A few weeks ago (oh, you didn’t think that meant I was all caught up, did you?) a friend and I went to a cooking demonstration at a great little modern Mexican restaurant named Dos Caminos. I know very close to nothing about Mexican cooking, despite adoring the flavor palate–the sour and tangy citruses against smoky peppers and hearty beans and meats and seriously, I don’t know why it has taken me so long to try to learn a few new things. Chalk it up to intimidation.
The focus of the demonstration was on fall meals, which was particularly awesome because I think we largely associate Mexican cooking with warm weather, a la pico de gaillos and fresh corn everything. I learned a ton. Like, did you know that Mennonites brought cheese to Mexico and that muenster is a great cheese to use in quesadillas? Did you know that tomatillos are the same family as potatoes? Seriously, I was just swimming in information.
Oh, and delicious booziness. They made a fall punch with triple sec, tequila, black tea and a ton of diced fruit, from persimmons to guavas, grapes and pineapple that made me certain I had died and gone to heaven. But what wowed me even more were the squash blossom quesadillas. I always thinking of these delicate little numbers stuffed and battered and deep-fried, you know, the kind of thing you’d order out and adore, but not really fuss with at home. Yet they sliced and sauteed them with poblanos and onion and it was so approachable, I had to try it again at home.
But when I got to the Greenmarket that weekend all eager to buy the pound of squash blossoms the recipe suggested, I was all but laughed out of Union Square. I guess people who buy squash blossoms there do so early and often, and apparently everyone but me knows not to even bother seeking them out at 4:30 p.m. Then, because I am a glutton for punishment, I decided to humor myself by asking the super-diligent produce guy at Garden of Eden if they had some–and they did! In fact, they sold them individually wrapped with a baby zucchini on the end for $2.75 each. Hoo hoo hee hee hee. So much for peasant food!
So, without further ado, may I present to you my fall twist on their recipe with what I could actually get, acorn squash. We also made a quick salsa verde cruda with tomatillos which was heavenly. I’ve never been much of a quesadilla eater before–too much cheese, too little substance for me–but this has me converted. And I hadn’t ever worked with tomatillos before, but this surely won’t be the last time.
One year ago: Gazpacho and Lentil-Chorizo Salads
Acorn Squash Quesadilla
Adapted from a Dos Caminos demonstration recipe, but similar to many found in their awesome book, ModMex
The secret to getting your quesadillas crisp, Lindquist insisted, is to cook them in either butter or lard, and no skimping. A griddle is best if you have one, but a regular old frying pan will do in a pinch.
1 small/medium acorn squash
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons diced white onion
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 clove garlic, minced
2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled and cut into strips
Salt and pepper to taste
10-inch flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend of your choice (I used Muenster, not Mexican but worked great!)
Butter for frying quesadillas
Garnishes: Julienned radishes, crema or sour cream and/or salsa verde cruda (recipe below)
First, roast the acorn squash. Preheat the oven to 400° and lightly oil a baking sheet. Halve the squash, scoop out the seeds (you can save them to toast later, if you wish) and cut each half into half-inch slices. Lay them on the baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until soft but not cooked to mush. (You’ll finish it in the pan.)
When cool enough to work with, use a paring knife or your hands to peel the skin off each slice. Lightly chop the squash and put it in a bowl.
Saute the onions, garlic and jalapeno in the oil until translucent. Add the poblano strips and cook for a couple minutes more. Add the squash and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes, until the squash is tender and the flavors have melded. Season with salt and pepper and take off heat.
Spread a few tablespoons of the cooked squash mixture onto one half of a 10-inch flour tortilla. Sprinkle with a couple tablespoons of the cheese. Fold over and place in a hot pan with melted butter, and fry until crispy. Cut the finished quesadilla into four triangles and top with your choice of garnishes. Eat while warm.
Tomatilla Salsa [Salsa Verde Cruda]
10 tomatillos, husked and well washed, quartered
1/2 bunch of scallions, roots and green ends trimmed, cut into big segements
5 garlic cloves, smashed
2 jalapenos, roughly chopped
Pinch of allspice
Salt to taste
Puree all ingredients together until very smooth either in a blender or food processor. Season with salt.