Peanut Butter and Purple Onions

Sounds crazy until you try it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature

...anyone remember that old Dr. Demento song? I only remember bits and pieces, although I will say that it makes far more sense now than it did when I was seven.

Anyway. I'm not normally a big fan of meat substitutes. Oh, I make exceptions -- I think there are several excellent bulk veggie sausages, for example -- that's a texture that lends itself well to meatless imitation. And I love the original Gardenburgers. But fake bacon, tofu turkey, chi'ken cutlets...I can take or leave 'em.

However, I have found a great and glorious thing, and it is Morningstar Farm's Meal Starters. In particular, the steak ones are rocking my world. What's amusing about this, at least to me, is that even when I'm off the vegetarian track, I never cook beef. I've probably bought beef fewer than ten times in my adult life, actually, and I almost never order it out. And steak? Not so much.

But these fake steak strips are awesome. Juicy, intensely flavorful, with a great chewy meaty texture. I can't stop using them.

Here I added them to Rick Bayless's excellent enchildada recipe. Half the batch with fake steak, and half with shredded chicken for Dimples. Enchiladas, for me, are all about having a good sauce, and Bayless delivers without even much elbow grease.

Red Chile Enchiladas
Adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday

Serves 4ish.

2-3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, plus 1 T. of the sauce
2 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
1 28-oz can Muir Glen fire-roasted whole tomatoes, undrained
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 T. olive oil, plus a little extra for the tortillas
2 c. veggie broth
12 corn tortillas
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 generous cups Morningstar Farms steak strips
1 c. shredded cheese -- Chihuahua if you can find it, Monterey Jack if you can't

Heat the oven to 350.

In a blender, puree the chiles, adobo, garlic, tomatoes and their juice, cumin, and pepper until it's as fine as you can get it.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, then add the sauce (strain it first if the consistency is not smooth). Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce cooks down to a tomato-pasteish consistency, about ten minutes. Pour in the broth, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the fake steak strips. I do this by heating about a tsp. of olive oil in a small frying pan, then adding the strips and stirring them around for a few minutes. Then I shake over some spices -- oregano, cumin, ground ancho chile. Not too much.

Also meanwhile, prepare the tortillas by brushing them with a tiny bit of olive oil (a mister works perfectly), then stacking them two deep on a baking sheet. Heat them in the oven for 2-3 minutes until they're pliable. Stack them together on a plate and cover to keep warm.

Take the sauce off the heat and taste it -- Bayless says it usually needs 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and he's right. The consistency should be that of a light cream soup; if it's a little thick, stir in some extra broth.

Begin the enchilada assembly line by spreading 1/2 c. sauce on the bottom of a baking dish (13x9 if you've got it; I don't, so I use two 9x9 pans and divide the recipe accordingly). Stir 1/2 c. sauce into the steak strips. Spread a warm tortilla out in your hand, then spoon a portion of the steak strips down the center. Roll the tortilla up, the place it seam-side down in the dish. Continue until all the tortillas are filled. If you run out of filling, which always happens to me, you can use cheese.

Ladle the remaining sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the enchilads are heated through.

And don't worry if they fall apart when you take them out of the dish -- it's practically inevitable.

* Chicken can be substituted (indeed, that is what's in Bayless's recipe, so I guess it's not a substitution, is it) -- I used shredded rotisserie chicken for Dimples.
* Chipotle chiles are fairly hot, so start with two if you don't have an asbestos tongue.
* I like to use pepper jack if I can't find Chihuahua.


  • At 12:40 PM, Blogger JoAnna said…

    What a coincidence, I just bought some of that stuff to try, myself. I'm glad to hear you had such a great experience with it.

    My TVP escapades have been very well received, but the look & texture are sometimes lacking.

    If you are looking for alternatives to meat, you have to try Quorn. (I'm practically their spokesperson, but rest assured, I'm not, because I'd have a PR-created way to tell you it's made from a kind of mushroom product.) It's got the same guilt qualities as a chicken patty from mcdonalds or JITB, but it's actually very healthy. and delicious!

  • At 6:22 PM, Blogger Catherine said…

    I agree - those strips are awesome. It's good to hear they stood up to the cooking time in this recipe without getting glutenous. The chicken strips are good too - I've done fajitas so far (I have a hard time coming up with meaty recipes for these!)

  • At 4:09 PM, Blogger BNA said…

    Hi Joanna! I have indeed tried Quorn, in a Mexican-ish rice stirfry thingie, and it was pretty tasty. Need to remember to check out that section of the freezer case again. Let me know what you think of these strips!

    Hi Catherine! I was worried about the glutinous issue, too, but they had no trouble. I'm going to try the chicken strips in a Thai curry-esque recipe next!

  • At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Rorie said…

    Oh how fabulous. So funny, I'm an omnivore and can't live without Morningstar Vegetarian Bacon - really its like crack!

  • At 8:09 AM, Blogger jenjen said…


  • At 6:23 PM, Blogger Just Oats said…


    I just wanted to tell you that I made your butternut squash / pinenuts pasta dish today and it was really delicious! I ommitted the sugar because I don't eat processed sugar, but it really didn't make much of a difference, I think, and the butternut squash was scrumptious. I also recommend whole wheat pasta. Thanks for the recipe--it will be used frequently in the fast becoming vegetarian household! Thanks!

  • At 6:29 PM, Blogger Just Oats said…

    As far as those veggie meat substitutes go, is anyone here concerned about the high sodium content of these products? Does anyone have any suggestions for low-sodium veggie meat substitutes? Thanks!

  • At 1:17 PM, Blogger Cyndi said…

    I suppose I'll have to give the meat strips a try - we eat WAY too much beef here. Thanks for the info - the enchiladas look superb!

  • At 7:56 AM, Anonymous amanda said…

    Hi! I was browsing through food blogs and was drawn to yours by your title. While these enchiladas look good, the peanut butter and purple onions sound terrific. Everyone always looks at me funny when i tell them peanut butter and sharp cheddar make a fantastic sandwich!

  • At 7:26 PM, Blogger BNA said…

    Heya Rorie -- hmmm, maybe I should give that a try!

    Hi JenJen -- perfect one-word summary!

    Hi Wild Oats -- I don't add salt to my cooked food and I don't eat many processed items, so I don't worry too much about the salt in the meat substitutes, but if I hear about a low-salt alternative, I'll post about it. And I'm so glad you enjoyed the pasta -- that's one of my faves.

    Cyndi! How've you been?? Please try the meat strips -- but in a recipe with lots of spice flavor. I doubt they can hold their own otherwise.

    Hi Amanda! Hurrah, another peanut butter with odd flavors fan! Welcome!

  • At 2:44 AM, Blogger Harry said…

    I remember Dr. Demento too, but the "it's not nice to fool Mother Nature" bit I remember from a Blue Bonnet margarine commercial. I'm really enjoying reading your blog. Very clever.

  • At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    the name of the song on the good Doctors show was "rancid margarine high " by I believe Dan Murphy


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