Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pinto Bean Enchiladas with Tofu Sour Cream and a Cookbook Review of Vegan Family Meals

Look at these babies... aren't they just a plate full of goodness?!? These wonderful Pinto Bean Enchiladas with Tofu Sour Cream are meat-free and dairy-free, but one thing they are definitely not free of is FLAVOR. These enchiladas are spicy, slightly smoky, complex and totally satisfying. They are from Vegan Family Meals: Real Food for Everyone by Ann Gentry, popular vegan chef and owner of Los Angeles' Real Food Daily restaurant.

Since I bought Gentry's first book (The Real Food Daily Cookbook) several years ago (in my pre-blogging days), I was very excited to receive a copy of Vegan Family Meals from the publisher to review. Vegan Family Meals was written to appeal not just to hard-core vegans, but families, foodies and really anyone who loves good food and is looking to eat a more plant-based diet.

The book has over 100 different recipes, divided into seven chapters: Breakfasts, Snacks and Sandwiches, Soups, Family-Style Salads, Simple Meals, Grains and Vegetables, and Desserts. There is a great Introduction section that talks about the benefits to vegan eating and how to get started, and a helpful Sources chapter with resources for ingredients and tools and further information on vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. It's a beautiful hardcover book with a lot of pictures (although not of each recipe), and many useful tips, cooking techniques and nuggets of valuable information are woven in throughout the book.

The recipes run the gamut from simple to more complex, but even the longer or more difficult-sounding recipes have clear step-by-step instructions breaking the recipes down. Some recipes do call for ingredients that are not easily found in an average grocery store, one downside of the book for those not in geographic areas with much shopping selection, but most of these more challenging items can be found in a decent natural foods store or ethnic markets, or even ordered online. Some of the recipes I tagged to make were Ann's Morning Power Smoothie, Tofu Benedict with Roasted Corn Hollandaise, Edamame and Spinach Hummus with Endive Spears, Vegan Cashew Cheese, Tomato-Lemon Rice Soup, My Nicoise Salad, Lasagna Rolls with Tofu Ricotta and Everyday Tomato Sauce, Super Vegetable Dinner Smoothie, Arame Strudel, Almond Jam Thumbprint Cookies and Summer Blueberry Crumble, but it was the enchiladas and the accompanying Tofu Sour Cream that were calling to me the loudest and ended up being my first "road test" for the book.

Ann Gentry says, "This is a standout recipe that I’ve been making since I started cooking. Although it requires some advance preparation—as you must prepare the beans from scratch—the actual assembly and cooking time is minimal, and the payoff is well worth the planning. The main reason why the beans must be prepared from scratch is that rather than relying upon loads of cheese to bind the enchiladas, this recipe creates a sauce from the beans’ cooking liquid, which is thickened with flour and then poured over the bean-filled tortillas. Although the bulk of the recipe is cheese-free, if you would like to add shreds of your favorite vegan cheese, feel free to dust the top with a layer and broil for the last few minutes of cooking."

Pinto Bean Enchiladas
From Vegan Family Meals by Ann Gentry (Andrews McMeel Publishing)
(Serves 4 to 6: Makes 12 Enchiladas)

Beans and Stock:
about 9 cups water
1 1/2 cups dried pinto beans
1 (6 by 2-inch) piece dried kombu

Enchilada Sauce:
2 Tbsps neutral cooking oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsps cayenne pepper
2 tsps ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsps tamari
1 1/2 Tbsps umeboshi paste
fine sea salt

1/4 cup neutral cooking oil, plus more as needed
12 fresh corn tortillas
fine sea salt
Tofu Sour Cream (recipe follows)
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
2 Tbsps chopped fresh cilantro

Beans and Stock: Combine 7 cups of the water, the beans, and kombu in a large, heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer gently until the beans and kombu are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain the beans, reserving the bean stock. You should have about 3 cups of stock. Return the beans and kombu to the pan and mash with a potato masher until some bits of beans still remain and the kombu is completely mashed. Set the bean mixture aside. Add enough of the remaining 2 cups water to the bean stock to equal 5 cups total, then set the stock aside.

Enchilada Sauce: Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender and becoming golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cayenne pepper, coriander, and cumin. Stir in the flour. Add the reserved bean stock, whisking constantly to blend. Whisk in the tamari and umeboshi. Simmer gently, whisking occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the flavors blend, about 10 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with salt. Set the sauce aside.

