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One of my summer goals was to try some new cooking flavors.  We tend to get stuck in the typical grilled meal mode over the summer.  Come fall, and then throughout the winter, it is the delicious Italian-food rut where we find ourselves.  I will never complain about a red sauce cooking down on a weekend, making a mess on the back burner and filling the house with melding aromas.  Nope.  That’s all good.  But variety was lacking.

First up: enchiladas.  I found a great gluten free enchilada sauce recipe.  Turns out enchilada sauce starts with a roux, so most prepared sauces are off limits for me.  This recipe (click here) was quick and simple, and the resulting balanced flavors were eye popping.  Really, that good.  Double the recipe and freeze it for later usage.

Being that this was summer, I opted for a lighter route to enchiladas: zucchini.  The photos from this Delish.com recipe (click here) were just too appealing.  In a nutshell, instead of wrapping your enchilada in a tortilla, you use thinly sliced zucchini.

My first attempt at the zucchini enchiladas was semi successful.  Slicing very thin planks is near impossible, I discovered, with just a knife and the cutting board.  I improvised, getting my box grater out, and managed to get some usable zucchini planks, only cutting three fingers in the process.


As I sweated over my planks, trying to preserve my fingers and the rectangular integrity of the grater, I remembered a mandolin slicer I had bought some years back. I tend to love kitchen gadgets, and take a lot of heat for buying them, and then not using them.  The mandolin was tucked in a drawer in Albany, while I was at Loon Lake.  I made a mental note to grab it the next time I was south.

The next time I geared up for zucchini enchiladas, I had my mandolin in hand, and I was sure this would be a breeze, certainly a no-BandAid event.  Ha!  I was vindicated, too!  I KNEW I would use the mandolin at some point!  See?  It was worth it all along!  Let me just dust it off after sitting in a drawer for 5 years.

Well, guess what?  Slicing a zucchini lengthwise on a mandolin slicer IS a breeze.  But the slices were just too thick, even using the “thin slices” piece.  As I tried rolling my planks around the enchilada filling, they flopped open in the pan, sending drops of enchilada sauce in the air.  I tried massaging them closed, eventually just cracking them.  Frustration level was rising.  I tried reverting to my poor box grater, but I had manhandled it so poorly the last time that it was folding flat.  The situation was a mess and was headed quickly towards kitchen disaster.

There is that moment in the kitchen where you realize failure is imminent.  Do you just throw everything in the trash and go out to eat?  I was on that ledge, but pulled myself back.  Instead of zucchini enchiladas, I served zucchini lasagna with enchilada sauce.  It was delicious.  No one knew except me that this was a monumental #kitchenfailure. No one asked about the BandAids on my fingers, either.  They were too busy mopping up every last drop of sauce.

Note, however, that the zucchini planking method is still unresolved.  Maybe I need a better mandolin slicer?

About Claire Ziamandanis

Claire Ziamandanis is Professor of Spanish at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Over her 20 years at the college, she has been a champion for study abroad, establishing the first affiliation for Spanish students, and then working with the Study Abroad office to open the doors to students from other majors. Claire loves travel, food, wine and Spanish but not necessarily in that order!


  1. How’bout a little string music for the mandolin slices? Tie the suckers up like a roast! Or how about some toothpicks to stab them closed?

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