Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Lesson in Versatility: Calabacitas

One of my most vivid summer memories from childhood is the view from the back stoop of our house, looking out at the lush greenery of my father's small but overgrown garden. There were always too many tomato plants, too many kohlrabis, too many of everything ... especially zucchinis. My father took great pride in his "bastóns," though, growing them as large as baseball bats, just because he could.  My mother would curse them under her breath as they lined the counters; she didn't have much counter space to begin with.  I would often be charged with the responsibility of bringing paper bags full of the vegetable to unsuspecting neighbors, who would always politely accept the "gift."  I also recall selling them from a small shaky plastic table on our street corner, which, in retrospect, must have seemed pretty weird to passersby, given that I grew up in the middle of suburbia, New Jersey.

Now, as an adult with a CSA membership, I have come to understand that it's better to be armed with an arsenal of summer squash recipes than to make innocent children responsible for your oversupply.  My mother's repertoire was somewhat limited to sauteeing in olive oil or grating into zucchini breads, but I've learned that they're a lot more versatile than that.  As I've worked our way through yet another week of the stuff, I'm reminded of that great quote from Forrest Gump: "You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it." Bubba nailed it: just substitute "zucchini" for "shrimp," add "cake" and "bread," and you're pretty well prepared for the onslaught.

This is a pretty, quick, simple Southwestern vegetarian dish that also takes advantage of the local corn that's also in abundance at farmers' markets at this time of year in my corner of the world.  It's good with tortillas for a light meal. 

Wouldn't it be nice if we were all as versatile and agreeable to all dinner companions as the humble summer squash?  Yes, yes, it would be.


3-4 T. olive oil, divided
1 c. finely chopped onion
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 1/2 c. diced summer squash
2 1/2 c. diced zucchini
2 c. corn kernels, fresh or frozen

6 scallions, chopped (3/4 cup)
1/2 c. chopped mild green chiles, roasted, with skin removed (or a small can of diced green chiles)
1 cup diced ripe Roma tomatoes
1/2 c. firmly packed coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves (I totally forgot this in mine, and it was OK)
1/2 c. cream or grated Jack cheese (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat 2 T. of the oil in a large skillet and saute the onion for about 4 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes longer.  Add the squash and zucchini and saute 5 minutes longer, until softened.

Add the remaining 1 to 2 T. of oil with the corn, scallions, and chiles and saute 3 minutes longer.  Stir in the tomatoes, cilantro, and cream (if desired) and heat through, about 5 minutes.

Season with salt. Serve hot or warm.
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  1. I am continually amazed that you find the time to cook such yummy looking meals with more than one child st home. I cooked dinner for the first time since our baby arrived last Sunday and forgot 2out of the 3 main ingredients. I was about to start cooking when I realized that one ingredient was lacking, so I ran to the store. Came back and started to cook only to realize that I didn't have any of the third main ingrerdient either. I was sweating due to stress t this point and just had to wing it. But I was flustered and bright red by the end of the meal. Not to mention that I woke the baby bc I was clanging dishes so loudly. I used to cook every night, so apparently adding a baby to the mix turns me into a moron.

  2. My husband and I are starting a much needed health kick, slowly dumping the meat and eagerly cooking delicious meals just like this one!

  3. Zuchini (which I can never, ever spell) is so yummy. I think it's my favourite veggie!

  4. Your blog makes me hungry. Diets are for suckers... mmmm zucchini muffins. Very sorry to read about your friend with heart failure. If there is anything I can do let me know... please!


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