Desperation can be a source of inspiration in cooking. When an unexpected guest was also a vegetarian I threw together something I had on hand and suddenly we had a tasty alternative to Turkey Tacos I typically make.
Not planning on having tacos tonight? This works equally as well as a side dish.
Black Bean Summer Squash Taco Filling
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 onion, cut into 1/4″ dice
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/4″ dice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 yellow summer squashes, cut into 1/4″ dice (see notes)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano, crushed
black pepper to taste, extra salt for cooking
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12″ non-stick skillet over medium for about 1 minute. Add the onions and bell pepper, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat in the oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirrings once or twice.
Add the jalapeno and garlic, stirring them into the carrot and bell pepper. Cook until fragrant, which should only take 30 second to a minute. Transfer the onions, peppers and garlic to a bowl and set aside.
Return the skillet to the stove, add the remaining oil and increase the heat to high. When the oil is just beginning to smoke add the summer squash and a generous sprinkle of salt. Spread the squash along the bottom of the skillet and cook, undisturbed for 2 minutes. Toss the pan to redistribute the squash and cook another minute.
Return the onion mixture to the pan and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 10 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.
Your 3 summer squashes should be 6-8″ long and no more than 2-2.5″ in diameter. I prep them removing the ends and cutting them lengthwise into quarters. I then remove the layer of seeds, cut the remaining squash flesh into 1/4″ wide strips and, finally, cutting them into 1/4″ cubes.
My husband wanted to make corn bread and asked what we should have with it. I suggested chicken chili and then said I knew he wouldn’t really approve. Chili for him is a tomato-based dish and chicken chili, at least in my mind and creation, is not. So I’ll compromise and put the chili in quotes. Or you can call this a creamy chicken stew if you like.
I use chicken thighs in this dish because they are very forgiving if you over shoot the recommended 175°F temperature. Since they get cooked through, and then added back as shredded chicken, we can use the extra insurance.
Creamy Chicken Chili
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Char the outside of the poblano and Serrano peppers, either by placing over a gas burner or under the broiler in the oven, until well blackened on all sides. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 5 minutes.
Trim excess fat from the skinned chicken thighs. Sprinkle generously with kosher slat and black pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven over medium high heat until just shimmering. Add thighs to the pan, placing what would be the skin side down first. Do not crowd the pan, rather work in batches (it took me 2 batches). Cook ~4 minutes on each side then transfer to plate while you brown the second batch.
Pull the Dutch oven off the heat and look at how much fat is left. Add or drain so that you have about 2 tablespoons of fat. Return to medium heat for about 30 seconds then add the onions and bell pepper. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to distribute and coat with oil. Cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is translucent.
While the onions/peppers cook slip the charred skin from the poblanos and Serranos. A paper towel can help in this. Try to avoid running under water, it washes off some of the flavor along with the charred skin. Remove the seeds from the peppers. Roughly chop the Serranos to match the garlic. Cut the poblanos into 1/4″ squares.
Push the onions/peppers to the side of the pan and add the garlic, Serranos and poblanos. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute.
Add the chili powder and stir until it coats the vegetables. Stir in the chicken broth. Nestle the thighs into the Dutch oven, submerging them as best you can. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.
Grab the largest thigh with tongs and check the temperature with an instant read thermometer. If the result is less then 175°F return the thigh to the pot, partially cover and cook another 5 minutes. Test again until the thighs are all at least 175°F.
Transfer cooked chicken to a plate. Add the beans to the pot along with the cubes of cream cheese. Stir to help the cream cheese melt. Reduce the temperature to low.
Using 2 forks pull the chicken from the bones and shred it as best you can. Return the chicken to the pot as you complete each thigh. Stir everything together and serve.
You may want to lower the temperature under the Dutch oven to medium-low before browning the second batch of thighs to avoid burning the fond in the bottom of the pan.
The leftovers, if any, could be used to make an interesting creamy chicken enchilada sort of dish.
Tacos in our house usually means fish tacos however some of our friends can’t do seafood so we try to provide an alternative. I was able to make this an hour or so before dinner and keep it warm in the slow cooker while I worked on other parts of the menu.
1 pkg. ground turkey (that equals 20 oz. at my mega-mart)
kosher salt and black pepper
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced fine
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp. ground chipotle
3/4 cup tomato sauce
3/4 cup no salt added chicken broth
2 tsp. brown sugar
3 tsp. cider vinegar
Place the garlic and spices in a bowl; set aside. Combine the tomato sauce, broth, brown sugar and vinegar in a measuring cup; set aside.
Heat the oil in a non-skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, stir to coat with oil and cook for about 4 minutes until softened.
Add the garlic and spices to the skillet. Stir to incorporate with the onions and cook until aromatic, about a minute.
Add the ground turkey, break into pieces, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover. Cook for a minute, break into smaller pieces and cover. Cook for another 2 minutes, break up large pieces again and cook uncovered for a final couple of minutes until the turkey is no longer pink.
Reduce heat to medium-low, add the liquid ingredients and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes. Stir every minute or so and continue to break up any larger pieces of turkey.
Serve up with your favorite taco fixin’s.
This recipe is based on a recipe for Beef Tacos from a May 2002 issue of Cook’s Illustrated.