Both spicy and lightly sweet, this vegetarian taco of roasted winter squash and caramelized onions is fragrant with chiles and cumin. The tacos are topped with a unique salsa that is garlicky, sweet and smoky all at once. For a vegan meal, simply omit the cheese.
Roast Butternut Squash Tacos with Smoky Red Pepper Salsa
For the squash:
- 1 medium butternut squash, seeded, peeled and diced into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes
- 1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) vegetable oil
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. Spanish smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. ancho chile powder
- 2 Tbs. brown sugar
For the salsa:
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 3 plum tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 1/4 white onion, diced
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 Tbs. smoked Spanish paprika
- Fine sea salt
- 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, stemmed and minced
- Corn tortillas
- 2 cups (8 oz./250 g) shredded Monterey jack or Oaxaca cheese
- Avocado slices
- Bottled hot sauce
- Diced white onion mixed with chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1. To prepare the squash, preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C). In a bowl, mix the squash, onion, oil, 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, the cumin, paprika, ancho chile and brown sugar until well coated. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until soft and well caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes.
2. While the squash is roasting, make the salsa: Char the bell pepper on all sides directly over a gas flame, or under a broiler, until the skin is blackened and blistered. Peel, seed and tear into smaller pieces.
3. Line a small, heavy sauté pan with a piece of foil and heat over high heat. Roast the tomatoes and 1 of the garlic cloves until soft and blackened in spots, and set aside with the bell pepper.
4. In a fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Cook the onion until it begins to brown and caramelize. Add the tomatoes and peppers, cumin and paprika and cook until the pan is dry. Add 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) water and 1/2 tsp. salt and simmer on low heat until the onions are tender. Place in a food processor along with the remaining raw garlic clove and pulse until fairly smooth. Stir in the cilantro, taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside until ready to serve.
5. Heat a heavy griddle and lightly grease the surface. Cook the tortillas, topped with a pinch of the cheese, until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is slightly crisp. Top each with about 1/4 cup of roasted squash, a spoonful of the salsa, and a slice of avocado. Serve with the bottled hot sauce and onion mixture for diners to assemble their own tacos. Makes 12 to 16 small tacos.
Bring a true taste of Mexico to your table with our mouthwatering collection of down-home dishes in, Rustic Mexican, by Deborah Schneider.