Every year in Sonoma County, as chefs, we count down the days until the turning of each season, knowing that that turn will bring a new and exciting perspective and creative process to our menus. As the leaves begin to change and the air becomes crisp with the first sights and feels of Fall, I begin to dream of delicata squash, roasted chestnuts and pomegranates. As Spring approaches, I become giddy at the thought of young fava beans, English peas and asparagus. And by the time Summer starts to creep into West County, my mouth waters and my mind is flooded with aspirations for all the ways in which I might prepare the bounty of night shades that is just weeks away.
And then there is Summer Squash.
As a long time employee, and well, family member, to the Peter Lowell’s, and now Handline crew, I have come to expect the imminent flood of Summer squash from our farm, Two Belly Acres. Between the months of June and September each year, hundreds of pounds are harvested by the farmers, prepared with care by the cooks, and enjoyed by our community. And while seemingly redundant, this inundation of zucchini, crooknecks and patty pans poses not only a challenge, but also a chance to be supremely creative. Thus, our summertime version of the Ex Pat taco was born.
An expatriate is someone who has left his or her home country to temporarily reside in another part of the world. For us, this taco represents what a Californian might attempt to bring to the taco scene in Baja. And furthermore, it is one of a handful of dishes at Handline that we change with the seasons. So what better an ingredient to highlight in these innately Californian tacos than Summer squash? The squash is seasoned with various spices, roasted, and paired with locally made St. Jorge cheese from Joe Matos Cheese Company, salsa macha, toasted almonds and fresh oregano leaves. Salsa macha originates in the east of Mexico and is a nut based, oil emulsified salsa with a high acidity level. Because of the large amount of vinegar in this salsa, it will keep well for weeks in a sealed container in your refrigerator. Additionally, this salsa pairs nicely with just about anything and can be made with whatever nuts and seeds that you might have in your pantry. At Handline, we use almonds and pepitas.
FOR THE SQUASH:
1 Pound Mixed Summer Squash, cut into ½ inch slices
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
¼ teaspoon Cumin
1/8 teaspoon Ground Chipotle Powder
Olive Oil to coat
Salt to taste
1 Yellow Onion, Medium Dice
In a mixing bowl, toss the squash with the olive oil, dried spices and salt. Spread evenly onto a lined baking sheet and roast in a 500-degree oven for about twenty minutes, rotating once half way through the cooking process. The squash should be cooked but have a slight bite to it.
Meanwhile, sweat the onion in a medium sauté pan with olive oil until translucent and slightly caramelized. Season with salt. Set aside.
FOR THE SALSA MACHA:
12 Dried Arbol Chiles
½ Cup Canola Oil
½ Cup Sliced Raw Almonds
2 Tablespoons Raw Pepitas
3 Garlic Cloves, peeled
1 Dried Chipotle Chile
1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Honey
Remove the stems and the seeds from the arbol chiles. Add the canola oil to a stainless steel sauce pan and place over medium heat. Place the almonds, pepitas, and garlic cloves to the pan and simmer until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Remove the sauce pan from the heat and add the arbol and chipotle chiles to the oil. Set aside and steep for about 10 minutes.
Place the mixture in a blender with the vinegar, salt and honey and puree on high speed until completely smooth. Allow the salsa to cool at room temperature. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
TO ASSEMBLE THE TACOS:
In a medium sauté pan, heat the roasted squash and onions until hot. Transfer the mixture to your favorite tortillas. (Our Handline handmade tortillas can be taken home by the dozen!) Top the squash and onions with grated St. Jorge cheese, a drizzle of salsa macha, toasted sliced almonds and fresh oregano leaves. Enjoy!