Corn is ripe, and most gardens have more summer squash than one family could use. It’s time to make calabacitas, a Southwestern dish that makes delicious use of late summer bounty. “I love the color and taste that bell peppers, jalapeños, and tomatoes add,” says Susan Belsinger, who concocted this recipe for Natural Home & Garden. If you don’t care for cilantro, use the same amount of fresh basil or about 3 tablespoons of fresh oregano, Susan advises. 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.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (corn or olive)
1 cup coarsely chopped red onion
2 small zucchini, patty pan, or chayote squash (6 to 8 ounces)
1 cup chopped red or green bell pepper (optional)
2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, halved, seeded, and sliced (optional)
5 to 6 ears fresh corn, about 3 cups kernels
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large ripe tomato, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
1/3 cup packed cilantro (coriander) leaves, chopped Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Heat oil in a heavy-bottom sauté pan. Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes. If you’re using zucchini, halve lengthwise and slice in 1/4-inch slices; if using patty pan or chayote, quarter and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Add squash, bell pepper, and jalapeño and sauté for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. If using fresh corn, cut kernels from the cobs. If you like, slice one or two ears into 1/4-inch rounds. Add the corn, garlic, tomato, and cumin into the sauté pan; stir well, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes. If the pan is dry, add a splash of water, vegetable stock, or white wine. If you don’t use the tomato, you may need to add up to 1/2 cup of liquid.
3. Add cilantro, salt, and pepper. Stir well and cook, covered, for another 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste. Serve with warm tortillas.
Take advantage of summer-ripe corn and squash to make this delicious vegetarian stew.
Photo by Joe Coca