Enchiladas: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spoon 2 cups of the sauce over the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Heat the 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Using tongs, fry the tortillas, one at a time, in the oil until the tortillas begin to crisp slightly but are still very pliable, about 20 seconds per side. Lay the fried tortillas on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Add more oil to the pan as needed when frying the tortillas.

Stir 3/4 cup of the sauce into the mashed beans, then season the beans to taste with salt.

Working with 1 tortilla at a time, lay a tortilla on the work surface. Spoon a generous 3 tablespoons of the bean mixture in a log shape up the center of the tortilla, and roll up the tortilla like a cigar. (Each enchilada will be about 1 inch in diameter.) Repeat with the remaining tortillas and bean mixture, placing the enchiladas seamside-down in the prepared baking dish.

Spoon the remaining sauce over the enchiladas. Bake until the sauce bubbles and the enchiladas are heated through, about 30 minutes. Top with the tofu sour cream and sprinkle with the scallions and cilantro.

Do-Ahead Tip: To make these enchiladas ahead, reserve all of the sauce. Roll up the enchiladas, and place them in a dish without any sauce. (Keeping the sauce separate ensures that the enchiladas don’t become soggy.) The enchiladas and the sauce can be stored separately, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days. When you’re ready to bake and serve the enchiladas, pour about 2 cups of the sauce into the baking dish under the enchiladas, then pour the rest of the sauce all over the enchiladas and bake as directed.


Tofu Sour Cream
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

Ann Gentry says, "This is my go-to sour cream: It’s quick to put together, and I’ve been using it ever since I started cooking. The umeboshi vinegar gives it a real kick. I often alternate my herbs, sometimes replacing the dill with basil or a combination of basil and oregano."

1 (12.3 oz) container vacuum packed firm silken tofu (such as Mori-Nu)
2 Tbsps umeboshi vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried dill

Blend the tofu, vinegar, oil, dry mustard, and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Transfer the tofu sour cream to a container. Stir in the dill. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Notes/Results: These enchiladas are REALLY delicious, with enough flavor to satisfy even your meat-eating friends or your own carnivorous leanings. They have a nicely spicy kick to them from the cayenne and the cool tang of the tofu sour cream contrasts perfectly and adds another layer of flavor. (If you are feeding very young children or anyone who doesn't like a little touch of spice, you can tone down the amount of cayenne--although I found the heat level pretty perfect for my tastes.) As Gentry mentions they do require time and advance prep but they are easy enough to make and well worth the time, planning and the more than a few dirty pots and pans required to make them. ;-) Some of the ingredients--the kombu, uemboshi paste and uemboshi vinegar may not be familiar to you and your pantry, but they add a lot of the complexity to the dish so check your local natural foods stores or Asian market to find them. I already had all the ingredients from previous recipes but I noticed that my local Whole Foods had all three in stock this week. This is an excellent recipe that I will happily make again.

If you are a vegan, looking to rely less on meat and dairy in your cooking, or just looking to expand your recipe repertoire, Vegan Family Meals is a great place to start. With my focus on eating a more plant-strong and planet-friendly diet, this book will have a prominent place on my cookbook shelves.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go reheat another enchilada... ;-)

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: A copy of this cookbook was provided to me by the publishers for review however I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.



  1. Wow I SO want this cookbook! I can just SEE how tasty those enchiladas are!

  2. Thanks for posting this, I really want to try it, and I've added all those ingredients to my grocery list. We'll see how cooperative my local Whole Foods is!

  3. They do look really, really good! this is such a beautiful cookbook...and I'm still trying to decide what in the world to make from it...I love your choice. Gentry is pretty amazing!

  4. You always seem to know what I'm craving! This looks delicious. I always say although I'm not vegan I love some good vegan food and that is certainly true when it sounds and looks as good as this!

  5. These look great! I am doing the Lasagna rolls next week from this cookbook. Ill be sure to let you know how it goes too :) Great job :)

  6. Joanne--This cookbook has you all over it. ;-)

    Pam--I hope you find it all--check out the Asian foods section. ;-)


    girlichef--Can't wait to see what you make. ;-)


    Lori--thanks! Me too. You wouldn't know this was vegan when you eat it--it's just good. ;-)

    Lyuba--I am looking forward to seeing how they turn out. ;-)


Mahalo for visiting and for leaving a comment. I love reading them and they mean a lot!

All advertising, spam, inappropriate (or just plain rude) comments will be promptly deleted. I do appreciate your right to free speech and to your opinion but I'm not into mean, rude, or mean snarky (non-mean snarky is just fine!) ;-)