Thursday, August 27, 2015

8. Quesadilla Tacos with Brown-Butter Calabacitas, Tomatillo Salsa, and Avocado


Wow!  What a week.  I was pretty busy at work and it was tough to even think about making tacos until tonight!  I was feeling a little fatigued, and I wasn't sure how excited I would be about creating something new.  However, as soon as I hit our friendly neighborhood grocery store, I started getting hungry for tacos and couldn't wait to see how my latest idea would turn out!

I wanted to do another vegetarian taco.  I love calabacitas, so I thought about incorporating that.  I also decided it would be fun to do a cross between a taco and a quesadilla.  A taco needs a sauce, right?  I had to include a fresh, tangy green tomatillo salsa.  I decided that the final touch would be avocado, because . . . well, avocado makes everything better!

Though I liked my general plan, in my mind there was still something missing.  I had a lineup of fresh, tasty ingredients planned.  What could it be?    Hmmm . . . It finally came to me!  Brown butter!  I had a strong feeling it would add a level of nutty, toasty depth to the rest of the ingredients.  I was a little bit concerned that it wouldn't quite mesh with the acidity of the tomatillos, but I figured . . . "WTH?"  To make my inclusion of those toasty notes a bit more decisive, I decided to roast the peppers for the calabacitas.  Here's the recipe:

Quesadilla Tacos with Brown-Butter Calabacitas, Tomatillo Salsa, and Avocado

Serves 4 (about 8 generous tacos), with extra salsa


For the tomatillo salsa:

8 oz. tomatillos (about 4 medium), coarsely chopped
½ cup coarsely chopped white onion
½ jalepeƱo, or to taste
A small clove of garlic
¼ cup packed cilantro leaves
¼ tsp. kosher salt

For the calabacitas mixture:

2 tbsp. butter
1 large ear of corn, husk removed and kernels cut off of the cob
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped

8 fajita-size flour tortillas

8 oz. pepper jack cheese, grated

A few large leaves of green leaf lettuce, thinly sliced

1 large avocado, diced

1.  Make the salsa:  Place the tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, and salt in a blender or food processor.  Blend until fairly smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.  Set aside.

2.  Prepare the tortillas:  Set the oven to broil and place a rack as high as possible.  Place the tortillas on two baking sheets (or just one if you are serving two people).  Cover each tortilla with about 1 oz. of the cheese.  Set aside.

3.  Make the calabacitas:  Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Cook gently until the milk solids begin to brown and the butter is golden and fragrant.  Add the corn, zucchini, yellow squash, and salt.  Raise the heat slightly and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are just tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the roasted red and poblano peppers and cook until heated through.

4.  When the calabacitas mixture is almost done, cook the tortillas.  Place the pan(s) under the broiler and cook briefly until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is slightly toasted but still soft.  Watch closely!

5.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Place a small amount of calabacitas mixture down the center of each tortilla.  Top with some of the lettuce.  Spoon on some of the tomatillo salsa, being careful not to add excess liquid to the taco.  Finish with some of the diced avocado.  Enjoy!

So, what did we think?

Yes.  You should make these.  That's what we think.  :)

Overall, they were pretty easy to put together.  The salsa was a snap.  All the other chopping and grating can be done early on in the process.  Once you have everything prepped, it's a pretty quick meal.

The brown butter wasn't as much of a game-changer as I thought.  I'm OK with that, actually.  The toastiness that it added was subtle.  It didn't clash with the acidity of the other ingredients.  It meshed well with the roasted peppers.  Though I might not have picked out the brown butter in a taste test (if I had not known about it), I still think it was a good call.  It added depth to the dish as a whole.  When I make this again, I'm browning the butter!  :)

The only thing I would do differently is to watch the amount of liquid when spooning the salsa on the tacos.  I added no liquid to the salsa - I only used what's listed in the recipe.  However, the ingredients contain a good amount of water, so it's something to watch.  Just let any extra juice drain off the spoon!  I was too concerned about my blog pictures to pay attention to that.  Ha ha.  Our tacos were really fine (pretty freaking awesome, actually) - they were just slightly drippy.  Since we ate them right away, it wasn't an issue.  This isn't picnic food.  Seriously, though - who does that?  Picnic tacos?  Make-ahead tacos?  No.  Just eat them quickly and you'll be good.  ;)

So far, I'm on track.  I need to create about two taco recipes per week to reach my goal of 100 in a year.  If do one more this weekend, I'll be in good shape.  I'm thinking a sweet(ish) breakfast taco on Sunday.  With bacon.  And mimosas.  Stay tuned . . .

Feel free to comment!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  Have you ever made tacos for a picnic?  (I would really love to hear about that.)

Thanks for reading!

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