november 4, 2016
If you’re like me, you keep a stash of emergency items in your freezer that are easy to defrost, heat and enjoy when life gets over scheduled. Usually it’s my Turkey Meatloaf with Sundried Tomato, Spinach and Feta, each portion individually wrapped and ready to devour with a super quick version of smashed potatoes.
Added to the emergency list are these corn tortilla quesadillas with goat cheese, roasted butternut squash and nopalito cactus strips, easy to assemble and store in the freezer and easy to reheat for pairing with homemade salsa and a hearty salad. Quesadillas are popular menu items for my clients and easy to customize with a variety of grilled or sautéed meats or seafood, and packed with grilled or sautéed vegetables for the vegetarian versions. There is nearly always a mixture of cheeses, and a version of these goat cheese and corn tortilla quesadillas with nopalito cactus resided on this summer’s menus; the accompaniment was my Spicy Salsa Verde. Full disclosure here : I am offering the recipes for both because I wanted some all for myself. Making them for me means I get to be the Official Taster. Cooking them for others was torture and now that the recipes are out in the open, my culinary soul is at peace.
If you like green beans and you like pickled vegetables, you will find nopalito cactus strips to your liking. Most supermarkets carry this item in the specialty foods aisle; if you can’t find the 15 ounce jar, do what I do and use half, then store the rest in your fridge for another use. They add textural interest and flavor to salads and soups. Fall is the very best time for first-picked butternut squash, golden and sweet. If you are very lucky, you have access to local tangy goat cheese, like the Moonshine variety from The Bonnyclabber Cheese Company of Sullivan’s Pond Farm in Virginia. Founder and co-owner Rona Myers Sullivan was on hand at the South of the James Farmer’s Market to help me select a nice, plain solid goat chèvre for these quesadillas, but by plain I simply mean not covered with ash or flavored with herbs and spices. Are their cheeses plain in quality or flavor? Most certainly not; this is handcrafted cheese from happy, healthy, frolicking goats pastured near Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay. Read here for my visit to the farm and a recipe for Tuscan Kale and Goat Cheese Salad.
For assembly, you will need corn tortillas and a shredded Mexican cheese blend, the latter useful as the ” glue” that melts to the tortillas and holds interior ingredients from slipping. You can roast the butternut squash ahead by a day or two, and if you want to bake and freeze the finished product for later, place wax paper, parchment or plastic between the quesadillas to prevent sticking. A fifteen minute trip in a 350 degree oven will make your emergency meal come alive, for any time of the day. Cut into small wedges, they would make great appetizers. Delicious with Tomato Avocado Salsa or Spicy Salsa Verde.
Goat Cheese Quesadillas
makes eight corn tortilla quesadillas
3 cups butternut squash cut ½ inch cubes
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
16 corn tortillas
1 pound shredded cheese, Mexican blend
15 ounces nopalito cactus strips*, drained
10 ounces plain goat cheese, preferably local, crumbled
* if you can’t find the 15 ounce jar, use half of the 30 ounce jar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place butternut squash on large heavy sheet pan, toss by hand with olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt and bake until tender, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool. May be made ahead 1-2 days; bring to room temperature before proceeding with recipe.
- Increase oven heat to 375 degrees.
- Spray two large heavy sheet pans lightly with cooking spray.
- On each pan, place 4 tortillas and sprinkle with half the shredded cheese.
- Divide nopalito cactus strips and cooled butternut squash cubes among the 8 tortillas.
- Scatter the goat cheese crumbles, then top with the remainder of the shredded cheese.
- Top each with another tortilla and gently press down.
- Bake for 10 minutes, lightly spritz the tops with cooking spray and carefully flip each tortilla (these two steps gives a slightly more crisp top and can be skipped), rotate the pans and bake another 5 minutes.
- Serve warm, with your favorite salsa.