Thursday, July 21, 2005 | Sometimes things get to a point where you’re just grateful you have half a tank of gas and air in all four tires.

It’s comfort food time, San Diego. Here, come sit for half an hour and have a bite of Green Enchiladas.

Green Enchiladas is the all-time king of comfort food. I wish the recipe was mine, but it is not. I got it from Hugh Beck years ago. Hugh ran a construction company in my home town, Abilene, Texas, out in West Texas where it is best to be tough and optimistic. The sun never stopped shining on Hugh Beck, even on the gray, frigid afternoon he shared his recipe with me.

“Listen,” he said. “If it is cold outside, and the sleet blew in and froze your wash before you could get it off the line, and the kids need braces, and the car needs tires, and they think it’s your dog that’s killing the chickens, and the gutter fell down, and you’ve got a dollar and a dime in the bank, and barely an inch of Scotch in the bottle, don’t kill yourself. Make Green Enchiladas. You will feel better again real soon.”

He was so right that his recipe is in the working title for a cookbook I’m working on, “Green Enchiladas for Blue Days.”

We are blessed in San Diego to have Porkyland’s, a purveyor of fine Mexican cuisine and ingredients out on Logan Ave., whose corn tortillas are the finest I have tried in Green Enchiladas. You can get them in the six-dozen pack at Costco for next to nothing and they freeze beautifully.

For six people – the present size of our City Council – take a pound of crumbled hamburger, season it with half a teaspoon each of cumin and chile powder, and a little salt and pepper, and fry it until it is brown.

In a large saucepan, melt four tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Stir in three tablespoons of flour and keep stirring until it has lost its flour smell and is starting to brown a little. Add two cups of milk and stir constantly until the sauce begins to thicken.

When it does, turn down the heat to medium-low and add half a pound of cubed Velveeta cheese (none other) and two four-ounce cans of diced green chiles. Stir until the cheese melts and then turn the heat off.

Paint the bottom of an 11-inch-by-7-inch Pyrex baking dish with olive oil and sprinkle with a little chopped onion. Soften tortillas one at a time in a little oil in the skillet. Make a layer of tortillas in the bottom of the baking dish. You can make Green Enchiladas rolled, too, which is fancier, but too much work after the kind of day we’ve had. They taste just great stacked.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Take it out and let it cool for five minutes. Serve in big squares on plates with shredded lettuce and tomatoes dressed with a little salsa, and for a little while things will be all right.

If the thought of Velveeta sends you into a high dive off Sunset Cliffs, then crumble a store-bought banana nut muffin and stir in sliced fresh strawberries that have been macerated in a dab of Grand Marnier. Put a dollop of butter pecan ice cream in the bottom of a parfait glass, spoon the muffin-strawberry mix over, and top with whipped cream and a sprig of mint. Not as effective as Green Enchiladas, but the same idea.

If you don’t want to cook, on Saturday or Sunday morning go to the Waterfront (home of the Kettner Boulevard College of Turkey Surgeons and Airport Relocation Committee) and order the Posole. Like Hugh Beck said, you will feel better real soon. You’re welcome.

Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at www.michaelgrant.com

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