The Proven Platter – March 2020

“Mucho gusto!” (Nice to meet you!) from a familiar voice in a new setting. This is Vinola, your writer of “Customs and Cuisines” bringing you the Proven Platter for March 2020. And as the greeting hinted, this month we dine to benefit women and children in the Spanish-speaking country, Guatemala.

Guatemalan cuisine is a mix of Spanish, Mayan, Garifuna, Cuban and, to a lesser extent, African influences. Unlike in some regions of the world where the dishes are built on less than five ingredients due to scarcity, Guatemalan dishes are complex, layered, and involve many steps, and an ingredient list that runs a page long (or more!). Dishes that North Americans often associate with Mexican cuisine pop up in Guatemalan cuisine, leading to familiar-sounding dishes in an unfamiliar setting (clearly the theme of the month!) with an unexpected twist.

A foodie destination, Guatemala’s cuisine has no dearth of dishes that picking just one for our chapters to try seemed well-nigh impossible. Using the parameters: 1. customizable to make vegetarian/vegan, 2. availability of ingredients, 3. potluck-friendly, 4. not too labor intensive and 5. fun to try, we have: Guatemalan enchilada. When I say “Enchiladas” you likely picture a rolled soft tortilla filled with a meat/vegetable and cheese stuffing and smothered with enchilada sauce and cheese, then baked to bubbling, gooey, casserole-y goodness. The Guatemalan enchilada is none of the above, except for the “goodness” part, of course. The Guatemalan enchilada features a tostada (crispy fried corn tortilla), layered with lettuce; curtido (a cabbage and beet relish which our recipe curator Linda McElroy recreated here); ground beef sautéed with root vegetables such as carrots, chayote squash (or potato) and green beans (or green peas); a red sauce made by pureeing tomatoes and onions; and topped with sliced boiled eggs, parsley and dry cheese.

I envision this to be the sort of dish that each diner makes one component of and brings to the gathering and that is served as an “enchilada bar” of sorts. Think taco night, buffet style. Set the components down assembly line with each person choosing components to add to and build their enchilada. It is customizable to each one’s dietary preference or liking. The recipe that follows is broken down into the components, each component taking no more than 30 minutes.



Guatemalan Enchilada, “Jardineras”

Serving: 20 tostadas


Component 1: Tostadas

20 corn tortillas
2 T. oil


(Tostadas are traditionally deep-fried, and one can certainly prepare them similarly. I however, baked them in the oven.)

Prepare them ideally not too long before they are to be served.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a baking tray with parchment and arrange corn tortillas side by side without overlapping.

Brush both sides lightly with oil.

Bake 4 minutes per side until they are crispy but not browning. (They will crisp up some more as they cool).

Remove from tray and cool.


Component 2: Sauce

3 tomatoes
½ white onion
4 cloves garlic
Water (to boil)
2 T. oil
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste


Add tomatoes, half an onion, and garlic in water and boil until tomato is tender (about 10 minutes).

Drain and allow to cool. Once tomatoes are cool to the touch, peel tomato skin.

Puree the tomato, onion and garlic until smooth. Add to pan with oil, bay leaf and sauté until the mixture thickens and caramelizes. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Component 3: Pickled vegetable “curtido”

¼ head of cabbage, julienned
4 carrots, julienned
Green beans, a dozen, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
Red beets, boiled and julienned
1 cup vinegar
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste


Blanch cabbage, carrots, and green beans.

Add all the vegetables, vinegar, salt and pepper and allow to sit for a few hours or overnight (in the refrigerator) to pickle.

(For a shortcut: substitute a coleslaw mix, 1 bag for the cabbage and carrots. I pickled the coleslaw mix, green beans, and beets separately to allow for even more customization.)


Component 4: Beef mixture

2 lbs. ground beef
½ onion, finely diced
1 tomato, diced
1 bouillon cube
1 t. olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste


Add oil to a pan and when hot add the meat and brown. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. To the pan drippings add onion and sauté until golden brown. Add diced tomatoes and stir.

Mix in the bouillon cube and add salt and pepper to taste.

The beef mixture is ready when the tomatoes have broken down and the mixture is thickened.


Component 5: Garnishes

Lettuce – whole leaves, washed and patted dry

5 boiled eggs, sliced on the cross section

1 cup queso fresco (substitute ricotta salata or crumbled feta)

1 bunch parsley, diced


Assembling the Enchilada

The traditional order followed in assembling the enchilada goes: tostada, lettuce, pickled vegetables, beef mixture, boiled egg slice, tomato sauce, parsley, and cheese. However, the beauty of this dish lies in how easily it lends itself to customization: omit the meat, egg, and cheese for a delicious vegan dish, or just skip anything that doesn’t tempt you.

¡Buen provecho!


Recipe and photo credit: Vinola Munyon

Email: vinola4dfw@gmail.com