I must have been inspired by the perfect-beyond-description, quintessentially Autumn in New England day today. I'm talking the bluest sky and the brightest leaves you can imagine. Like, it might not have been real. So I went for the staples: apples and butternut squash. I suppose I was partially inspired by a favorite from an old haunt of mine, The Other Side. I haven't been there since they started requiring a nylon messenger hat for entry, but I used to love that apple and brie sammich of theirs. But, I can say with absolutely no bias: this is better. I can say that because it won the approval of Executive Chef Kevin Olmstead of Pittsburgh's freshest, illest spot – J'eet Cafe (plug plug plug)! Like any good chef, he knows how to steal a good idea when he sees one, so watch for something a lot like it on him menu before long... Of course, we've been friends for years and he's been my biggest fan since post the first. So Kev, it's all yours. Consider it my housewarming gift. I'm so proud of you!
Apple and Butternut Squash Quesadillas with Brie and Caramelized Onions
6 oz brie, cut into thin slices
1 medium apple (I used Cortland), sliced
1 medium onion, sliced into crescents
1 small (under 2 lbs) butternut squash, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out
2 tbs butter
olive oil for saute
salt and pepper
minced cilantro, parsley, chives, or toasted walnuts for garnish
Preheat oven to 375F. In a shallow baking pan, place the squash halves face up and add the butter to the hollows where the seeds were. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the squash is mushy. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh and set aside in a bowl. Stir in a little salt and pepper. Spread the squash over the tortillas.
Heat the oil over medium-low heat, add the onions. Cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are nicely browned and limp. Set aside.
In the same pan, place a tortilla with the squash, then add three or four slices of brie, the apple, and a spoonful of the onions. Allow to cook open-faced until the brie starts to melt, about three minutes. Fold the tortilla in half, press with a spatula, flip and press again, and transfer to a plate. Allow the quesadilla to sit for a minute, then cut into wedges and add your garnish. Serves 3-4.