If you’ve never made Calabacitas, you’re missing out. Really, truly, missing out on one sensational taste combination. If you want to know more about the dish, click on the link in the first sentence.
Really, this post is not about the calabacitas, although I’ve included the recipe below (again) and the pdf. If you’re inclined, just go to the original recipe – it’s a real winner and one I return to over and over.
Talk about favorites! This was my dinner. Just a bowl of calabacitas. Nothing more, nothing less. I tasted this at a restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2007, and immediately came home wanting to know more about it. I think it’s the poblano chiles that MAKE it – those chiles have a very unique flavor, and this time I cut a corner and didn’t char the chile before using it – I just chopped it up and added it in. I was too lazy.
These days, since I’m cooking for one person – just me – I don’t go to the trouble to fix a complete meal all the time. My DH was always wanting a complete meal – meat, veggies, salad, an occasional carb. Sometimes I made a meat and 2 veggies. And I’ve found since I’m a widow, that making a green salad is more trouble than it’s worth. So I buy ready-made salads at Trader Joe’s. Sometimes I’ll use my own salad dressing, but more and more I’m lazy and use the tasty Trader Joe’s dressings they include. They’re all different. More often than not, I’ll have a TJ’s salad for lunch and then I’ll cook a dinner. Or, if I’ve been out and had lunch with a friend, I’ll have a TJ’s salad for dinner. That way I still get plenty of greens and some veggies they include. I have a couple of them that are favorites. I have some kind of Mexican chicken salad from there in my frig. Maybe lunch today.
We have a farmstand nearby and one of their first crops is usually sweet corn. I drive by it nearly every day. And this year they left the land around this farmstand fallow with nothing growing on the 10 or so acres there. The family who run this farmstand lease the farmstand space and they grow crops at other places in the county. BUT, at this time of year they have a big honkin’ sign they lean against the side of the small stand that says “SWEET CORN.” That means their farms are now harvesting the lovely sweet, white corn that’s always the first crop of every summer season. And when I saw the sign my mind just whooshed immediately to calabacitas. That was my CRAVING. I didn’t stop at the farmstand. I was in the wrong lane to get there, so since I was going to my local grocery store anyway, I decided to buy the corn there.
Surely, I’m a real snob when it comes to food. I admit it. I am. I like good food. I’m willing to pay for good food. I’m willing (usually) to go out of my way to find and eat good food.
And I learned a huge lesson making this dish, this time.
IF YOU WANT A QUALITY PLATE OF FOOD, USE QUALITY INGREDIENTS.
I purchased zucchini, corn and poblano chiles at the grocery store. Mistake. The zucchini was fine, and so was the poblano. But the corn? Oh my goodness, it was tasteless. Absolutely without taste at all. I should have stopped cooking – this was when I had used my wonderful handy-dandy corn tool to shave off the kernels and one errant one flew across the island. I retrieved it and into my mouth it went. Hmmm. Not much taste, I thought. I should have stopped then and there and made a trip to the farmstand or to the other local, independent market that usually has good corn. But I didn’t. I was lazy and said, well, maybe the other ear will be fine. No, it wasn’t. The corn cost me a dollar for 2 ears. At the farmstand they’re usually about $1.50 apiece; never again will I quibble about the price. I have 2 more ears in the frig. I should throw them out as I doubt I’ll eat the corn from them. I don’t know if they’re GMO corn. Probably. Albertson’s must have gotten a deal on the corn – cheap corn = cheap on flavor. Maybe most people wouldn’t care. Their loss, and certainly mine. The good zucchini carried the flavor along with the poblano chile, but the usual sweetness from the corn was missing.
So, if you make this, seek out good corn – taste it first. I don’t know exactly how you do that – grocery stores wouldn’t be very happy to see you flipping off the husks and silk to pull off a kernel. Well anyway, go to a source you know and trust and the corn will probably be good. Maybe it has to do with our drought? That’s a possibility, but our farmers are allowed to use the water they need (I think). It’s us residential consumers who are required to use 25-33% less water than we used to.
What’s GOOD: this calabacitas dish is sensational. I’ve been making it year after year after year, and until this time, when I used a poor quality corn, it’s always met my expectations. Just find good corn!
What’s NOT: nary a thing, except the finding of good tasting corn. Do seek it out.
Calabacitas con Crema
Source: Rick Bayless, restaurateur, from his book Authentic Mexican
1 lb zucchini — (about four small)
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh if possible
1/2 whole onion — thinly sliced
2/3 cup heavy cream (or use fat-free half and half) – optional
1 whole poblano pepper — roasted, seeded, peeled and cut in thin strips
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1. Chop the zucchini in large chunks (about 3/4 inch to 1 inch) and set aside. Prepare onions ahead and set aside. Grill the poblano chile directly on a gas flame, cool, remove skin, then cut into small strips.
2. Using a very large skillet, heat butter and oil until very hot. Add zucchini and toss until tender. Remove the zucchini from the pan with a slotted spoon, allowing it to drain well. In the remaining oil and butter, fry the onion slices until soft and sweet, then add the corn and pepper slices. Add the zucchini and cream and cook until nice and hot. Taste for salt and pepper and serve.
Per Serving: 134 Calories; 11g Fat (67.6% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 31mg Cholesterol; 292mg Sodium.