Friday, November 16, 2012

Butternut Squash & Black Bean Burritos

I taught a class this week featuring quick weeknight meals for the holiday season. Even though the focus of the class was "quick", it was nice to observe as I shopped for the class that my cart was mostly filled with produce. At a time of year when everyone is too busy to cook dinner and probably eating way too much rich and sweet stuff, I was glad to be able to contribute some ideas for satisfying and truly nourishing meals—all made without processed foodstuffs and all of which can be prepared in an hour or less. One of the recipes was the Broccoli Cheese Soup I posted last month. Today I thought I would share another favorite—Butternut Squash & Black Bean Burritos.

These burritos have been part of my repertoire for several years now. The original recipe is from the Rolling Prairie Cookbook. Written by my friend Nancy O'Connor (who is the director of education and outreach at The Community Mercantile in Lawrence, Kansas where I teach the majority of my cooking classes) and published in support of the Rolling Prairie Farmers' Alliance CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), it is tailor made for people who have signed up for a CSA and then have no idea what to do with some of the vegetables that arrive in their share each week. This book is filled with great ideas for the vegetables and fruits that thrive in the Midwestern United States. If you live in Kansas or Missouri and are a member of a CSA, you should own a copy of this book.

One of the good things about this recipe is that it easily falls into the category of what I call a "pantry" dinner. All of the ingredients are items that store well in the refrigerator or pantry—hard winter squash, onions and garlic, beans (canned or dried), spices, cheese and flour tortillas. No special run to the store for perishables is required. My favorite accompaniment to this dish is an apple salad or simple slaw

—both of which can be quickly made from items that have a lengthy life in the refrigerator. It occurred to me the other day that a classic cranberry sauce or spicy cranberry chutney (something everyone will have on hand over the next couple of weeks) would be a delicious accompaniment, too.

If you are going to bake the burritos in the oven after they have been formed, this recipe will probably take longer than an hour from start to finish (my criteria for all of the recipes I taught in my "quick meals" class). But I have described a shortcut (in the notes at the end of the recipe) that you can use to trim your prep time down to under an hour. If you plan ahead, you can cut your time down even further by dicing the squash a day or two ahead of time and storing it in a covered container in the refrigerator. If you are using dried instead of canned beans, these can be made ahead as well.

With a simple Waldorf Salad

Before I end today's post, I want to encourage everyone to check out my Facebook page. There, I have begun to create galleries of pictures with links to past blog posts of holiday recipes. So far I have posted a gallery of Thanksgiving side dish ideas and another of pumpkin recipes that have a holiday appeal. As the season progresses, there will be more to come. Let the holiday baking and cooking begin!

Savory Butternut Squash & Black Bean Burritos

2 1/2 to 3 cups peeled butternut squash (from a 1 1/4 lb. squash), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 T. Olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, cut in a 1/4-inch dice
1 clove of garlic, minced
a generous 1/2 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. cinnamon
Salt & pepper
1 3/4 c. cooked black beans (1 can), drained and rinsed
8 8-inch flour tortillas (see note)
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey jack, Fontina or Gouda cheese (about 6 oz.)

Toss the squash with 1 T. olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 450°F oven until tender and caramelized—20 to 25 minutes (stirring once so it will brown evenly).

Meanwhile, heat another tablespoon of oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt and cook until tender and beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic and spices and continue to cook until fragrant. Add the beans and a few tablespoons of water (or bean cooking liquid)—just enough to deglaze and provide a brief simmer to infuse the beans with the flavor of the onions and spices. Heat through. If the beans seem soupy, simmer briefly to remove some of the excess liquid. Remove from the heat.

When the squash is done, add to the pan with the beans. Return to the heat to reheat, if necessary.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F. Lay out one tortilla. Place 1/8 of the bean mixture (about a third of a cup) down the center, top with 3 tablespoons (3/4 oz.) of cheese and roll up tightly, “burrito-fashion”.

Continue to do this with remaining ingredients, lining up the burritos in an oblong baking dish (that has been lightly oiled or sprayed) as you go.

Bake, loosely covered with foil, for approximately 20 minutes until burritos are heated through. Serve burritos with sour cream on the side. Serves 4 to 6 (see notes).

(Recipe adapted from Rolling Prairie Cookbook by Nancy O'Connor)


• You may use 8-inch or 10-inch tortillas—depending on your preferred ratio of filling to tortilla. When I use 8-inch tortillas, I get 8 burritos. When I use 10-inch, I make 6 burritos. But you might want to make 6 out of the 8-inch and 4 giant burritos out of the 10-inch.

• The number of servings you will get out of the recipe is entirely dependent on appetites and the other things you are serving. If you serve a small salad or some sliced apples—you'll probably only get four servings from this recipe. If you serve rice—or something else substantial and filling—you are more likely to be able to stretch the burritos to serve at least 6.

• I like to warm the tortillas before filling them. To do this, turn a gas or electric burner on to high heat. Slide both sides of each tortilla back and forth over the burner until it is warm, flecked with brown and flexible. Stack the tortillas and cover loosely with foil to keep them warm as you work.

• Sometimes—when I'm in a hurry—I don't even bother to take the time to bake these. To do this, place the empty oblong baking dish in the 350° oven with a piece of foil large enough to lay over the dish. Make sure the filling is nice and hot. Warm the tortillas. For each burrito, fill and roll and place in the pan in the oven. Cover loosely with the foil to keep it warm while you roll the rest of the burritos.

• If you like, you may use the filling to make quesadillas. Mash the squash and beans lightly and smear a thin layer on one tortilla. Top with an ounce or so of cheese, followed by a second tortilla. Cook the quesadillas in a hot pan coated with a thin film of oil. Cut into wedges and serve.

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