Sunday, November 16, 2014

Smoky Delicata Squash and Black Bean Baked Quesadillas

You know what's weird?  I swear every time I learn a new word, all of a sudden I hear it in every day.  Has that happened to you?  I remember this happening in high school with the word enamored.  Suddenly everyone was enamored with everything and the word popped up in every conversation.  Maybe it's just that, once you learn the word's definition, you notice it more often, but I swear most of these words have been hiding out until I learn them, and then they bombard me to make up for last time.

The same goes with ingredients.  Until this fall, I had never heard of delicata squash, and I definitely have never seen one at the store.  Kenzie gave me two delicate squash from someone's garden a month or so back.  I was interested but not quite sure what to do with them.  Then, lo and behold: my new favorite blog (more on this amazing plethora of great recipes later) posted a recipe for smoky delicata squash and black bean baked quesadillas.  Okay then: it was a sign from the god of new words/ingredients.  It got added to the dinner menu immediately.

Let's talk some more about delicata squash.  They are slightly sweet, and very tender, and can truly be the shining star in any dish because they take up the flavors of the foods you cook them with.  Plus, you can just slice them up, skin and all.  The skin is soft and thin and you can eat it without hardly noticing it's there.  Oh, and can we talk about how pretty this squash is?  I mean, we all love the butternut, but let's face it, it's not the most beautiful thing there is (not to mention how terrible it is to peel and cut).  This little gem looks like it was painted with stripes.  And it's so easy to prepare!  Slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and cut it into little half moons.  No peeling, hacking, nearly cutting off your fingers/hands.

Then comes the step that makes your whole house smell amazing.  The squash slices get sautéed with brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, and the magic ingredient, smoked paprika.  They get this lovely red color and smell smoky and spicy and absolutely incredible.  If you aren't a quesadilla kind of person, just stop at this point and enjoy the best squash side dish you ever had.  I'm serious.  I have one squash left and am seriously considering just making the spiced squash slices and calling it a day.

That's not to say more amazing things aren't about the happen (I hate double negatives, sorry).  The quesadillas are filled with the squash, sautéed onions, black beans, and pepper jack cheese, and then baked to a melty, hot, amazing perfection.  Serve with some sour cream and expect everyone (except Nick) to be thrilled.  Mark ate more quesadillas than I thought was humanly possible, and my mom and Kenzie were excited about them as well.  Mom agreed that she didn't even miss meat because there was so much flavor.   I ate the leftovers at work (although there weren't many left), not even caring that microwaving them makes them mushy and not the crunchy beauties they are when they come out of the oven (they reheat perfectly in a toaster oven, but alas, all I have at work is a microwave).

The bottom line?  I am enamored with delicata squash.  Get it?


smoky delicata squash and black bean baked quesadillas
from Kitchen Treaty
yield 6 quesadillas

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, halved and sliced thin
1 delicata squash, halved, seeds removed, and cut into 1/4-inch thick C shapes
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 10-inch flour tortillas
1 cup cooked black beans (or about 1/2 of a 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
4 ounces pepper jack cheese, sliced thin
assorted toppings for serving, such as sour cream, Greek yogurt, fresh cilantro, salsa, pico de gallon sliced tomato, and/or sliced avocado


1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Set out two rimmed baking sheets.

2) Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the onions.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned here and there, about 5 minutes.  Remove onions from pan and return pan to the burner.

3) Reduce heat to medium and immediately add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the squash.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the squash pieces have been seared golden brown on at least one side and are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add water, brown sugar, cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Stir gently to distribute water and spices and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until the water coke off, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.

4) Place a flour tortilla on your prep surface and add 1/6 of the toppings to the bottom half of the tortilla, in a single layer.  Start with the squash, then scatter about 3 tablespoons of black beans, then add some onions and finally 3 - 4 slices of the pepper jack cheese.  Fold tortilla over to form a half-moon shape  and carefully transfer to a baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.  Make sure the quesadillas sit in a single layer on the baking sheets.  You can brush the quesadillas with olive oil at this point to help them bake up a little more crisp and golden; I didn't, and they were still crisped.\

5) Bake until the cheese has melted and the tortilla is golden brown and crisp in spots.  Using a pizza cutter, cut each quesadilla into thirds.  Transfer to plates and serve with assorted toppings, if desired.

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