I made a similar recipe, a tortilla pie, years ago, and it was okay. In fact I remember panicking because I was still such a new cook, and in reading the comments on the recipe, people claimed it was bland. Who wants to go through all the work to make a bland dinner? Even though I added a few things, it didn't stick in my mind and I never made it again.
But then I saw this recipe and I knew it was different. Yes, there are still stacks of tortillas with beans and cheese in between, but the filling here can stand on its own. It would never be called bland. There are beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes, corn and spinach, and lots of flavor from cumin, chili powder, tomato paste and a chile pepper, if you're so inclined. Then the torte itself is made up of layers of tortillas, with the filling and monterey jack cheese in between. Mmmm. Then the whole thing gets baked into a beautiful cake-like dinner. Cake for dinner? Yup. Technically a torte but still. Torte for dinner?!
The even better news is that this makes for great leftovers. It fed me through my last week of work at lunchtime! Still not excited? Go ahead and add some ground beef or shredded chicken, you carnivores! Just try this out. It's so much fancier than your standard tacos. Spice up taco night this week; you won't regret it.
from Smitten Kitchen
nonstick cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fresh chile pepper, chopped small (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 15-ounce can or 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, drained, with 1/3 cup juice reserved
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 15-ounce cans black, red or kidney beans (or a combination), drained and rinsed
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, from 1-2 ears, 1 15-ounce can, or frozen and thawed (I used a can)
3 cups rough chopped spinach leaves
6 medium sized (8-inch) flour tortillas (can use corn too if you want to be gluten-free)
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese or cheddar (or a mix)
chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, and/or salsa for serving
1) Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9-inch cake pan or cast-iron skillet tightly with foil and spray it with a nonstick spray. You can also use a 9-inch springform; spray and skip the foil.
2) Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, chile pepper, cumin, and chili powder, and cook until you can smell the spies and the onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with the 1/3 cup reserved juice and the tomato paste; then stir in the beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let bean mixture summer until everything is hot, about 3 minutes. Add the corn and spinach and stir until the spinach has wilted and everything is well blended and hot, about 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed.
3) Place 1 tortilla in the prepared cake pan. Spread 1/6 of the bean and vegetable evenly over the tortilla, then sprinkle 1/4 - 1/3 cup of the shredded cheese evenly over the top. Repeat with 5 more layers, ending with the last of the bean mixture and shredded cheese.
4) Bake the tortilla stack until it is hot throughout and the top is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. You can run it under the broiler for extra color on top if you wish. Let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan, either by carefully lifting the foil that lines the pan or by opening the springform sides. Cit into wedges using a sharp knife and serve using a pie server or spatula. Serve with cilantro, sour cream and salsa.
Optional do ahead instructions: Make torte up to step 4; cover in the fridge overnight and leave it at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before baking.