Thursday, January 7, 2010
Acorn Squash Tacos
In the mood for a healthy and quick dinner the other night, I looked over my favorite orange metal colander with carrot-shaped cutouts that sits on my counter and holds produce that doesn't go in the fridge, selected a few items (with some more help from the fridge produce), and whipped up some quick vegetarian tacos. Run Lori Run! asked for more veggie meals, and I'm only too happy to oblige (and go check out her adorable creations!).
First up, the acorn squash. Oh how I love funny looking foods! Acorn squash is a hard winter squash, a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, as well as vitamin C. And it looks like a big green (or gold, depending on the variety) acorn.
Chop it in half...
Scoop out the seeds, and chop the halves in half, horizontally. Or vertically, it probably doesn't matter. (Looking at the quarters from above, I kept seeing synchronized swimmers. Don't know why, but now acorn squash will always make me think of water ballet.)
Squash is often baked, but I was going for quick this time around. Put the quarters in a microwaveable dish and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap and nuke for 8 to 10 minutes, until soft.
While the squash is cooking, take a pepper (or a handful of mini peppers, as I had on hand) ...
... and slice into strips.
Now the interesting part. When the squash is done, its gonna be hot! The flesh is quite soft (and tasty!), but you have to get it off of the rind. I scored each quarter like a mango and used my knife to inelegantly slice the squash away. I'm sure there's a better method, and if you know it, let me know in the comments!
However you slice it, you end up with a pile of squash-y (squash-ed?) goodness.
Heat a glug or so of olive oil in a skillet. When hot, add some minced garlic and onion, if that tickles your pickle (I added half a jalapeno pepper, minced), the sliced peppers, the kinda-cubed squash, and a can of kidney beans for extra protein (previously rinsed and drained, of course). Any spices you like, such as cumin or chili powder or Taco seasoning, are good here too.
Cook this up, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until everything is good and hot. While its cooking you can whip up some fresh salsa and guacamole if you like: In a food processor, add a can of Mexican-style stewed tomatoes with juice, however many minced jalapenos your taste buds can handle, a chopped onion, a couple of cloves of minced garlic, half a bunch of cilantro, the juice of half a lemon or lime, and some salt and pepper. Process until everything is chopped up, but still chunky... basically until it looks like salsa and transfer to a bowl. Reserve a little salsa in the processor, add in a chopped avocado or two, and process again for guacamole. Simple!
Then assemble your tacos. I had some Old El Paso Stand 'n Stuff taco shells on hand from buying them at the market on a whim, and they are convenient. I would suggest using a harder shell (bought or homemade) for these tacos since the squash is soft, so you have some contrast in the textures. But cooking is all about experimentation, so knock your own socks off!
I put some of the taco mixture in the bottom, topped with a mix of shredded sharp and extra-sharp white cheddar cheeses, then shredded lettuces, then salsa and guacamole. And on the very top... that isn't sour cream, but plain yogurt. I always have a ton of plain yogurt around (and if you own a bulldog, you may know why) and usually use it in place of sour cream for most things. Its better for you and you still get that tangy taste.