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    The confident cook

    Serve roasted butternut and cheese quesadillas with pickled jalapeno salsa

    Roasted butternut quesadillas with pickled jalapeno salsa
    Sally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe
    Roasted butternut quesadillas with pickled jalapeno salsa

    Quesadillas, the Mexican version of grilled cheese sandwiches, have a lot to offer. Tortillas stand in for bread, and cheese possibilities include Monterey Jack, cheddar, gouda, or any other soft melting cheese. After that, the fun begins. Add leftover vegetables, chicken, steak, or pork, canned refried beans for more substance, or roast vegetables you have on hand. Squash and pumpkin have always been important in Mexican cooking, so it makes perfect sense to roast chunks of chile-spiced butternut and tuck them into tortillas.

    Tortillas right out of the package are undercooked and need to be heated and lightly browned in a hot, dry skillet to bring out their best flavor. Put one in the pan, add squash and cheese, then top with another tortilla to make a sandwich. For a sauce, stir your own better-than-store-bought salsa with nacho-style pickled jalapenos from a jar mixed with fire-roasted tomatoes. Add a fresh twist with lime juice, avocados, and cilantro. Your quick, easy, vegetarian supper will leave you satisfied.

    Roasted butternut quesadillas with pickled jalapeno salsa

    Serves 4

    SALSA

    1can (15 ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
    1ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into small cubes
    2tablespoons finely chopped onion
    2tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    2tablespoons chopped nacho-style pickled jalapenos in a jar, or to taste
    1tablespoon brine from the jar of pickled jalapenos, or more to taste
    2tablespoons lime juice
    Salt, to taste

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    1. In a bowl, stir together the tomatoes, avocado, onion, cilantro, jalapenos, jalapeno brine, and lime juice.

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    2. Add salt, taste for seasoning, and more jalapenos or brine, if you like.

    QUESADILLAS

    ½large (1½ pounds) peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
    2tablespoons olive oil
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    1teaspoon ancho chile powder
    8(8-inch) flour or corn tortillas
    cups (6 ounces) grated Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
    3scallions, chopped
    ½cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
    2tablespoons chopped nacho-style pickled jalapenos in a jar, or more to taste

    1. Set the oven at 450 degrees.

    2. On a rimmed baking sheet, mound the squash in the center. Sprinkle with oil, salt, pepper, and chile powder. Toss to coat the squash with the oil and spices. Spread on the baking sheet in one layer. Roast for 20 minutes, or until tender and golden.

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    3. Set a large dry, heavy skillet over medium heat and heat until hot. Place 1 tortilla in the skillet. Spread ¼ of the squash on top and sprinkle with ¼ of the Monterey Jack or cheddar. Top with scallions, cilantro, and jalapenos. Place a second tortilla on top.

    4. Heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cheese begins to melt, checking the bottom by lifting one edge the tortilla with a spatula to make sure it does not burn (adjust heat, if necessary). Press gently and flip the quesadilla over in the pan. Cook for 30 seconds more, or until the cheese melts. Transfer to a plate, cut into quarters, and serve with salsa.

    Sally Pasley Vargas can be reached at sally.p.vargas@gmail.com.