When you ask people how they’ve been, you can receive a variety of responses. There’s the kind that doesn’t necessarily invite further conversation–“Good.” No further engagement. Not even a meek, disinterested, “How are you?” in return. That one is always a little off-putting for me, to be honest; since zero information was provided beyond a monosyllabic, relatively positive adjective, I often can’t formulate much more of a response beyond repeating the word that was offered. You have to give a little substance sometimes, or I am going to politely assume you don’t want to interact.
There are also the people who are SO GLAD you asked how they’ve been, because they ate a banana with breakfast and showered and-did you know their grandmother thinks such and such about so and so? WELL!-and you kind of wish you hadn’t started interacting, because it isn’t any interaction at all, because you are basically something either inanimate or mute and you couldn’t possibly communicate back (though admittedly, it’s in part because you wouldn’t be given the chance, anyway).
Then there are the people who give you a little milk. I’m going to try to be one of those today. Here’s how I envision our conversation:
You: How have you been?
Me: Pretty wonderful. Things are great, and I did something delicious recently.
And then I would tell you about these tacos. You would be warned that they are spicy, but it would be followed with the justification that really, the heat is just smoke and warmth that complements the sweetness of the smashed butternut squash, the starchiness of chipotle-scented black beans, the salty cool of feta, the sweet burst of pomegranate. I would tell you about how I made these with company, and how nice it was that I had help with the things that I don’t enjoy so much (like cutting up the squash and slicing the chipotles). And then I’d ask you how you’ve been, because I don’t understand why people have stopped returning that favor, and how we can so blatantly illustrate a lack of interest in the people around us, and how that interest seems to have invested itself in our own goings-on only.
And then I’d probably ask that we relocate to a place (read: my kitchen) where tacos exist and I’d make you a plate of these and I’d watch you a little too intently as you take your first bites before I couldn’t resist anymore and I’d delve into my own plate and it would be like a different kind of conversation in which we busy our mouths with one of my new favorite recipes and I’d become a little like that first person, whose only substantial communicative capabilities would include various expletives sandwiched between “so” and “good.” Maybe we all try on different personalities sometimes. Don’t let the potential deliciousness-induced social ineptitude prevent you from trying these.
..though if you don’t, I will totally take care of your share, anyway.
Chipotle Butternut Squash and Black Bean Tacos with Pomegranate Seeds and Feta
Chipotle Butternut Squash:
1/2 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
pinch of chili flakes
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp adobo sauce from one 15-oz can chipotles in adobo
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
1/4 cup red onion, diced
2-3 chipotles in adobo (as desired), sliced thinly
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly, plus more for serving
6-8 six-inch soft flour tortillas, warmed
adobo sauce from canned chipotles in adobo, for serving
pomegranate arils, for serving
feta cheese, for serving
scallions, for serving
Squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Distribute squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, cumin, cayenne, chili flakes, sea salt, and black pepper. Toss to coat. Bake for 25-30 minutes, redistributing a few times, until the squash is tenderly and slightly caramelized on the outside. Once fully cooked, transfer squash to a medium-sized bowl. Add adobo sauce and use a fork mash the squash.
Beans: In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, combine black beans, onion, chipotles, and scallions, stirring occasionally to combine, until the onion has softened and the mixture is warmed through.
Assembly: When serving, spoon about 2 tbsp of squash mixture in the middle of each warmed tortilla, spreading evenly in a line. Top with 2-3 tbsp of bean mixture. Sprinkle with feta cheese, pomegranate arils, and scallions. Serve.