Calabacitas- Southwestern succotash!

Calabacitas ingredients

Fresh from the garden…..

Calabacitas is New Mexico’s own special version of what, as a kid, I called succotash. Snapping fresh corn, just barely cooked, crunchy zucchini, tangy mild chilies, a bit of sweet shallots, and vine ripened tomatoes make this dish taste like a mouthful of summer’s sunshine.

Fresh veggie side dish

Garden’s Bounty

After partaking in a mildly spicey, traditional meal featuring this dish on a visit to New Mexico recently, I fell in love with the zing of Chili pepper.  When I returned home, I decided to make my own version of Calabacitas using my garden’s own bounty. To make it more authentic however, I knew I would need to power it up with a bit of New Mexico’s own Chili pepper powder. Luckily I had purchased some in Santa Fe at The Chili Shop, a treasure of Santa Fe for over 30 years. This cozy litte shop, just off the main plaza, is run by a warm and friendly bunch. You’ll find every variety of dried chilies and powders imaginable, as well as pottery, linens and specialty chocolates.

calabacitas bowl

I chose the mild Hanna Chili powder, as my hubby can be a little sensitive to too much spicey heat.  Therefore, I thought it best to ease into my use of chili spice until I became a bit more familiar with the subtle nuances of this essential New Mexico ingredient. I was right, this mild chili powder leant a velvety soft, smokey, but delicate, heat to the dish.  Of course, speaking to the nuances of New Mexico’s ‘chili pepper’ could take me on a whole new tangent, so I’ll try to stay on task for now.  Using all the fresh wonders of summer, we’ll start with this easy Calabacitas dish. Then I’ll take us from this side dish, to a frittata, to a soup, using nearly all the same ingredients.

Southwestern succotash

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Calabacitas- Southwestern succotash!

fire roasted chilies

For anyone growing summer squash in their garden, you’ll appreciate this simple recipe to use them up, as they are quite the producers, are they not ? I’ve seen a number of variations on ingredients for this dish, lending it a nice adaptability to your region’s fresh summer squash and herbs. I like to have everthing prepped first, so it all comes together quickly and nothing gets overcooked. You want this dish to taste bright and fresh, not soggy and mushy, so to be sure pay attention to the cooking of the ingredients in each step.

  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6

Ingredients

2 medium zucchini

2 medium yellow summer squash.

I medium sweet onion ( or a few shallots)

1 large Fresno mild green chili pepper, roasted and peeled

2 cloves garlic

3 Roma or other firm tomato, cherry tomatoes work great too

2 ears of fresh corn

3 Tbls fresh Cilantro ( or any fresh herb you like, mint, basil, thyme)

1 tsp very mild chili powder (optional)

Instructions

  • In a large saute pan, saute the onion on medium low heat until translucent and just beginning to brown a little.
  • Add garlic and saute another minute or two
  • Add squash, saute another few minutes (about 5) until it just begins to soften
  • Add chopped tomatoes, roasted chopped chilies and corn
  • Turn heat to medium low and continue to cook another 2 minutes or so
  • Toss in chopped cilantro and mild chili powder, or herb of your choice, and give it a gentle stir
  • Serve with additional fresh chopped cilantro and a little grating of Cojita Mexican dry cheese.

Notes

Next try the perfect brunch Frittata made with Calabacitas ingredients…..

Or try my Summer Squash Soup hot or cold using some of these same ingredients…..

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