September and October are peak harvest season for squash, corn, and tangy chiles—the hallmark of Southwestern cuisine. As love for the piquant flavors of poblano, serrano, and jalapeño has spread, chiles themselves have migrated so they’re now available in farmer’s markets across the country. This end-of-summer harvest dinner celebrates Southwestern and other fall flavors—you decide whether you want hot or mild.
A medley of fall flavors unites in this versatile Southwestern favorite, named after the Spanish word for gourd: calabazaim. Although corn and squash are the recipe’s staples, I love the color and taste that bell peppers, jalapeños, and tomatoes add. If you don’t care for cilantro, use the same amount of fresh basil or about 3 tablespoons of fresh oregano. Calabacitas may be served as a side vegetable with rice and beans, or it can be paired with chile con queso and eaten with tortillas.
From humble peasant origins, this spicy roasted chile and onion sauté is a far cry from the processed cheese dips served in most restaurants—more chile and less queso. Poblano chiles are traditional, but try Anaheims, Hungarians (also called sweet banana peppers), or whatever is fresh from your garden or market.
This lovely, refreshing salad plays well with the spiciness of chile con queso and calabacitas. Spinach and sweet butter and leaf lettuces go especially well with the peaches, but a few handfuls of pungent or bitter greens such as arugula, watercress, radicchio, frisee, mizuna, tatsoi, or any of the chicories are good additions. The peach vinegar is easy to prepare and great to have on hand for all kinds of salads.
Although you can bake this cake in a conventional cake pan, using an iron skillet gives it a golden-brown, succulent crust. The tang of the buttermilk offers a nice counterpoint to the sweet, juicy fruit. End-of-the-season peaches, nectarines, apricots or fresh figs are delicious in this recipe.