Butternut Squash Tostadas
As I sat down and started to ponder the best way to introduce this recipe for butternut squash tostadas, I thought I came up with a good segue from how a past foray with BlueApron had led me to learn the virtues of veggie tostada recipes. Then I was like, didn't I write something like that before, and indeed I did, over a year ago, and I also chronicled in that post my failure to cancel the service, even though my wife and I no longer use it. That reminded me that I still have yet to cancel and that I needed to go in and skip the next month of deliveries, but first I perused the current offerings and nothing looked as good or interesting as these tostadas that I devised on my own were, leaving me feeling still more confident in my creative abilities rather than relying on BlueApron, which didn't take long for us to tire of after signing up.
I guess one plus of a meal delivery service is that you'll never put in as much work into a meal as these particular tostadas represent, but at the same time, you may never feel as satisfied with the end result. These tostadas certainly have their fair share of components, which makes it a somewhat lengthy recipe overall, even though no one single piece is that much of a challenge to cook, starting with these black beans that I made by first sautéing onions and garlic in butter, then adding in the beans and cumin before smashing everything into a creamy paste that would serve as the first layer of the final tostadas.
Next I made a green chili avocado salsa whose recipe I found on the very reliable salsa of Homesick Texan. The recipe began by roasting tomatillos and Anaheim peppers until they were soft and charred.
Then, after peeling the skin from the peppers, those two items went into a blender along with an avocado, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice and got pureed until smooth. The final salsa was amazing, with an excellent depth that was tart, spicy, fruity, earthy, creamy, and fresh tasting all at once.
I've seen packaged tostadas in the store before, so you could save a little time on this recipe by picking those up, but if you've ever made freshly fried tortilla chips before, you probably already know the virtues of making your own. Tortillas fry up quickly, so wasn't a huge time suck to cook about 24 street taco-sized tortillas for these, and I think to have to have the crunchiest, freshest tasting tostadas, it's totally worth any hassle frying represents.
We had two or three veggie tostadas over our time as active Blue Apron customers, all of them using orange vegetables, and all tasting incredible. Oven roasting was the method for those, but grilling adds even more flavor, so when I decided to use butternut squash for my recipe, I knew they had to flame-roasted. Prior to cooking though, I tossed my squash slices in oil and a chili-heavy seasoning mixture.
Then to grill them, I placed the rounds over indirect high heat and covered. I knew the squash would take a good 20 to 30 minutes to fully soften and brown, so I went back inside to prepare the rest of the toppings while it cooked.
The remainder of the toppers required me to the slice up some radishes super thin on my mandoline, finely chop up a bit of fresh cilantro, and place sour cream into a squeeze bottle to make application easier and faster later on.
At about the 20 minute mark of cooking, some squash slices were close to being done while others needed more time, so I rearranged them on grill accordingly, moving the more tender pieces further from the fire and the less done ones closer. I also flipped them for more even browning. After another 10 minutes or so, they were all very tender and had attractive caramelization, so I moved the squash slices to a cutting board and roughly diced them up.
Then to assemble the tostadas I first spread a layer of the mashed black beans on each fried tortilla and then topped them all with some pieces of butternut squash. Next I applied squeezes of the salsa and sour cream, then adorned each tostada with radish slices, cilantro, and finely grated cotija cheese.
While Blue Apron led to the idea of crafting some veggie tostadas for the blog, none that I ever got from the subscription meal service tasted as good or fully realized as these did. Taken altogether, these were a symphony of flavors and textures that worked incredibly well with one another. First came the crackling crunch of the corn tortilla which soon contrasted with the creamy beans and sweet squash. The salsa and sour cream next added spiciness and tang to the party while the cotija brought the salt, the radish a crisp and sharp bite, and the cilantro the boost of freshness that was started with by the avocado salsa. I wonder if this same time next year I'll be back saying once again that I have failed to cancel Blue Apron, which served a purpose for time to amp up my own creativity and desire to cook more balanced and veggie-focused meals, but really is no longer needed, even though it's literally been years now that I have failed to actually email them to ask them stop my subscription for good.
Butternut Squash Tostadas
- Yield 12 servings
- Prep 1 Hour
- Inactive 15 Minutes
- Cook 20 Minutes
- Total 1 Hour 35 Minutes
- For the Black Beans
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2/3 cup finely chopped white onion
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 3 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- For the Salsa
- 2 Anaheim and Hatch chiles
- 1/2 pound tomatillos, husked and halved
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and roughly diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 cup water
- Kosher salt, to taste
- For the Tostadas
- 2 to 3 cups canola oil
- 24 street taco-size corn tortillas
- For the Butternut Squash
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds or wedges
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup cotija cheese, finely grated
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 4 radishes, thinly slices
- To make the beans: Melt butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add in onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened, but have not browned, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in beans and cook until warmed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and, using a fork or potato masher, mash bean to desired consistency, thinning with water as necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- To make the salsa: Preheat broiler. Roast chiles over an open flame on a gas stove or grill until skins are completely charred. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until cooled, 5-10 minutes. Peel off charred skins; remove stems and seed poblanos. Place tomatillos, cut sides down, on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to broiler and cook until tomatillo skins have charred and flesh has softened completely. Transfer tomatillos to the jar of a blender along with chiles, avocado, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and water. Puree until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Transfer salsa to a squeeze bottle or airtight container. Set aside.
- To make the tostadas: Heat oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or wok over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F. Adjust flame to maintain temperature. Working in batches, add tortillas and fry until edges just start to brown. Flip tortillas over and continue to cook until crisp and light golden brown. Transfer tostadas to a paper towel lined tray, sprinkle with salt to taste, and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes to drain. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Set aside.
- To make the squash: In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, and salt. Place squash slices in a large bowl and add in oil and seasoning mixture. Toss to evenly coat squash in oil and seasoning. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place butternut squash rounds on cool side of grill, cover, and cook until tender throughout, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer butternut squash to a cutting board and cut into a medium dice.
- To assemble the tostadas: Spread a layer of black beans on each tostada round. Top each with pieces of squash followed by a squeeze of the avocado salsa and sour cream. Sprinkle on cotija cheese and cilantro. Place a few radish slices on each tostada and serve immediately.