The end of March and, not surprisingly, it still feels like winter in Chicago, with temperatures predicted to hover around 30 degrees for the next five days. Blue Chicago, not for the music scene, but for the weather, which is making me feel very blue. When many parts of the country are beginning to see signs of spring, not Chicago; the winter continues to linger. Where is spring? I can’t take it any longer. Am tired of eating vegetables that have been shipped across the country [and taste akin to cardboard]. I want spring asparagus, peas, onions…from my local farmer’s market (sigh).

This weather puts me in the mood for spicy food (well, maybe I’m always in the mood for spicy food). Lately I have had a thing for casseroles. I’ve lightened up the traditional casserole with lots of vegetables and a modest amount of cheese.  I’ve packed the tortillas with lots of swiss chard, portobello mushrooms, roasted poblanos, and goat chese (chevre).




Since tomatoes will not be showing their pretty little heads for several more months, I’ve been experimenting with dried chile salsas. Used five different dried chiles in this particular salsa, which produced a well-rounded and complex flavor profile. The salsa is truly the star of this dish. When baked in the oven, the salsa takes on an almost nutty, earthy flavor.The pulla chiles contribute a nice amount of heat, but are not overpowering. If you want more heat you can add a few chile de arbols; for less heat, you can alter the ratio, using more guajillos and anchos and less pulla chiles.

The Chile Lineup photo from bottom to top:

Ancho means “wide chile pepper” and is the name for a dried poblano. It’s mild, has a fruity, raisiny flavor, with a heat index of 2 to 3 (on a scale from 1 to 10).

Guajillo means “little gourd” and belongs to the Mirasol family of chiles. It is dark red in color with purplish tones and has a heat index of 3 to 5.

Pulla are narrower and hotter than the guajillo. They offer a light fruity flavor. It’s medium-hot, with a heat index of 6 to 7.

Chipotle Meco (brown) is a smoke-dried jalapeño, also known as a chile ahumado. It’s dull tan to coffee brown in color, smokey and sweet in flavor, with hints of tobacco. It has a heat index of 5 to 6.
Morita means “little blackberry” in Spanish. It’s a smoked jalapeno, dark, purplish in color, with a heat index of 5.
Swiss Chard and Portobello Enchiladas with Five-Chile Salsa


Swiss Chard and Portobello Enchiladas with Five-Chile Salsa

You can fill the enchiladas with any number of ingredients: chard, kale, collard greens, spinach, potatoes, peppers, poblanos, corn, black beans, mushrooms, cheese, squash/chayote, zucchini…

5 to 6 corn tortillas
2 poblanos
1 large bunch of swiss chard
2 portobello mushrooms, sliced ~1/4 inch thick
Goat cheese (chevre)
Squeeze of lemon
1 teaspoon chile powder, (used combination of guajillo and ancho)
Shredded melting cheese (such as Chihuahua, Monterey Jack, or mild cheddar)
cheese (for topping, such as Queso fresco, goat cheese/chevre) (optional)
Thinly sliced onions (for topping)
Cilantro, chopped (for topping)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

If you have a gas oven, you can roast the poblanos directly over the open flame, turning every few minutes as the skin becomes charred. Or, you can roast them in the oven, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides. When cool to the touch, cut the poblanos open and remove the seeds. Slice into thin strips. Set aside.

Remove the stems from the chard and chop into thin strips. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. When hot, add the chard. Season with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and chile powder (optional — I used guajilo and ancho powder). Cook, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

In the same pan, add a little more olive oil, and saute the mushrooms (in two batches, making sure not to crowd the pan). Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Okay, now all the hard work is done. Time to assemble the enchiladas and pop them in the oven — and enjoy a hoppy India pale ale (IPA).

Place a thin layer of salsa on the bottom of the baking pan (used a 9-inch square pan). Warm up the tortillas in the oven for a few minutes so they are soft and pliable. Take the first tortilla, and layer some chard, poblano, mushrooms, goat cheese, and a small amount of salsa. Roll up the tortilla and place in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Sprinkle any remaining chard, poblano, and mushrooms, between the enchiladas. Cover with the remaining salsa and sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning up the oven to broil for the last 7 minutes of cooking.

Serve with thinly sliced onion, chopped cilantro, and goat cheese (if desired). Best enjoyed hot.

Five-Chile Salsa

1 pound medium-sized tomatoes
Dried chiles (5 ancho/pasilla, 5 guajillo, 5 pulla, 2 chipotle meco, 2 morita)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 canned chipotle (just 1 chipotle, not the whole can)
1 teaspoon dried chipotle powder
Sea salt to taste
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat the oven to 300F. Roast the tomatoes in the oven until they begin to shrivel and most of the liquid around the tomatoes has evaporated, about 25 minutes.

Using kitchen shears, cut open the ancho, guajillo, and pulla chiles, and remove the seeds.

Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. When hot, heat the chiles, pressing down with a metal spatula, about 10-15 seconds per side.

Rehydrate the chipotle meco and morita in boiling water for about 30 minutes.

Combine all the chiles in a food processor and process until they are broken down into small flakes (you may have to pulse for several minutes). Add the roasted tomatoes, water, garlic, salt, dried chipotle powder, and canned chipotle to the food processor, and process until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Set aside (you can prepare the salsa in advance, and it’s great with tortilla chips too).

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Love it all! From the name to the opening picture to the recipes. Great job! Can't wait to disect it all….keep up the great work!


Love it all! From the name to the opening picture to the recipes. Great job! Can't wait to disect it all….keep up the great work!


I made this dish for a potluck and everyone loved it!


I made this dish for a potluck and everyone loved it!

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