Southwestern Spices Deliver Bold Flavors in Vegetarian Tostadas

Sweet-fleshed, firm-skinned kabocha squash steps up to the plate.
Southwestern Spices Deliver Bold Flavors in Vegetarian Tostadas
Each component of these vegetarian tostadas is well seasoned with a smattering of southwest spices to ensure layers of flavor in every bite. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)
10/2/2023
Updated:
10/2/2023
0:00

Fall is squash season, so let these hardy vegetables be the star of the show. Squashes come in myriad varieties and can be generally divided between summer, fall, or winter varieties. Fall and winter squash have hard skins that give way to colorful vitamin- and antioxidant-rich flesh.

Depending on the type of squash, the skin may or may not need to be peeled. Kabocha (or Japanese) squash is one variety that can be eaten unpeeled. It has sweet orange flesh and a dark green, speckled, edible shell, which provides extra nutrients and a satisfying firmness that is ideal for these tostadas.

Kabocha squash has sweet orange flesh and a dark-green, speckled, edible shell, which provides extra nutrients and a satisfying firmness that is ideal for these tostadas. (JIANG HONGYAN/Shutterstock)
Kabocha squash has sweet orange flesh and a dark-green, speckled, edible shell, which provides extra nutrients and a satisfying firmness that is ideal for these tostadas. (JIANG HONGYAN/Shutterstock)

A tostada resembles a taco. The difference is that a tostada is prepared with a crispy corn tortilla, which serves as its base, instead of a soft corn or wheat tortilla. The tortilla can be either fried or oven-baked until crisp, which provides a nice textural contrast to a soft taco.

These vegetarian tostadas replace a traditional protein, such as fish or chicken, with kabocha squash and pile on the usual fixings, including smashed black beans, a bright slaw, and lime crema. Each component is well seasoned with a smattering of southwest spices to ensure layers of flavor in every bite. The components can be prepared in advance and the beans lightly reheated before assembling.

Each component of these vegetarian tostadas is well seasoned with a smattering of southwest spices to ensure layers of flavor in every bite. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)
Each component of these vegetarian tostadas is well seasoned with a smattering of southwest spices to ensure layers of flavor in every bite. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

Kabocha Squash Tostadas

Active time: 30 minutes Total time: 1 hour

Makes 4 to 6

For the Slaw
  • 1/2 small head red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Crema
  • 2/3 cup whole milk yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • Pinch of kosher salt
To Assemble
  • 4 to 6 corn tortillas
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
For the Squash
  • 1 kabocha squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the Beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 1 large jalapeño, seeded, finely diced, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
Combine the slaw ingredients in a bowl and stir to blend. Refrigerate until use, stirring occasionally.

Whisk the crema ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until use.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush the tortillas with oil and lightly sprinkle with salt. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in the oven until light golden and crisp, about 12 minutes, flipping once.

Prepare the squash: Halve the squash, cut off the stem, and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons.

Place the squash in a bowl with the oil and toss to coat. Add the spices and toss to coat. Spread the squash on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in the oven until charred and tender, about 25 minutes, flipping once.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the beans. Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

Add the beans and about 2/3 of the jalapeños, the lime juice, cumin and salt. Cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes, to meld the flavors. If the beans are too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons warm water to the pan. Slightly mash the beans with the back of a spoon. Stir in the cilantro and remove from the heat.

To assemble the tacos, spread a layer of beans on a tortilla. Top with a few kabocha wedges and some of the slaw. Drizzle with crema and garnish with additional cilantro and the remaining jalapeños.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat, and a dog. Balslev studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Copyright 2021 Lynda Balslev. Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication.