A Lot on My Plate – I’m Nacho Friend (Can’t We Just Taco ‘Bout It?)

Sweet Potato and Acorn Squash “Nachos”

  • 1 Covington sweet potato [Scott Farms, Lucama, MD]
  • ½ acorn squash [Leone Farm, Vineland, NJ]
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1 ½ teaspoon Southwest Seasoning [Von Brake Spices, Deep River, CT]
  • ¾ cup refried beans
  • ½ cup black beans
  • 2-3 tablespoons salsa (I used black bean and corn salsa, because that’s what was in the fridge)
  • ½-1 cup shredded cheese (I like to use the ready-made Mexican blends, but not a Taco blend, because that usually already has spices in it and I’m not crazy about that)
  • Some lime juice
  • (I could have diced up a hothouse tomato from Hummingbird Farm in Ridgley, MD, but I don’t like tomatoes and probably should have opted out of that one this week…)

Preheat the oven to 350°. While the oven is preheating, slice up your sweet potatoes and squash into wedge shapes. You should almost definitely peel your acorn squash (you can also take the skin off once it’s cooked, but I didn’t want to deal with the hot vegetable/potential burn situation). I did not peel my sweet potato, because I read on the internet that it’s healthier, and it’s hard enough to peel squash without adding extra work. To peel the squash, I sliced it into wedges first (conveniently outlined by the ridged shape of an acorn squash), then peeled the wedges. This may not have been the best way to do it, but I don’t feel quite confident enough in my peeling ability to do it any other way.

Once your squash and sweet potato are sliced, toss them with some olive oil and seasoning. Lay them out on a baking sheet (covered in parchment or one of those nonstick mats) and set the timer for 30-40 minutes (the exact time can vary depending on how thinly you sliced them).

Watch a 20-minute TV show or catch up on the day’s news. (Actually, don’t catch up on the news. It’s grim and often frustrating. So if you’re at a loss for a 20-minute show to watch then read a short story or start knitting a hat or meditate or call your mother, really anything but catch up on the news.) Halfway through roasting, flip your wedges. Once the wedges are flipped, get your topping ready. Pour the refried beans, black beans, and salsa into a saucepan and heat. This step isn’t integral to the character of the nachos, but I like sneaking bites of bean dip and making sure all of these ingredients are well-mixed and thoroughly warm once they’re atop the wedges.

With about 5-7 minutes left on the timer, pull out the baking sheet and push the wedges together into a rough pile. Try to keep them from overlapping too much, but ideally there won’t be too much space between wedges for bean topping to slip through and get lonely at the bottom. Pour the bean topping over the wedges and top with a generous portion of cheese. Let the “nachos” bake for those last 5 minutes while the cheese melts.

Take it all out of the oven and top with some lime juice, tomatoes, sliced jalapenos, really whatever you like on your actual nachos.

12375033_476465882533336_7958690839305136777_o[I was too hungry and excited to take a picture of the actual nachos, so here’s a picture of my produce bag, thanks to 4P Foods. This week I got:

  • Acorn Squash – Leone Farm, Vineland, NJ
  • Bibb Lettuce – Fresh2o, Stevensburg, VA
  • Bunched Spinach – Ploch Farms, Vineland, NJ
  • Covington Sweet Potatoes – Scott Farms, Lucama, MD
  • Hot House Tomatoes – Hummingbird Farm, Ridgley, MD
  • Kimchi – No. 1 Sons, Arlington, VA
  • Satsumas (Bonnie’s favorite) – Uncle Matt’s Organics, Clermont, FL
  • Winesap & Fuji Apples – Crown Orchards, Albermarle, VA
  • Yellow Ginger – Indian Valley Farms, Floyd, VA

So look forward to seeing some of these things in future posts!]

I’d like to preface the narrative portion of this post by describing the existential situation these “nachos” brought to my dinner table. The question comes down to what, exactly, is the distinguishing feature of a nacho? Is it the preparation (a base, perhaps a starchy base, layered with a topping, baked and perhaps eaten with the hands)? Or is it the ingredients, namely, the chip? Clearly, I am a subscriber to the former – I believe a nacho is a nacho because of how it is made, rather than from what it is made. A number of people would argue the contrary – that a nacho’s essential nacho-ness is based on the tortilla chip, and that even a single chip paired with a hot and cheesy dip would qualify as a nacho (while this dish would not). As much as it pains me to admit, the history of the nacho has perhaps proven me wrong. I maintain a philosophical sense of correctness, that the identity of a nacho should be left open for evolution and development as it proceeds from exclusively pub fare into the wider world. That being said, the original nacho was essentially a Mexican chef struggling to get rid of a few hungry gringos who wandered in at closing time, offering them the only things he had on hand: tortillas and cheese. “This is great!” The gringos told him, “What’s it called?” The flustered chef replied, “Uhh… Nachos Especiales!” And so he created a dish that, 60 years later, would cause some other gringo (gringa? Am I a gringa? Is that a thing?) to have a philosophical debate over the Platonic nature of a nacho-qua-nacho. And yes, you’re welcome for bringing that conundrum to your day. And that’s why I’ve scare-quoted every instance of “nachos” in reference to my spicy, bean-topped squash and potato wedges, even though a pretty important part of my profession is to know how to use quotation marks properly.

So while my local veggies made some beautiful “nachos,” their farms of origin seem to be off the grid, so I have to enjoy their quality without investing myself in the biographies of their associated humans. (I swear, the Fresh2o lettuce really tastes better when I can think about the Fresh2o people!) My produce, however, was not the only “locally” sourced ingredient in this meal. I say scare-quote-local because Connecticut is not really local to DelMarVa, but is quite local to my heart. In fact, the Southwest Grilling spice I used for these spicy wedges was made by my very own Dad! Southwest is one of my favorite of his VonBrake blends, but you should check them all out for yourself (and my aunt Jen (but a different Jen than the Clean Fairfax Director…) has made up a pretty beautiful website to feature them). All of these blends are low- or no-salt, all-natural, and hand-blended (in my parents’ kitchen). Although I obviously need to submit a conflict of interest here, all the blends are amazing and make my nacho (and anything) spicing so much easier.

So regardless of their nacho-ness, these spicy, bean-topped wedges were hearty and delicious. To give credit where credit is due, I combined this recipe for acorn squash “fries” with this recipe for black bean and potato “nachos,” but it wouldn’t be my dinner if I hadn’t mostly made it up as I went along. In future iterations, it certainly wouldn’t be hurt by adding some guac, sour cream, or I mean actual chips wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

And don’t worry, I have big plans for the second half of the squash and the rest of those sweet potatoes. We’ll see what I can do with the tomatoes. (As a sidenote, I did finally make Morning Glory Muffins. But I tried throwing in some whole wheat flour for my health and chocolate chips for my taste buds, and ended up throwing off the muffins in some weird direction…)

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