An often requested hors d’oeuvre from my catering days were butternut squash quesadillas with chipotle lime dipping sauce. They were a lighter alternative to classics like miniature beef wellingtons or scallops wrapped in bacon. A recipe I originally found in Gourmet magazine and now on the Epicurious website, it seemed to be universally liked by everyone. Crunchy on the outside, sweet roasted butternut squash and melted cheese inside, they disappeared as quickly as wait staff could get them out to hungry guests. The flavors of the roasted squash, onion and garlic are a perfect combination with creamy jack cheese, and sweet red pepper.
Begin the recipe by roasting squash cubes, an unpeeled onion cut in segments and several cloves of garlic. Since we had a large butternut squash crop this year, I am getting faster at peeling and chopping my own squash. But if you don’t want to take the time, you can purchase butternut squash that has already been peeled and cubed. It is considerably more expensive for the convenience. For the best results, roast cubes rather than baking squash halves . Although the roasted squash will be puréed before it is spread on the quesadilla, roasting cubed squash and the onion, allows the natural sugars in the vegetables to caramelize and enhances the flavor.
On a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the squash cubes, onion and garlic with a neutral oil (vegetable, safflower) and toss lightly. Spread them out as evenly as possible so the squash will roast, not steam. Halfway through the cooking time use a plastic spatula to toss the cubes around a bit to maximize the surface area that gets browned. The garlic will be done first, use tongs to remove it to a work surface. Continue to roast the squash and onion until tender, as much as 15 more minutes, I like to check about every five minutes or so at this point. The squash will be soft and browned in places. Remove the peel from the onion and the garlic.
While the squash is cooking you will have time to chop the red pepper. Cut it into small dice, it will make for neater pieces when you cut the quesadillas. Place chopped pepper and jack cheese into separate bowls at your work station.
In a food processor or blender, purée the squash, onion and garlic until not quite smooth, leave it just a little chunky and transfer to a bowl. On a work surface spread out four tortillas. Next to the tortillas, place your bowls of squash puree, pepper and onion. Since you will be using one-fourth of each item on the tortillas, it’s relatively easy to “guesstimate” how much to use. Spread the puree first, evenly, almost but not quite to the edges, then sprinkle on the red pepper and then the cheese. Top with a second tortilla and press lightly to adhere. Spread a light coating of softened, not melted butter on either side of each tortilla. This step is little messy, you can put a sheet of waxed paper on two large baking sheet to cut down on the butter getting all over your work surface.
Heat a 7 inch non stick skillet over medium high heat until hot and cook the quesadillas. While the first side is cooking, press down lightly on the quesadilla so that everything sticks together, it will make the flipping easier. Cook the quesadillas about 3 minutes per side, you can lift up a little to see if you have achieved the light toasty brown color. I use a plastic spatula to flip them over, with a little help from my hand. Repeat with the remaining quesadillas and regulate the heat as necessary. Transfer to a warm oven while you are cooking the remaining quesadillas. Cut the quesadillas into 6 to 8 wedges, I have found a pizza wheel makes the neatest cuts.
Serve quesadillas with chipotle lime dipping sauce. Years ago when I first made this recipe it was difficult to obtain chipotles, now they are available at any supermarket. Chipotle peppers are smoked and dried jalapenos that are marinated in a tangy sweet red sauce. A little chipotle goes a long way. It is better to add a little at first to see how it tastes. The sour cream will mellow the chili out and the lime adds a nice contrast.
The dip can be made ahead, and even though the recipe doesn’t say so, the quesadillas can be made ahead. Reheat the quesadillas in a warm oven for about 10 minutes or until they feel hot. The important thing to remember whether fresh or reheated is to let the quesadilla rest for a few minutes before cutting. Too hot and the filling oozes out and is a mess to eat.
I have always used the recommended flour tortillas, I’m sure other varieties would work too. If you like your food spicy, pepper jack cheese could be substituted or any other good melting cheese. They would make a good vegetarian entree or a light lunch along with a green salad.
Butternut Squash Quesadillas
Makes 24 to 32 pieces
- 5 c butternut squash, peeled and cut into ¾ inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, unpeeled and cut into eights
- 1 large garlic clove, unpeeled
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 8- 5 to 6-inch flour tortillas
- 1 c chopped red pepper
- 1 c coarsely grated jack cheese
- ½ stick unsalted softened butter
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Arrange squash cubes, onion and garlic in a single layer on a shallow baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and toss lightly to coat.
- Roast vegetables in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the garlic is softened. Transfer garlic to cutting board.
- Roast squash and onion for an additional 15 minutes or until tender. Discard peels from the onion and garlic.
- Purée the squash, onion and garlic in a food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- On a work surface, spread out four tortillas. Spread one-fourth of the squash purée on each of the four tortilla. Sprinkle each tortilla with one fourth each of the red pepper and the cheese. Top each quesadilla with a plain tortilla, pressing gently together. Spread each side of the quesadillas with a thin layer of softened butter.
- Heat a medium non stick skillet over medium high heat until hot and cook quesadillas, 1 at a time until golden, about 3 minutes on each side, transferring to a cutting board.
- Cut each quesadilla into 6 to 8 wedges and serve with chipotle lime dip.
Chipotle Lime Dip
Makes one cup
- 1 canned chili in adobo, minced
- 2 t fresh lime juice
- 1 c sour cream
- In a small bowl stir the chili and lime juice into the sour cream until well combined. Can be made ahead, cover and chill.