Ask anyone that knows me and they will tell you that food is the way I show my love for people. Others may send cards, I send food. And when it comes to a romantic meal, Latin food is always my go to choice. I’m sure that most people associate love with Italian food, or maybe French. But for me it is always Latin. Maybe it has something to do with Irving being Dominican, or that we met in a Latin restaurant, or maybe it’s our romantic pre-David vacations to Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.
Or maybe it’s just because Latin food is delicious—packed with exotic flavor, interesting contrasts made with fruit and vegetable pairings, and the ability to make the most humble ingredients sing!
Tonight I made my boys a pre-Valentine dinner of Sweetheart Enchiladas, non-fried refried beans, and a simple rice pilaf. Irving had seconds, David had thirds, and I was happy to see my boys enjoying the fruits of my afternoon cooking. The beans were simple—pinto beans sautéed with garlic, cumin, and olive oil, and smashed until the consistency of refried beans. I mixed plain white rice with sautéed onions, garlic, frozen corn, pepitas, and cilantro. The main attraction was the Sweetheart Enchiladas—roasted sweet potatoes, sweet plantains, cauliflower and onions rolled in tortillas and smothered in a sweet chocolate apricot mole sauce—pronounced mol-ay. This sauce is so yummy that I spent much of the afternoon dipping tortilla chips into it!
This sauce makes enough to cover about 20 enchiladas—I’ve divided mine in half and have a jar tucked in my freezer for next time. While it’s not a hard recipe at all, it’s worth it to make the whole batch as it has many ingredients. Work once, enjoy twice!
2 oz dried Ancho chiles (this was 4 for me—can be found at most grocery stores in the Latin food section—they are in a plastic bag, not a jar. They will be even more affordable at a Mexican foods store.)
6 T almond butter
3 T tahini
½ tsp anise seeds (or ground anise)
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ crushed tortilla chips (great way to use up the bottom of the bag)
3 T oil (I used light olive oil, any will do)
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 onion, diced roughly
10 oz jar apricot jam
1 ½ c tomatoes (can use fresh, jarred, canned, etc.)
3 c water
4 T unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
Bring 3 or 4 cups of water to a boil. Turn off heat and reserve.
Slice open the dried chiles and remove veins, seeds, and stems. Flatten as much as possible. Heat over a dry skillet for about a minute, until toasted. Remove from heat and place in hot water to soak and soften for about 10 minutes.
Place oil in a medium pan (2 qts.) and sauté onions until starting to become translucent. Add garlic. Add anise, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and cocoa powder and allow to toast for a minute. Add almond butter and tahini and mix. Add tomatoes, jam, and chips and mix again. Add water and stir well. Add chiles. Blend with an immersion blender until completely smooth. Alternately, blend in a blender. Once blended, season as needed with salt and pepper. Return to heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes to let flavors meld.
To assemble enchiladas:
Place ½ cup mole sauce in bottom of glass, oven proof dish. Place ½ c of roasted vegetable filling on edge of tortilla and roll up, keeping filling inside. Place in dish, seam side down. Continue with the rest of the filling and tortillas. I used two dishes to make 10 enchiladas. Once all enchiladas are rolled, smother with more sauce, about ½ – 1 cup per 4 enchiladas. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Serve with avocado garnish, beans and rice. Enjoy with your favorite sweethearts!