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Kabocha Squash Quesadillas with Nogada Sauce

Kabocha Squash Quesadillas (makes 8 small quesadillas - 4 servings)

- 1 kabocha squash
- 1/2 of a medium onion, chopped finely
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
- Oil for cooking
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 5-inch corn tortillas
- 1/2 cup grated pepper jack (or other mild cheese)
- Nogada sauce (see below)
- 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro

First, peel, seed, and chop the squash (actually our online sources told us that the skin is quite soft and edible, but we took it off - so it's up to you). We found that the best way to get into squash is to cut it in quarters, then scrape out the seeds and guts with either a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler. Cut the squash into approximately 1/2 inch cubes.

Heat some cooking oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onions and garlic. Let them cook for a couple of minutes until they're soft, then add the squash (choose a skillet big enough that all the pieces of squash fit comfortably). Stir in the chili powder, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, pepper, and onion powder, and cook the squash until the pieces are tender (but not mushy) - 15 - 20 minutes. If the squash starts to look dry, add a splash of stock (or water, or wine) to the pan.

Make the nogada sauce (you can do this ahead of time or, if you have two people cooking, at the same time - see recipe below).

Remove the squash from the skillet and heat some more oil over medium heat in another skillet (or the same one - just use a paper towel to wipe it out a little bit. We've found that we can make the best quesadillas in our stainless steel skillet). If you're making all eight quesadillas, you will probably have to make them in two batches (you can keep the others warm in the oven). Place the tortillas in the skillet and sprinkle the cheese onto them. When the cheese has begun to melt, distribute the squash and fold the tortillas over the squash. Let the quesadillas cook until the bottom turns golden brown, then flip them over to brown the other side (about 3 minutes per side).

Serve the quesadillas topped with nogada sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate and cilantro.

Nogada Sauce (makes about 1/2 cup, enough for 8 quesadillas)

- 2 tbsp chopped walnuts
- 3 tbsp goat cheese (we used chèvre; you could substitute another soft, fresh cheese)
- 3 tbsp sour cream
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- Pinch of salt

Roast the walnuts by putting them in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes. Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. We didn't want to serve a cold sauce on our hot quesadillas, so we warmed it up in a saucepan before serving.
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