Squash & Bean Bake

Just five days left until I can chuck my cell phone into the depths of my closet, grab a 6-pack of hard cider, and escape with my tent and books to the farthest campsite I can find. I’m constantly texting friends and family, and I’m not much of a drinker (my absinthe-loving days left behind me in Japan), but July 1st will mark the first time in just over two years that I will no longer be on-call 24/7! The tissue bank business is one that I really admire. They do fantastic work and I’m so proud to have been even a small part of it – but I find myself fantasizing about having a steady schedule, becoming a “morning person” because I get up early not for being up all night, and falling asleep at night knowing I’ll be free to sleep through its entirety.

I’ll be glad to have a bit of a respite before the Big Move, too. Anything that will help calm my nerves and settle my mind before selling my soul to graduate studies is well worth it. I’ve been climbing as much as possible just for that reason, the cost of the gym pass justified now since I doubt I’ll have much time to climb in Halifax. All I’m missing is a more-experienced partner so that I can get off the plastic and onto the granite. I boulder outside as the weather permits and I used to feel comfortable setting up solid (oh, ‘scuse me, I mean “bomber”) anchers, but it’s been years since I’ve worked any gear more complicated than an ATC (being on-call has a way of seriously restricting all mountain activities). I no longer feel confident enough to grab my less experienced friends for a day-trip of simple top-roping. I’m hoping to beg/plead/bribe my way into some more experienced groups later this summer but the clock’s ticking. Anyone confident in their trad skills and live in Vermont? Seriously, contact me.

Well, I could chat about climbing all day but then this wouldn’t be a food blog now would it? 😉 Back to the subject of the post: this simple but flavorful dish joins the ranks of those that were eaten up with such enthusiasm that I’ve only a few photos left as evidence of its existence. No joke, the recipe fills two 8 x 8″ pans (I prefer the depth of using multiple square pans over a single 9 x 13) and both were gone by noon the following day. Oh, and none of us are vegetarian. If that doesn’t convince you this is a winning meat-free recipe, I don’t know what would.

Squash & Bean Bake (adapted from Eating Well‘s June 2011 Edition)

Ingredients:

For the Filling…

2   t   EVOO

1   large onion, diced

3   cloves garlic, minced

2   jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced

1   T   paprika

1   t   ground cumin

1   t   dried oregano

1   t   ground cinnamon

pinch of ground cloves

1   lb.   butternut squash; peeled, seeded, and diced (~ 3 C)

1   14-oz. can crushed tomatoes

1   C   vegetable broth

1   15-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed

1   15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed

¼   t   salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Topping…

1   T   EVOO

¼   t   salt

8   corn tortillas

1   C   sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. For the filling,  heat the 2 Tablespoons oil in a large skillet over Medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant – about 3 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeños and repeat for another minute more. Add paprika, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and cloves and continue cooking while stirring for another minute. Add squash, tomatoes, and broth; bring to a simmer. Allow dish to simmer while covered for 10 – 15 minutes or until squash is tender. Add beans, season with salt and pepper, and transfer mix to two 8 x 8″ square baking dishes or a single 9 x 13″ dish.
  2. Prepare the topping by combining the 1 Tablespoon oil and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small dish and brush it on both sides of the corn tortillas. Using a pizza-cutter, cut the tortillas into ¾” strips and then cut the strips in half. Layer the tortilla strips and cheese on top of the dish(es). I alternated strips, cheese, strips, and finished with cheese.
  3. Bake the dish(es) in the center of the oven until the center is bubbling and the tortilla strips have darkened to a light tan – about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Leftovers reheat well in the oven (microwave works, too, but your tortilla strips will be chewy).


Beezer’s Notes:

If you’re trying to introduce more legumes in your diet, find new ideas for your CSA share, or get your kids to eat something other than mac ‘n cheese I really recommend making this bake. It actually went above and beyond my expectations. I first highlighted it simply as a way to use up the can of beans sitting in my cupboard (although neither kidney nor cannellini beans are called for in the original recipe) and I’m so glad I did. I think the magic’s in the spice/herb combination as the flavor is fantastic. It helps to like squash, but even if you aren’t much of a fan it really just adds a subtle sweetness to the mix – squash isn’t the central flavor by any means. Also, don’t worry about the heat: the filling isn’t spicy at all (you’d need to keep the jalapeño seeds in for that), but tastes like a Mexican-meets-Thanksgiving dish, haha. Not the best for summer, maybe, but with all the cold rain we’re having up here you’d never know. Finally, the crunchy-cheesy topping went perfectly with the soft filling; the baked tortilla strips a genius move for having healthy substitute for a pot-pie crust. I have only a few tweaks for the next time I make this: add some corn and maybe even a Tablespoon of chipotle chili in adobo sauce too add some smokiness. Overall, though, an excellent dinner!

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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