I'm big on tacos. I mean, pretty much I haven't met a taco I haven't liked. But I also know that a few things — tasty toppings, quality tortillas, really amazing salsas — can make a taco stellar. On a taco-eating trip to Baja California, I became completely obsesed with the tostadas at La Guerrerense (especially the octupus ones). And every tostada was even better when topped with their salsa; it's a toasted garlic and peanut salsa that was spicy, smoky, crunchy — pretty much it was instant love. Since then, I reverse engineered that salsa and put it on everything from grilled chicken to seafood and, most recently, these squash tacos.
stemmed (seeds removed if you want it less spicy)
peeled and small dice
plus more for coating the squash
Pour boiling water over the chipotle chiles to cover then set aside to hydrate, at least 5 minutes. Heat oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Combine squash, onion, 2 garlic cloves, a drizze of olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and toss to combine. Roast, turning occasionally, until squash is knife tender, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the salsa. Heat the 3/4 cup of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. When it shimmers add the remaining 4 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup of the peanuts, and sesame seeds and cook until toasted and light golden brown. Drain the water off the chipotle chiles and carefully add to the oil (it may spatter). Add the salt, turn to coat, and turn off the heat. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. Place everything in a blender with the sugar and vinegar and 1/4 cup of water and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired and stir in remaining 1 cup of peanuts, adding more water to make a loose salsa.
FYI this salsa is a medium-hot heat! It can me made up to 4 days ahead of time; store refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use - you'll need to stir it before using to mix in the olive oil. Oh, and this salsa is really good with chicken and seafood too.
When the squash is done remove it from the oven. Scatter cheese across the tortillas and place in the oven to melt the cheese, at least 5 minutes. Fill each tortilla with a few spoonfuls of squash, a drizzle of the salsa, and topping with some cilantro and serve with lime wedges.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp