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Spice up butternut squash in quesadillas as entree or party food

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Finish the squash quesadillas with green chile sauce. Pure Luck Goat Cheese and Margarita's tortillas help keep it local.

Butternut squash is plentiful this fall, and apparently Thanksgiving shoppers made only a small dent in the supply. So if you're planning to go local next week (Eat Local Week starts Saturday and continues through Dec. 12), you should have no trouble finding butternut squash at farmers' markets around town. I bought some especially tasty butternuts last week from Johnson's Backyard Farm at the Austin Farmers' Market at the Triangle.

This first recipe calls for green tomatoes or tomatillos for the green sauce. I used tomatillos given to me by a neighbor while I was working on this recipe. (Don't you love having gardeners as neighbors?) For the final recipe, I was out of tomatillos, so I used green tomatoes from my fall garden. It's good both ways; the tomatillo version is a bit more tart. For the green chiles, I used Anaheims from my garden, but just about any variety of mild green chiles will work fine.

Butternut Squash and Green Chile Quesadillas with Green Sauce

For the filling:

2 medium butternut squash

1/4 cup yellow onion, sliced thin

Enough extra virgin olive oil to sauté

Salt to taste

Prick squash several times with a sharp knife and place on a cookie sheet. Roast in a 375-degree oven until skin is soft enough to peel more easily, about 20 or 30 minutes. Set aside to cool. Then peel squash, remove seeds and chop into cubes. Sauté squash, onion and salt in a lightly oiled skillet or wok over medium low heat until brown and lightly caramelized. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to make quesadillas.

For the sauce:

4 or 5 green tomatoes or tomatillos (or enough for 3/4 cup after roasting), quartered

4 or 5 green chiles (or enough for 1/4 cup after roasting), seeded and sliced in half (longways)

1/2 yellow onion, peeled and sliced

1 serrano pepper (or two if you like spicy green sauce), sliced in half and seeded

3 small garlic cloves

1/4 cup milk

1 heaping tsp. mild creamy goat cheese (WaterOak Farms works well here)

1/4 tsp. fresh lime juice

1-2 tsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for roasting

Salt to taste

Toss first four ingredients with a drizzle of olive oil and a couple of pinches of salt. Spread on a cookie sheet in a single layer with space between all pieces (so they don't steam in their own juices). Use two pans if necessary to keep from crowding. Roast in 400-degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until all vegetables are lightly browned. (Check after 15 minutes and remove peppers, which are quick to brown.)

While tomatoes are roasting, roast whole garlic cloves in a dry skillet until lightly browned and soft. Purée roasted vegetables and all other sauce ingredients (in processor or blender) until creamy smooth. Refrigerate until ready to prepare quesadillas.

To make quesadillas:

Raw White Tortillas by Margarita's Tortilla Factory, available at Wheatsville Co-op

About 1 cup of Pure Luck Goat Cheese (plain chevre)

Caramelized butternut squash and onion filling

Green sauce

Place one tortilla in a hot dry skillet (well-seasoned iron skillet works best, but any will do), first on one side, then on the other, until both sides are lightly brown. Spread about a tablespoon of cheese and two tablespoons of squash/onion mixture on one half of tortilla. Fold tortilla over mixture and press gently. Flip to other side for a few minutes to finish browning. Gently reheat green sauce. Add a little water if needed to thin. Serve quesadillas topped with dollop of green sauce. Recipe makes enough filling for 4 to 6 quesadilla halves, depending on how full you make them.

Note: For a holiday party or brunch, prepare quesadillas in advance and keep warm in oven until party time. Then pass the sauce. To make the quesadillas more portable, slice each one in half before serving.

Wholegrain Skillet Cornbread with Butternut Squash

Butternut squash gives cornbread a smooth and moist texture. The squash flavor is barely noticeable, so it's a great way to sneak a vegetable, and you won't even notice you're eating whole grains.

1/2 cup milk

1 large egg

2 heaping tsp. mild, creamy goat cheese

1 cup stone ground cornmeal (medium grind or coarse grind)

2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup butternut squash, roasted, peeled and mashed

1 pat of butter and 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil for skillet

Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together egg, milk, cheese and squash and set aside. Mix dry ingredients in separate mixing bowl. Gently fold wet mixture into dry ingredients until evenly moistened. Don't overmix.

Heat oil and butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet on medium high heat. When oil mixture is hot enough to make a drop of cornbread mixture sizzle, pour in the mix and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until edges are brown and toothpick poked in center comes out clean. Serve immediately with butter. For a treat, drizzle with honey or molasses.