Still a little time for: Winter Squash, Mexican Style

Spring is coming.  In fact, I am down in the valley this weekend where spring is already here!  Still somehow, I am not quite ready to let go of winter foods yet.  Although I would not touch a butternut squash in July, I think I could eat it happily almost every day for the months of winter!

If you are getting tired of winter veggies but the asparagus is not yet streaming into your area, here is a another flavor combo for you.  I use this in all kinds of tacos and enchiladas.  The day of this photo we had it in tacos with fresh corn tortillas, a mild slightly tangy cheese, and orange chipotle salsa.

Winter Squash Filling for Tacos or Enchiladas

2 to 4 cups cooked winter squash  – butternut is my favorite.  Whichever you choose, cut in half (or into more pieces if very large) and scoop out the seeds.  Rub the cut surfaces with a little olive oil.  Place the pieces cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in a 375° oven until you can easily bury a the tines of a fork in it – this may take 30 minutes to an hour depending on the size and thickness of the squash pieces.  Let rest until cool enough to handle.  It is now ready to peel and slice quite easily!  For this recipe, cut the squash into fairly large chunks.

½ to 1 cup dried black beans, cooked.  I do mine in the pressure cooker – fast even at 7000 ft!

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced.

2 to 3 thawed frozen roasted green chiles, chopped.  In the West (as you already know if you live here) around September/October time the most amazing smell fills the farmers’ market – roasting green chiles.  I could go on about this for quite some time, but will limit myself to saying that I stock up big time and live on the ones in my freezer for the rest of the year.  If you didn’t save enough, your grocery store may have fresh Anaheim or Poblano peppers which you can roast under the broiler, or speared on a fork above the flame of a gas range (or even with a crème brulee torch – in any case watch carefully and watch your fingers!)  Once the peppers are roasted, cut out the stem and pull out the seeds, then chop.

Put a little olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  When it is hot add the garlic, let it sizzle for a minute or two, then add all the other ingredients.  They are mostly cooked already, they just need to warm up and get the flavors to blend, so stir until everything is hot, then turn off the heat and let sit together until you are ready to serve (or fill enchiladas).

I have included a fair amount of variation in the ingredient amounts, feel free to change them based on the amount you want to end up with and whether you like the emphasis more on the squash or the beans, etc.

If you eat this with corn tortillas, you will have all “three sisters” of ancient Southwest cuisine (corn, beans and squash).  Don’t you think chile should be the fourth sister?

Enjoy the last of your winter and those hearty comforting winter foods!

Beet Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing


Recipe time!  This winter I have been making a lot of little side salads, it’s a nice way to get some green stuff without feeling overwhelmed by it, and you can change the dressing and flavors every day.  This one is a favorite at my house and also uses a winter staple, beets.  Beets are one thing we actually learned to love after getting a lot of them through our CSA – I also enjoy all the lovely colors they come in, including the salmon-y ones here!

The inspiration for this recipe came from an old issue of Bon Appétit, this is my simplified version.

For 2 salads:

Crumble about 2 tablespoons of your favorite blue cheese.  I like to use Fromage Blue, a kind of creamy cross between blue and brie.  You don’t have to put much else in this at all, so feel free to use really nice Roquefort or Stilton and the flavor will come through clearly.

Add a few tablespoons of heavy cream to make about the amount of dressing you want.  The longer you let it sit, the more cheese will absorb into the cream and the thicker it will get.  I like to leave it until the flavors are blended but it’s still liquid enough to spread over the salad.  You can add more cream later if it gets too thick.

Add:   About 1 tsp finely chopped shallot

A dab of stone ground mustard

A small splash of rice vinegar (or another type you like)

As you can tell, you can vary this a lot by taste.  If you have really nice cheese, feel free to use only a tiny amount of the other flavors.

Stir together, let sit and then enjoy!

We like to eat this on a salad of roasted beets, romaine, and whatever other fresh veggies we have in the fridge (pea pods are especially nice in the fall) with walnuts on top.

Extra: My favorite method for roasting beets:  Cut off tops and roots and place beets in a deep dish with about ½” of water in the bottom.  Cover with foil and bake at 375 until beets are very tender when pierced with a fork, then let cool and peel  – they’re so much easier to peel after cooking!

What’s your favorite way to use beets?  Your favorite blue cheese?