butternut squash & black bean tacos with apple-ginger slaw


It's pretty tough to go wrong with taco night. It's usually a staple in our weeknight dinner lineup and even though the classic combo is classic for a reason, I thought it would be interesting to mix it up by incorporating some fall flavors (and also using up some of our growing bounty of squash).

First of all, who knew butternut squash was one of my favorite winter squashes? I always thought of myself as more of a delicata kind of girl - though don't get me wrong, I still love it. But butternut, also known as the butternut pumpkin, just has an amazing natural sweetness. One of these days I'll probably roast it with cinnamon and maple syrup and call it dessert. Because trust me, it would work.

In fact, the reason I have a favorite squash or two at all is kind of crazy, considering I once excused myself from the dinner table and hid in the bathroom in order to avoid eating said squash at the dinner table. Had it been pressed between a corn tortilla with fresh apple-ginger slaw, it might be a different story (but probably not: I was ten).

What works so great about this combination is that the roasted sweetness of the squash combined with the tart almost pickle-y flavor of the apples is basically the perfect compliment, invented by nature, by the way, since both of these things are now at their seasonal picks. Amazing how that works, isn't it?

For this recipe, you'll need:

One small/medium butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups black beans, cooked, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 small red onion, diced
1 small bunch Swiss chard or other cooking green, chopped
1 apple, preferably a tart variety like Empire or Granny Smith
Juice of half a lime
1 knob of fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Few leaves of fresh lettuce, washed and shredded
6-8 soft corn tortillas

Start by getting your squash in the oven - the longer it cooks the better it gets, so toss it together with a generous dose of olive oil and your cumin, garlic powder and paprika. Spread in a single layer in a roasting pan and put into a 350 degree oven for one to one and a half hours.

Next, julienne your apple and place in a small bowl with your fresh ginger and lime juice. Toss together with some salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate while you wait for your squash, which will allow the flavors to marinate and intensify. (Any leftovers, should you have any, are great on top of salads or as a sandwich add-on. Go crazy now.)

When your squash is about ten minutes from done (which you can test by stabbing a small piece with a fork), in a small saucepan add some olive oil over medium heat. Add your onion and sauté for about 3 minutes or until it starts to soften. Add your beans, chard, salt, pepper and vegetable stock. Cook together until all the liquid is absorbed.

Now for the taco assembly! We started with warm tortillas, lettuce, then added our beans, squash and topped with apple slaw. For a little heat, add some Sriacha or for a little non-vegan creaminess, a drizzle of sour cream. (We also added a bit of leftover rice and pesto, but this is completely optional. Tasty, but optional.)

These were a winner, to be sure. All the fall flavors you could want, packed together in a portable, hand-held dinner. Next time, I'll be doubling up on ingredients so there's enough for seconds. And leftovers. And seconds during leftovers.