I have to confess, when I was assembling this meal, I was tempted to run out and buy a lime and possibly some salsa and sour cream. Then I reminded myself that running out to the store to create an instagram-worthy meal is the opposite of what Vinegar Home is all about. Instead, it’s about inspiring you to make the most of what’s in season in your area and what you already have on hand.
Since I knew I was going to batch cook black beans this week, I had picked up some fresh cilantro and a red onion, so that had got me thinking about tacos. The motivating force for this meal, however, was the big, beautiful butternut squash that I had let languish long enough.
In this post, I’ll share a simple technique for roasting butternut squash and preparing black beans. Follow the links below to the recipes for the Cabbage & Root Veggie Slaw (delicious!) and Red Onion Quickles.
Note: It is very possible to make your own fresh corn tortillas, but that’s usually my daughter’s expertise and she wasn’t around. If you want to make taco night doable with fewer helpers, I recommend keeping an eye out for fresh taco shells in the refrigerator section of your grocery or health food store and keeping a pack or two in your freezer.
The black bean recipe below is a favorite go-to basic that can be adapted and jazzed up as you like. Make the beans first, before roasting the squash, or ideally, make them the day before so you have less to do.The slaw and the “quickled” red onion can also be made in advance.
The butternut squash will take 20-25 minutes in the oven at 400° F and the tortillas will take 15-20 minutes at 350° F, so prep the squash first – set it aside – and plan on staggering the squash and the tortillas the last 40 minutes before meal time. Alternatively, a toaster oven can be helpful for the tortillas.
Whatever you usually like on tacos will work fine with this combo but grated cheese and cilantro are especially nice.
Yellow or orange bell peppers are particularly nice in this dish. When they are abundant in the summer, I highly recommend freezing as many as you can so you have them on hand as long as possible (see post link below for how to freeze bell peppers). Fresh-frozen celeriac is another way to get a bit of crunch. If you are a lover of spicy foods, you can add a dash of Sriracha or your favorite chili sauce, but it might not be necessary, especially if you are serving with salsa.
Saute in olive oil:
1 medium onion, diced (¾ -1 cup)
½ cup diced bell pepper (optional)
¼ cup finely diced celeriac (optional)
1 large clove garlic or 2 small, peeled and minced
32 oz black beans with juices (2 cans or medium jars)
½ tsp dried oregano (more to taste)
¼ cup fresh cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped (more for garnish)
1 T balsamic vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
dash of Sriracha or other chili sauce (optional)
Simmer everything, uncovered for about ten minutes. Add more water as needed.
Butternut squash is great in veggie stews, curries, creamy soups or roasted, halved, with butter, salt and pepper and brown sugar. Cubing and roasting them works nicely for tacos or as a side dish.
Some things to consider if you’ve never cut a squash: Cutting any large, slippery vegetable can be tricky, so go slowly and be careful. A little scar on my finger reminds me of a squash-cutting incident from years ago. But don’t worry, you can do this! If you are feeling unsure, there are many youtube videos for a little extra confidence-building.
Give the outside a rinse and set the squash on a sturdy cutting surface. Grab your biggest, sharpest knife and cut a sliver off one side to create a flat edge to prevent slippage. Trim off both ends. Next, you’ll want to cut across the squash to separate the “neck” from the “bulb” or base. Wedge the knife in a bit before applying pressure, then let the weight of the knife do the work. Cut both pieces in half lengthwise, and then using a paring knife or peeler, remove the skin. A grapefruit spoon comes in handy to scoop out the seeds and stringy pieces from the bulb.
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 T olive oil
1 large clove garlic or 2 small cloves, peeled and minced
salt and ground black pepper to taste
pinch of ground cumin (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Toss everything together in a big bowl. You want the squash to be coated with oil, but not dripping. Spread the cubes out on a baking sheet (or two) or cast iron skillet. I coat cast irons with a dab of oil first. Try not to overcrowd the pan or the squash will steam instead of roast. (The photo above was taken after the squash was cooked and tossed). Roast for 20-25 minutes, flipping after about 10 minutes. If you are using the same oven for the tortillas, turn the temp down to 350° F as soon as squash is easily forked and browning around the edges. Remove the squash and set aside.
Heat the tortillas
Place tortillas in stacks of five or fewer and wrap them with aluminum foil. Heat at 350° F for 15-20 minutes. Don’t leave them in too long or they will dry out. You can keep them in the turned-off oven, wrapped, to keep them warm.
Happy taco night!