Southwestern-Style Recipes: Calabacitas Summer Squash and Corn Stew

A medley of fall flavors unites in this versatile Southwestern favorite, named after the Spanish word for gourd.


| September/October 2003


Calabacitas (Summer Squash and Corn Stew)
Serves 6 

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.

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.







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