It’s no secret that I love fall. So part of my culinary mission this time of year is to incorporate as many fall ingredients into my menu as I can. This often translates into taking old favorites and re-inventing them.
I grew up in San Antonio so my default food is Tex-Mex. The trio of hot peppers, cool cilantro, and the bite of white onions can do no wrong, in my opinion. So how to combine the flavors of fall with Tex-Mex?
The 6 tomatillos included in my CSA share this week were begging to be made into salsa. I also had a lovely red kuri winter squash in my pantry. A few weeks ago, I roasted another red kuri, which made a beautifully orange-tinted mexican chicken soup (which I intend to post soon). The roasted kuri had such a nice, smooth texture that today I began to think that perhaps the squash could act as a stand-in for refried beans. A winter squash chalupa. Hmmm…this just might work.
The results? Very different, but surprisingly fresh and addicting. The squash adds a sweeter taste than beans, but the tomatillo salsa balanced out the sweetness nicely. I was frankly delighted to find another way to use winter squash. My two taste testers, my preschooler and my fourth grader, gave it their marks of approval. My three-year-old, however, ate hers with squash and meat only.
Winter Squash Chalupa with Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
Preparing the squash: Cut your squash in half and place cut halves on a roasting pan, skin side up. Prick a few times with a fork and roast at 375F until tender. If you use a red kuri, check after 3o minutes. Cool and mash with salt and pepper.
While you are waiting for the squash to roast, you can start preparing the rest of the chalupa ingredients.
There are lots of recipes for tomatillo salsa, but they almost always require cooking the tomatillos. I had thought for a long time that tomatillos had to be cooked, but a Rick Bayless recipe proved otherwise. He gave the option for cooked tomatillos or using them raw. When cooked, the tomatillo changes from fresh and “green-y” tasting to a sweeter, sour flavor. I prefer the fresh, raw taste. And, as usual, I adapted the recipe to increase the onion and cilantro, just because those two ingredients make me happy.
5-6 tomatillos, husked and well rinsed until waxy coating is removed
1/3 large white onion
1-2 hot peppers (serrano, jalapeno)
handful of cilantro
sea salt to taste
Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely blended.
Winter Squash Chalupa
1 pound ground beef
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup shredded white cheese
1/4 cabbage, shredded finely
Turn on the oven to broil. Brown the beef in a frying pan over medium heat. When browned, add the spices and salt and stir for one minute more. Add 1/4 cup of water and turn to low. Simmer until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes more. You may need to add more water but the point is to end up with a moist, slightly saucy ground meat.
Take each chalupa shell and spread a layer of mashed squash. Top with cheese and then the ground beef. Put under the broiler until edges are crispy and the cheese is melted. Watch carefully for burning!
Top each chalupa with sliced cabbage and tomatillo salsa. Make just before serving, as the squash will make the chalupa shell a little soggy if it sits for too long.
[A NOTE TO MY SUBSCRIBERS: I was appalled the other day to discover that my entire posts get sent in the body of the email upon publishing. I had thought only a link was sent. The reason this appalled me is because I get rather hasty and eager after writing and usually hit the publish button before I finish editing. Sorry for all of the typos and misspellings. No more
lazy leisurely post-published editing for me!]