Wednesday, August 19, 2015

6. Butternut Squash and Kale Tacos with Wild Rice, White Cheddar, Toasted Walnuts, and Fried Sage Leaves


For this taco recipe, I decided to go vegetarian again.  I like to mix things up.  Since my dear husband is out of town, I thought I would use an ingredient that he doesn't particularly like:  butternut squash!

Since these tacos are already pretty hipster (more or less), I decided to throw some kale into the mix.  I rounded out the flavor profile with nutty wild rice, toasted walnuts, and some fried sage leaves.  The result was a rich, earthy, delicious taco unlike any I've ever had.  If you like the ingredients, you'll like the taco.  Here's the recipe:

6.  Butternut Squash and Kale Tacos with Wild Rice, White Cheddar, Toasted Walnuts, and Fried Sage Leaves

Serves 3 to 4 (6 to 8 tacos)


½ cup walnuts

30 medium to large sage leaves
Olive oil (or other oil) for frying

For the kale mixture:

¼ cup wild rice
1 cup water
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. butter
2 medium shallots, sliced, about ¾ cup
½ bunch kale, about 6-8 oz., rinsed, cut away from the tough ribs, and coarsely chopped
¼ tsp. salt

For the squash:

4 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (about ½ inch dice)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. chopped thyme leaves
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Multi-grain corn and wheat tortillas (I used Mission Corn & Whole Wheat Blend.)

4 oz. white cheddar cheese, finely grated (I used Kerrygold Aged Cheddar.)

1.  Place the walnuts on a sheet of foil or a baking sheet and toast them in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until they are fragrant.  Coarsely chop and set aside.  Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

2.  Make the sage leaves:  In a small pot, pour olive oil (or another oil of your choice) to a depth of 1/2 inch.  Heat over medium heat.  Test the oil by flicking a drop of water into it.  If it sizzles vigorously, it's probably ready.  Drop the sage leaves, a few at a time, into the oil.  Fry for about 5 to 20 seconds, depending on how hot your oil is.  The leaves should curl and stiffen up, but not brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon (heat-proof) and drain on a paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt.  The leaves should become crispy as they cool.  (This was a little tricky.  I purposely included more sage leaves than needed in the recipe, because it's hard to get it exactly right.  I had some that were too brown.  I also had some that could have been crispier.  I had enough that were perfect, though, and that's the important thing!)

Yes, there is a lot of oil going on.  I find it's best not to think about those things.  I don't need that kind of negativity in my life.  Besides, it's mostly on the paper towel!  :)

3.  Make the kale mixture:  Bring 1 cup of water to boil.  Add the wild rice and salt.  Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the rice is tender.  Drain the excess water and set aside.  While the rice is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots, cooking and stirring until soft and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the kale and the salt.  Stir, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the kale is tender.  While the kale cooks, stir it occasionally and add a small amount of water if the mixture seems dry.  Add the wild rice to the kale mixture.  Stir and set aside.

4.  Cook the squash:  In a medium bowl, toss the squash, olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Place on a sheet of foil or baking sheet in a single layer and roast at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until slightly browned and tender.  Set aside.

5.  When the squash is almost done, prepare the tortillas.  I heated my tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so on each side, just like I have done in the past with corn or flour tortillas.  This corn-wheat blend was a new one for me, but the same method worked just fine!  Since this is basically the last step, you don't really need to keep them warm.  Just stack them on a plate or sheet of foil until it's time to assemble the tacos!

6.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Spoon a small amount of the kale and wild rice mixture in the center of the tortilla.  Top with some of the butternut squash.  Sprinkle some grated cheddar over the butternut squash.  Finish with some toasted walnuts and a few fried sage leaves.  Enjoy!

Well . . . that's that.  How were they?  You're going to have to take my word for it, because I made and tested these tacos with no supervision whatsoever.  They were astounding.  

There was really no "sauce" in this recipe, but there was enough moisture in the squash and kale (and richness from the cheese) that it didn't really need anything extra.  

The new hybrid corn-wheat tortillas were pretty tasty.  I will be using them again. 

I have to be honest.  I'm just proud of myself for finishing these and getting this posted.  I just went back to work on Monday (fall semester), and this is my first work-night taco post! 

When I got home and started typing out my recipe plan and gathering the ingredients (after a full day, in an empty house, except for the puppies,) I knew this was serious.  The Taco Project is a real thing.  It's happening.

This recipe had a lot of steps.  A lot of the steps had to be completed simultaneously, but all of them were fairly easy.  The whole process made a bit of a mess, but I have seen much worse on many occasions.  I would recommend these tacos.  They're worth it!

Thanks for reading!  I'll check back in this weekend for . . . what kind of tacos?  I don't know yet!


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