Black Bean & Butternut Squash Skillet Feast!
We received an urgent request from Washington, DC for a vegetarian recipe, and we take our requests very seriously! This one is a recent favorite. It lets you use that quinoa that has been languishing in your pantry — you know, the bag you bought because “it’s good for you,” but have had no idea what to do with it. We found this recipe at Simply Recipes, and it’s the brainchild of Sally Vargas.
As usual, we present the recipe with our tweaks and adjusted quantities to serve 2. You can easily pump those quantities up to serve more.
Serves: 2 (with two side-dish equivalent leftovers)
Total Time: 1 hour
Fill-O-Meter Rating: Husband calls it “satisfying, Wife says, “very filling” (she gets filled fast…sometimes)
Leftover quality: Husband: “Average.” Wife: “I’ll pass.”
Wife’s Rating: Delicious, hot off the skillet, especially with those toasted pumpkin seeds and feta cheese toppings! (But no cilantro garnish for her…her least fav spice.)
1 Butternut Squash, about 3/4 lb
The Husband notes: “Boy, can this be hard to judge! At the store, I thought I picked out a smallish squash yesterday, but when I took it home, it weighed 3 lbs! Unless you’re a great judge of weight, use an in-store scale if it’s available. You want to buy a pound in order to have 3/4 lb to use, after trimming and seeding.”
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt *
1/4 tsp ground black pepper *
1/2 cup quinoa
1 small(ish) onion
4 cloves garlic *
1 tbsp chili powder *
1 tbsp ground cumin *
1/2 tbsp dried oregano *
5 oz vegetable stock
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes **
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves
* The original recipe calls for somewhat smaller quantities of these ingredients that add to spice. (The Wife is very anti-spicy but we do like garlic!) You decide how spicy you want the dish to be. Maybe just go with our quantities your first time out—but less garlic is fine.
** Diced tomatoes — if you like spiciness, you can use those with green chilis. Either mild or regular. If not, plain diced tomatoes are fine. If you can find fire-roasted without green chilis that adds a little extra flavor to the dish.
1/4 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (Half that if your dining partner is a cilantrophobe)
Butternut squash -> Sweet potato
Dried oregano -> use fresh and triple the amount
Black beans -> other beans such as cannelloni, kidney or pinto
Spinach -> baby kale or chard
Cotija -> feta (our choice). (Cheddar might also work, sprinkled on top when you’re done cooking and melted in the oven for a few minutes. If you go with cheddar, let us know how it works out! )
You’ll need a good sized skillet for this one — a 10” works — with a lid
Rimmed sheet-pan — we use 9” x 13” which fits up to 1 lb of squash
Small fry pan
Knife for chopping
2 strainers (1 fine-mesh for quinoa, 1 for beans)
2 small bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
For all you up-front preppers, you can find a complete list of the slicing and dicing involved in this dish right here. If you slice and dice in advance, just ignore the prep instructions integrated below into the cooking process.
Pre-heat to 450. Do it now!
Have at the squash
Microwave the whole squash on high for 30-45 seconds, then let it cool for a minute, until you can handle it comfortably. You’ll find it peels much more easily.
Now, trim the top and bottom 1/4” or so.
Peel it, seed it and cut it into 1/2 cubes.
Mound the squash cubes on the sheet-pan, drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and toss to evenly coat the squash. This process also distributes the oil on the pan.
Note: You could oil and season the squash in a bowl, in which case give the sheet-pan a quick wipe with a smidge of olive oil (couple drops on the pan, then wipe with paper towel) before offloading it onto the sheet-pan.
Slide squash into the oven and roast for 15 minutes. It’s recommended you set a timer so you don’t turn your squash into a charred mess while you move onto the next steps.
Chop your other veggies
Finely chop 1 medium onion
Finely chop 4 (or maybe you’d be more comfortable with 2?) cloves of garlic
Strain and rinse the quinoa
Put 1/2 cup quinoa into the fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for 1 minute or so. This removes the saponin (bitter coating) from the seeds. Set aside in strainer over a small bowl to continue draining.
Strain and rinse the black beans
Empty the can of black beans into the other strainer and rinse until the water runs clear. Set aside in strainer over another small bowl to continue draining.
Saute the onion
Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to pan and allow it to heat until shimmering. Add onion to pan and saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring a couple times.
Remember the squash!
What’s that beeping? Oh, the oven timer! Has it been 15 minutes? If so, get the squash out of the oven, turn the cubes and put back in the oven for an another 7 minutes. Again, set a timer so you don’t forget it’s cooking.
Add the spices to the skillet
Add the chopped garlic, 1 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp cumin, 1/2 tbsp dried oregano to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes stirring once or twice.
Add more stuff to the skillet
Add 1/2 cup quinoa, 5 oz vegetable stock, strained/rinsed black beans and that can of diced tomatoes (with the liquid). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook until almost all the liquid is absorbed. This is supposed to take 20 minutes, but we’ve never had it done in less than 30. We uncover it and give it a stir once or twice during this time to get the quinoa on the sides of the pan back in the liquid.
Toast the pepitas
Heat a small fry pan over medium low heat. Add 1/4 cup of pepitas and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to crackle and brown. This usually takes 5-8 minutes. Remove these from the pan to a serving bowl as soon as they are done so they don’t burn.
Check the squash
There’s that infernal beeping again. Right, the oven timer for the squash! If it’s done, take it out of the oven. It should be easily pierced with a fork, but still firm. Give it a stir to minimize sticking to the pan then set it aside, leaving it on the sheet-pan for the moment.
Prepare the cheese
Crumble, cube, shred or grate the 1/4 cup of cheese.
Rinse and chop the cilantro
Rinse 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves. Dry (roll them in paper toweling and give a gentle squeeze to get most of the water out) and then chop to your desired fineness.
Add the spinach
Back in the skillet, when the quinoa has absorbed (almost) all the water, put the spinach into the skillet by the handful, folding it into the mixture as it wilts, until all the spinach is used.
Add the squash
Now, toss those delectable squash cubes into the mixture in your skillet.
Set out the cheese, pepitas and cilantro on the table as toppings. (For spicy food fans, like The Husband, you might want to add a dash of hot sauce - Cholula original works great for this dish — as an extra topping.)
Either portion out the meal, or put this colorful mixture into a nice big bowl on the table and let your diners serve themselves.