I remember moving to Chicago at the end of college, facing the terrifying reality of adult life outside school for the first time. I didn’t have a lot of friends, especially after a rough breakup, and I underwent foot surgery that left me hobbling along the uneven ice of February sidewalks on crutches. It was a pretty awful winter. I credit my survival to extensive How I Met Your Mother watching and friends kind enough to do my grocery shopping.
I’ve thought a lot about that time since moving to Boston, as I adjust to another new city and another breakup. When I get lost here in this crazy city with no right angles and no street signs, I miss Chicago and the friends who transformed it for me. The place that seemed so desolate during that horrible winter really became home. I’m still suspending judgment on Boston, both because it hardly seems fair to form an opinion in the middle of this winter to end all winters and because I feel like I should be able to navigate more than a single square mile before calling someplace home. But when it gets hard, as moving always does, it’s nice to have a bit of a roadmap from my time in Chicago that promises a light at the end of the tunnel.
And if that doesn’t work, well, fly back for the weekend.
I took my own advice a few weeks ago and spent a glorious couple of days hanging out with people I’ve known for longer than five minutes. In our wanderings between pop-up craft fairs and antique shops, my friend Rose and I stopped for dinner at a taco place near my old neighborhood and found this squash and bean creation that blew our minds. Friends are great and all, but let’s be honest: it’s mostly about the food.
It took a couple of tries to recreate it, but I am so happy with this final version. There are spicy beans and sweet roasted squash and plenty of chipotles in adobo, but the toppings definitely steal the show. Lots of cilantro, crumbled cotija cheese, crunchy pepitas, and a good squeeze of lime take this simple dish over the top. Now please excuse me while I go get seconds and revel in my little piece of Chicago here in Boston.
- 1 acorn squash
- 1 T. plus 1 t. vegetable oil
- 2 t. cumin, divided
- 1½ t. salt, divided
- 1 t. smoked paprika, divided
- ¼ t. pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 T. adobo sauce
- 2 cans black beans (about 3 cups cooked)
- ½ c. cotija cheese, crumbled
- ½ c. cilantro, chopped
- ¼ c. pepitas
- 1 lime, cut into quarters
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut the squash: cut it in half the long way and scrape out the seeds and pulp. Cut each half into ½-inch thick slices. Use a small, sharp knife or a vegetable peeler to remove the peel. Toss the squash slices in a bowl with 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon paprika, and pepper. Roast until well-browned on the bottom and soft through, about 30 minutes.
- Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a large pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the chipotle pepper and cook for another minute, then add the adobo sauce, black beans, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon paprika. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then turn down to medium-low and let cook, stirring occasionally, while the squash roasts.
- Serve the beans and squash and top liberally with cheese, cilantro, pepitas, and lime juice.