Vegetarian Chilaquiles or "Mexican Lasagna"
During a recent vacation in Mexico, one of the most popular dishes our group (made up of all omnivores, plus me) ate was chilaquiles
, also known as Mexican lasagna. It’s quick to throw together and can be made with just vegetables, or enhanced with beans, if you so desire.
After eating refried beans and cheese at every meal in Mexico, I swore I didn’t want any more for awhile. Then the day after I got home, I went to the warehouse club, found queso fresco, and got the other ingredients to make chilaquiles and refried beans. I’m not regretting that decision. In fact, I made some to serve friends while I told them about my trip and showed them photos.
The first batch I made, I was skimpy with the tortilla chips, so there was too much filling. The second batch I was too generous with the chips, so it got too dry. You’ll soon find out what ratio works well for you.
It’s great comfort food, kind of chewy, warm, gooey if you use cheese, with as much of a spicy kick as you want. The top tortillas stay crunchy, but the ones inside get chewy and softened with the filling. And if you use a salsa made with fruit, you get sweet and sour in addition to the spicy and salty flavors. Yum!
Play around with this and have fun with it. It’s easy to see why this is such a popular dish. You’ll soon figure out your favorite combination of ingredients, but here is a basic vegetarian recipe to start with, followed with ideas for variations to try.
I’m planning to develop a vegan version of this, so stay tuned for that.
(these are approximate amounts; you can use more or less, to your taste)
2 TBS oil
1 green pepper, sliced
1 onion chopped
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 cups prepared salsa
8 oz queso fresco, crumbled*
about 11-12 oz tortilla chips
To make the filling, saute oil, green pepper, and onion until soft. Stir in tomato sauce and salsa. Mix well.
In a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish, spread a layer of tortilla chips about 2 chips deep.
Spread on about 1/3 of the filling. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the queso fresco.
Repeat twice more, using all the sauce. Then top with just tortilla chips and cheese. In other words, make sure the last layer on top is just chips and cheese, so your chips do not get all soggy.
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 to 45 minutes, until cheese is melted.
*NOTE: Queso fresco is a soft, tangy cheese similar to ricotta. You can also use crumbled ricotta, or shredded jack or mozzarella.
Tortilla chips on the bottom of the casserole dish
One layer is done. Repeat to fill the dish.
Top with chips and cheese. These are ready to bake.
-Add fresh chopped chiles to the sauté mixture
-Add canned chiles to the filling
-Make your own salsa
-Try using a non-typical type of salsa. For example, the warehouse club had mango-peach salsa.
-Add drained and rinsed, cooked black, pinto, or kidney beans to the filling
-Use corn tortillas instead of tortilla chips