Excerpt from Groundbakers: Plant-Forward Comfort Food Recipes and Stories from People Changing our Food System by Mackenzie and Kathy Feldman
Boil the tomatillos: Remember the staccato clicking sound of the stovetop pilot when your mother heated water to cook tomatillos every Saturday morning as you woke up to watch Rugrats in Spanish. There is always some sort of homemade tomatillo salsa on the table, but today you know this is for your favorite food. You redirect your attention from the sounds of the pilot, to the sounds of Tommy and Carlitos (Chuckie) determining if Tommy’s father is a robot.
Blend boiled tomatillos, jalapeño, cilantro, salt, and a little bit of avocado:
Because when you were 17 visiting your Tia Maria in Mexico, she told you “a little avocado makes it creamy, so the tortillas don’t get so soggy,” something your mother never told you and you figured she either kept as a secret or forgot herself.
Question whether garlic and onion go into the salsa verde: Call your mother for a reminder and get reprimanded with “¡AY MIJO! ¡Siempre me andas preguntando y siempre se te olvida!”
Add garlic to the salsa verde, but not onion: You’re too scared to ask again, and you don’t like the taste of onion in the enchilada sauce.
Choose your own journey: Recipe A for the “traditional” chicken version, or Recipe B for your newer plant-based version.
A) Traditional Enchiladas Verdes
Shred the chicken (poached, rotisserie, really cooked however you want): Because when your abuela Guadalupe raised her children in the small farm town of La Estancia, Jalisco — chicken was a luxury. Today, we live in Guadalajara, in Arizona, in Texas, in California. We cook chicken to remind us that we no longer scrape by and only eat beans — we eat chicken.
Sauté the chicken with diced green bell pepper. Set aside.
B) Plant-Based Enchiladas Verdes
Grate two parts purple potato—savory kind; not sweet; red potato can be used instead—and one part zucchini: Your professors taught you that eating healthy means encouraging people to eat vegetables, but they didn’t tell you how. You subbed out the meat for veggies in pursuit of creating something more nourishing, and in doing so learned that your ancestors ate this way all along. Still, you feel nervous bastardizing a “traditional” family recipe, and you become anxious serving this version to your mother, whose only form of communicating love is through food. She takes a bite.
Sauté potato until cooked through and season with salt and turmeric. Add zucchini, cook for one more minute, then take it off the heat and set aside: A few weeks after your mother tries your purple potato version, she yells, this time more endearingly: “¡Mijo! Cómo hiciste tus enchiladas?” When you return home, she has already grated the potato and zucchini. She’s waiting for you to show her how to cook it.
To serve, stuff tortillas with filling, roll them up and sauce them generously. Serve with shredded lettuce, finely minced white onion, cotija cheese, and crema: You are now responsible for carrying forward the tradition of cooking in your family. Take inspiration from your ancestors, but remember that these traditions were never meant to be static; they were meant to bring joy, belonging, and life to those you feed.