When I first thought of making this I thought that there was no way was it nutritional enough to pass off as dinner, only to realize it contains nearly 4 cups of beans and 6 of vegetables. Say what?!? If you use lower fat cheese it's actually a nicely balanced and pretty healthy meal.
While you can use a fitted 8-inch cake pan if you have one, I have found that whatever bits of filling and/or cheese spill into the margins of a 9-inch cake pan are the most delicious parts — don’t you dare leave them in there. A 5- or 6-high stack will go over the top of a standard cake pan, but if you’re nervous about spillover (a non-issue in a 9-inch pan), you can always bake it on a foil-lined tray.
Nonstick cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive, vegetable, or canola 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 (adjusted to taste)
1 can (14 ounces) or 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, drained, with 1/3 cup juice reserved
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) black, red or kidney beans (or a mixture of any two), drained and rinsed
Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh (from 1 to 2 ears), from 1 15-ounce can, drained, or frozen and thawed
3 cups (about 2 3/4 ounces) rough-chopped spinach leaves
6 medium-size (8-inch) flour tortillas (although corn should work too)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese (I used a mix)
Chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream and/or salsa for serving (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS: Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan or cast-iron skillet tightly with foil and spray it with a nonstick spray. Or, you can coat a 9-inch springform with nonstick spray and skip the foil, since it’s easier to remove from a springform. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, fresh chile pepper (if using), cumin, chili powder, and and cook until you can smell the spices and the onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with the 1/3 cup of reserved juice and the tomato paste, then stir in the beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Let the bean mixture simmer 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/or pepper as necessary. Place 1 tortilla in the prepared cake pan. Spread one-sixth (just eyeball it) of the bean and vegetable mixture evenly over the tortilla, then sprinkle 1/4 to 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. 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 the 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 sprinform sides. Cut it into wedges using a sharp knife and serve it with a spatula or better yet a pie server. Sprinkle the top with cilantro, if desired, and serve with sour cream and/or salsa on the side, if you like. Do ahead: You can make this ahead of time, cover it in the fridge overnight then leave it at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before baking it. The torte also reheats well.