This is a Tex-Mex dish that Robin, Robert and I enjoyed at Café de la Paz in Berkeley in the gourmet ghetto neighborhood. I tried to duplicate the dish from memory when we returned home and what I came up with was more like Mexican lasagna than the “Tamal Azteca” on the menu at Café de la Paz. I call it Lasagna Azteca.
1 batch Azteca Sauce (see below)
9 stale corn tortillas
16 ounces frozen chopped spinach (thawed and thoroughly drained)
16 ounces package frozen corn (thawed)
12 ounces Oaxaca cheese (cut into 1-inch pieces)
¼ cup cilantro (chopped – for garnish)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly coat a deep baking dish (approximately 9”x9”) with vegetable oil spray. Spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom. Cover sauce with 3 tortillas. Spread spinach over the tortillas. Top with ¼ of the cheese and 1 cup of sauce.
Place 3 tortillas on top and press down gently. Spread the corn over the top and cover with 1 cup sauce and ¼ of the cheese. Place 3 more tortillas on top and press down.
Spread remaining sauce on the tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of sauce. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes. Just before serving sprinkle cilantro on top of cheese.
Azteca Sauce Ingredients:
1 small white onions– chopped (about a cup)
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic – chopped
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes (do not drain)
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons red chili powder
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Azteca Sauce Directions:
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add crushed tomatoes, water, Better Than Bouillon, salt and chili powder. Stir till well mixed. Simmer uncovered over low heat for approximately 15 to 20 minutes until sauce begins to thicken. Stir in cilantro, remove from heat and let cool. When still warm (but not hot) put sauce in blender and puree.
This sauce stores well in the refrigerator for up to one week.