Hello, this is Amy Valdés Schwem, and I’m honored to be here with such esteemed plant and cooking women!
I love harvesting wild greens, but my day job is making mole as Mano Y Metate. Today I’m going to make enchiladas made with Mole Dulce and fill them with wild greens and summer squash. It won’t heat up the house, if you take the toaster oven outside! Enchiladas made with tomato sauce instead of chile are called entomatados, and those made with mole are enmoladas. So the menu can read: Enmoladas de Mole Dulce con Quelites y Calabacitas.
Quelites can refer to several unrelated wild greens, but to me they are wild amaranth greens, Amaranthus palmeri, also known as pigweed.
I grew up eating quelites with my maternal grandfather, and he knew no shame jumping fences to pick weeds. They make a few tiny black seeds, unlike its Mexican domesticated relatives that make enough blond seed to fill bulk bins at the health food store.
It is native to the southwest US and northwest Mexico, and its wild and domesticated relatives are enjoyed around the world both as a green and for its grain-like seed. It easily out-competes summer garden and field crops and is becoming resistant to glyposphate (Roundup). But you wouldn’t want to harvest from those over fertilized fields anyway, since it can absorb too much nitrate, making it unsafe for humans and animals. However, grown in native desert soil, they are safe and nutritious, high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate, among other vitamins and valuable minerals.
Some species and cultivars available at Native Seeds/SEARCH are used for dye and have red leaves, and some make a huge red inflorescence pretty enough to grow as an ornamental, even if the birds eat all the seed. I’ve never had much luck popping the seed I grew, but you can buy commercially popped seed, like miniature popped corn.
I just visited my closest community garden, Las Milpitas de Cottonwood, and found these beauties in the irrigated beds already in flower. If this was all I had, I would pick the smallest leaves from the stalks and use those.
Hopefully you find quelites before flowering, shorter than a foot tall. I found a few plants in my yard where other things get watered. Many more will sprout with the summer rains.
Last year I had so many from my Tucson Community Supported Agriculture share that I dried some, just like my great aunt Tia Lucy told me they used to do. I just plucked leaves from the stems and air dried them in the house. To use, I soaked in water overnight, then sauteed with the others. I’ll dry more this summer, for sure.
To prepare the fresh quelites, wash, chop tender stems and all, and saute with a little onion and garlic in oil. My grandfather always used bacon grease, so that’s what I did.
It’s also prime season for calabacitas, so use them if you don’t have any fresh or dried quelites. My grandfather also collected and cooked verdolagas for us, which would work here, too.
Calabacitas, sauteed with onion and garlic. This filling with mushrooms and queso fresco, inside mole dulce enchiladas, is my brother’s signature dish. Well, one of his signature dishes.
Now for the mole! For a half dozen enchiladas, to serve two people, I used about half of a tin of Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder, cooked in mild olive oil to make paste.
Then I added about half a cup homemade chicken stock and a dash of salt, but veggie stock is great, too. Water doesn’t quite do it. Simmer until you have a nice sauce, adding more broth as necessary. There will be steam and good smells.
The secret to enchiladas: start with thin corn tortillas and fry briefly in oil hot enough to sizzle, but not hot enough to make them crispy!!! DO NOT skip this step!
If the tortilla cooks too much, or if it breaks, just turn up the heat and make that one into a corn chip.
Dip the flexible tortilla in the mole dulce.
Put quelites or calabacitas in the tortilla and roll.
Top with homemade queso fresco and bake until heated though. My grandfather used the toaster oven outside on the patio in the summer to make enchiladas. No need to heat the house!
Depending on your oven, you may need to cover them with foil, but I didn’t. I like crispy edges. Serve with a cucumber, tomato salad dressed with a squeeze of lime, beans, and prickly pear grapefruit-ade.
Leftovers are best fried in a cast iron pan until crispy.
Mano Y Metate moles can be purchased from Martha Burgess of Flor de Mayo Arts at the Sunday Heirloom Farmers’ Market at St. Philip’s Plaza, Native Seeds/SEARCH, and ManoYMetate.com.