the whole enchilada

This month is almost over, and frankly, I’m glad to see it go. Sure there have been bright spots, like completing two more triathlons, going to some great live shows, and starting a half-marathon plan. Threatening the sunny surface of things, however, August has bred more than its share of saturnine moods.

So why am I so glum then, in a time of sunshine, heat, and ripening tomato plants? Saying goodbye to many good friends, finishing an intense academic year, and feeling hurled into the job market might have something to do with it. Those are the surface explanations, anyway.

potato kale enchiladasApparently, I can thank the god Saturn for times like these. I’m not a big astrology or mythology follower, but I do find those old systems of understanding intriguing. I’m not afraid to explore their wisdom every now and again.


As Thomas More writes in “Care of the Soul,” melancholy was once associated with the Roman god Saturn. We tend to shun, medicate, and fear depression in the modern world; More reminds us that we can instead “develop a positive respect for its place in the soul’s cycles.”


So rather than pining for happier days, I’ve decided to let Saturn in. Besides, he wasn’t only the god of sadness, but of reflection and wisdom as well. He was identified with the metal lead, giving weight and density to life. He was also the reaper, god of the harvest. For that I’ll jump on board his yellow rings.


When two good friends of ours left last week for Connecticut, I closed the chapter of our year-long neighborly friendship in the same way that I opened it: with a meal from Veganomicon. It seemed fitting, as the book was a gift from said friend, and we had welcomed them to Syracuse with a moussaka from its pages.


For this meal, I chose the potato and kale enchiladas, a hearty-looking baked dish with a homemade roasted chili tomato sauce. It seemed like a dish that would bring cheer to our last meal together for a long time.

Dotted with sour cream (tasty, but decidedly un-vegan), the enchiladas squished under our forks with soft potatoes and wilted bright kale. Filling the dining room with the aromas of roasted chili and garlic, they were a satisfying centerpiece to the conversation.


And somehow, while reflecting on simple food, I’ve almost managed to forget about my down-ish days. Soon I’ll trade Saturn for September, and all of this being will fold into more doing. The crisp, fresh fall is not so far off. Until it arrives, I’m content to wait. As long as I have good food to stand faithfully by.

Potato and Kale Enchiladas with Roasted Chile Sauce

serves 4-6

Enchilada Chile Sauce:

2 T grapeseed or olive oil
1 onion, cut into small dice
3 large green chiles (Anaheim work best): seed, slice in half, and roast at 400 degrees until charred. Cool, peel, and chop coarsely
*a tiny bit of really hot green chilli peppers, chopped finely (this is optional, we liked the subtle spiciness it added)
2-3 tsp chile powder, preferably ancho
1½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp marjoram or oregano
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice (roasted, if you can find them)
1 tsp sugar
1½ tsp salt


1 pound waxy potatoes (Yukon gold or red)
1 very large bunch Kale (½ pound), washed, trimmed and finely chopped
3 T grapeseed or olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ cup water
3 T lime juice
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds, plus more for garnish
1½ tsp salt
12-14 corn tortillas
mozzarella cheese, optional
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped coarsely

  1. PREPARE THE SAUCE: In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute the onions (and the smidgin of minced, hot chilli peppers, if using…they add a nice heat!)  in oil until softened. Add the remaining sauce ingredients, bring to a simmer, and remove from heat. When the mixture has cooled, puree with a hand blender until the mixture is smooth. (Can be done a day before to speed prep time)
  2. PREPARE THE FILLING: Peel and dice the potatoes, then boil them until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a saucepot over medium-low heat, heat the oil and add the garlic and cumin. Stir occasionally until the garlic is sizzling and slighty browned. Add the kale, sprinkle with a little salt, and raise the heat to medium, stirring constantly. Add the water and cover the pot to steam the kale until it has wilted. Remove lid, mix in lime juice, pumpkin seeds, and salt. Mash the potatoes, and add them to the the kale-garlic-lime mixture, folding and adding more water if needed.
  3. ASSEMBLE THE ENCHILADAS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Fill a shallow casserole dish (11 x 7-ish) with a cup of the enchilada sauce. Microwave the corn tortillas to soften them, and place under a clean dish towel. Drop a tortilla into the sauce and let it get completely covered in sauce, turning to coat both sides. Run the potato-kale filling down the middle and roll it up. (Hint: I used two tortillas for each roll, overlapping them like a Venn diagram, but if you want smaller enchiladas, just use one tortialla. Your choice.)vennContinue, tightly packing enchiladas next to each other. Pour about a cup of sauce over the top (reserving some for later), cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with grated mozzarella cheese if desired, and bake for another 10-15 minutes until edges of the tortillas are slightly browned. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Top servings with warmed sauce, sour cream, and more toasted pumpkin seeds.

courtesy of Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

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