Calabacitas: one of the recipes I’ve been longing and dreading to post. The squash and corn mixture is one of my favorite meals, but it’s also simple to cook and each region and every family has their own way of cooking it. I have aimed to create a healthier version of the classic (and muy pocho) way I remember making it as a kid in Phoenix. I’m cooking it the same way I always did with the exception of the corn. Due to the GMO corn factor, I went to Whole Foods and purchased frozen Non-GMO Project Certified corn. I know that cutting the kernels off of a fresh ear looks more attractive, and opening a can of creamed corn tastes sinfully good, but c’mon. If wild animals won’t touch the GMO corn in the fields, why should we put it on our platos?
Calabacita is the Spanish word for squash, but in this case, it is a name commonly used to refer to a very popular dish that consists of zucchini and corn. If you search the internet for the recipe, you will see many photographs of the dish that look almost raw, and that, of course, is an option if you like to eat vegetables less cooked. For me, however, the taste improves dramatically by caramelizing the vegetables. I let the corn roast in the skillet, then add the onions and zucchini and let them turn golden, being careful not to overcook and let mushiness set in.
Now, you will notice that I put a tomato in the calabacitas. Never before have I done that. It seemed completely unnecessary to me. The only reason I relented and added chunks of one juicy Roma was because so many people do add tomato. I found the addition neither brilliant or offensive. In fact, I hardly noticed it was there, although it did add a pleasant burst of color. So, if you are a tomato lover, throw them in. If not, I’d never miss them.
The trick to making calabacitas is achieving a balance of flavors. The vegetables must be caramelized but retain some crispness. There must be a touch of sweetness and a nip of picante that is achieved by finely dicing a jalapeño. The consistency should be creamy, but not runny, with a hint of cheesiness. If you can hit all of those notes squarely, you will experience the magic of this seemingly simple favorite.
1 package frozen non-GMO certified corn
4 zucchinis, washed and sliced into thin rounds
1/2 sweet onion, sliced thin
1 jalapeño, finely diced
1 tbsp. organic butter (optional, to create the creamy consistency)
3 tbsp. almond milk (optional, to create the creamy consistency)
3 tbsp. organic non-GMO corn meal or masa harina
1/4 cup cheese of your choice (queso fresco, Mexican 4 cheese blend)
Himalayan salt to taste
black pepper to taste (optional)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil or ghee for preparing the skillet
1. Let the frozen corn defrost for about 10-15 minutes.
2. Place the olive oil, coconut oil or ghee in the skillet over medium heat and let warm. Add the corn and stir occasionally, letting it brown slightly.
3. Add the sliced zucchini, jalapeño and onions to the skillet. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize.
4. Once the zucchini and onions are turning slightly golden, add the almond milk and butter if desired. Reduce the heat to medium low, and let simmer for approximately 5 minutes.
5. Turn off the flame and remove the skillet from the heat source. Stir in the corn meal (or masa harina) and cheese.
6. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
7. Serve while still warm as a side dish. Enjoy this sweet but spicy creamy vegetable delight!
Note: Calabacitas can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, and warmed again when desired.