either cooked seasoned chicken or cooked chorizo to the mix. Of course, you can use pretty much any ingredients you like here. Hate bell peppers? Skip them! Have corn on hand? Add it! Pinto beans instead of black? Do it! You get the picture.
For the enchilada sauce
- 1 pint of whole or crushed tomatoes with their juices
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the lasagna
- 1 small zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
- Salt and pepper
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 bell pepper, chopped into bite sized chunks
- 1 bag of baby spinach leaves, rinsed
- ½ pound white mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, caps sliced
- 1 package of cream cheese, softened
- 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- 1 package of small corn tortillas
- 1 cup shredded cheddar
- Sour cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Pour the tomatoes with their juices into a small mixing bowl and puree with a stick blender (or puree in a traditional blender or in a food processor). Set aside.
- Heat oil in a saucepan over medium high flame. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add tomatoes to the pan and stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer and add the remaining ingredients. Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Place the zucchini slices in a mixing bowl, add 1 tablespoon of salt and toss well to coat zucchini in salt. Set aside (the salt will draw some of the moisture out of the zucchini – you will rinse the salt off before adding it to the lasagna).
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high flame. Add peppers, season with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes, until peppers just begin to soften. Remove peppers from the pan and set aside. Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, and then add spinach and cook for about 2 minutes or until spinach has wilted. Remove spinach from pan and set aside. Add last 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes until mushrooms are lightly browned and have released some of their moisture. Remove mushrooms and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and beans and mix well to combine. Us e a large wooden spoon to cream the cheese and the beans together, smashed some of the beans as you go. Set aside.
- Place salted zucchini in a colander and rinse the salt off completely. Transfer the zucchini to a clean towel and pat dry.
- Butter the inside of a 9×9 pyrex baking dish. Add a few spoonfuls of enchilada sauce to the bottom of the pan and spread it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of tortillas on top of the sauce (I had to cut my tortillas in half in order to arrange them in an even layer). Layer the spinach and mushrooms overtop of the tortillas, then place another layer of tortillas on top. Add a few more spoonfuls of tortilla sauce on top of the tortillas, and then spread peppers evenly over top. Arrange zucchini on top of the peppers. Make another layer of tortillas on top of the zucchini. Spread the cream cheese and bean mixture over the tortilla layer. Add a final layer of tortillas on top. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over top the tortillas, spreading evenly across the top. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over top.
- Bake lasagna for 20 minutes. Serve hot, with sour cream and salsa on the side.