Calabacitas (Spicy Squash Casserole)

???????????????????????????????I make this every summer when squash and corn ripen. My sister Leanna grows beautiful squash in her sun soaked Southern California garden. We made calabacitas (call-ah-ba-SEE-tas) with it when she visited me.

I discovered the recipe in the children’s book Carlos and the Squash Plant / Carlos y la planta de calabaza by Jan Romero Stevens. It’s a tale of a boy who won’t wash his ears until a squash plant grows out of his ears. His mom serves him calabacitas when he finally washes the plant out.

I put my own touch on her recipe, by substituting olive oil for margarine, adding oregano, red bell pepper and tomato for color. Our friends Victor and Mary Lau Valle, who are master chefs,  brought us homegrown squash and oregano and taught me Victor’s mother’s version, using the Mexican cheeses asadero and cotija. (Victor and Mary are the authors of Recipe of Memory:Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine)

asadero cheeseAsadero is a Mexican mozzarella and melts wonderfully. Although it is a low-fat cheese, it has a wonderful buttery taste not usually associated with mozzarella. The cotija we used was a powdery cheese in a bag, (not the kind that comes in a brick.) It made a nice crunchy crust on the casserole when we broiled it.

???????????????????????????????Ingredients:

2 Anaheim peppers and 2 jalapeños (add more jalapeños for extra heat) You can substitute poblano chilies for the Anaheims for a smokier flavor

5 Tb olive oil

1 onion, diced

sea salt

About 1 tsp ea dried or 2 tsp fresh oregano

5 small to medium summer squash  (I used sunburst and zucchini)1 red bell pepper, diced

2 cobs corn. Cut the cobs in 2 crosswise to get a flat surface, then strip the corn from the cob. I sauté the uncooked corn. Sometimes I  use cooked corn and skip the sauté step.

3/4 cup of chicken broth. I use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup You can make this vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth.

3 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 1/2 cups asadero cheese, chopped. If you can’t find asadero, substitute Monterey Jack.

1/2 cup powdered cotija cheese

Place chilies directly on a gas flame until they char, then turn until all sides char. If you don’t have a gas stove, use the barbecue. And if you don’t have a barbecue, then char them on a heavy comal or frying pan placed over a burner on high. Place charred chilies in a small pot and cover until they are cool enough to handle. ???????????????????????????????The chilies will sweat and the skin will soften.

While chilies are sweating, chop the vegetables and place them in a cake pan by groups. Start off with the onion, then chop the other veggies while the onion cooks.

DSC02848Cut the squash at different angles so they’re chunky.

I use a wok to cook this in, but you can use a large heavy frying pan as well.

Sauté onions in 1 Tb olive oil over low heat until translucent, about 10 minutes.  Set aside in a large bowl.

Raise the heat and add 2 Tb olive oil to the pan. Add squash with oregano and a pinch of salt. Saute squash until it is beginning to brown on all sides. Add to the onions in the bowl.

???????????????????????????????Saute red bell pepper and corn in another Tb of oil until they begin to char. Then add to the other veggies in the bowl.

cooking tomatoesSaute the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt in another Tb of olive oil. Be sure to spread the tomatoes out so that they can caramelize. Add 1 tsp more fresh oregano, and cook tomatoes over medium heat until they are mostly dry, Caramelizing the tomatoes concentrates their flavor- they are so delicious!

???????????????????????????????While tomatoes are cooking, take out the chilies from the pot. Remove the stem and slice them open lengthwise. Scrape the charred parts from the skin, then scrape the seeds and soft parts from the inside. Julienne the chilies into thin strips.

Add the the chilies and the vegetables from the bowl to the tomatoes.

Pour in chicken broth and heat until boiling, stirring vegetables together.

Stir in 1 cup of the asadero or Jack cheese. Spray a flat casserole or 11′ x 8″ cake pan with non-stick spray, and pour the vegetables into it.

Sprinkle the rest of the asadero cheese on top of the calabacitas. Then sprinkle with cotija powdered cheese.

Move a rack to the upper third of the oven and turn on the broiler.

baked calabacitasPlace under the broiler for 3 -5 minutes, until the cheese turns a golden brown.

???????????????????????????????Delicious served with corn tortillas to soak up the cheesy sauce. You can mix it in with Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

Got leftovers? Add them to chilaquilas

Watermelon Avocado Salad – ensalada de sandia y aguacate

avo watermelon salad ingredients
This refreshing salad is a perfect match for spicy dishes. I was inspired by Mexican street vendors who sell watermelon and corn topped with salt, lime juice and chili powder.

Serves 4

2 cups cubed seedless watermelon

1 large firm but ripe avocado, cubed

¼ cup cilantro leaves.

½ cob boiled or roasted corn kernels

Dressing:

juice of 1 lime

sprinkle of cayenne or hot chipotle chili powder

¼ tsp salt to taste.

Combine watermelon, corn and cilantro. Gently stir in avocado. Squeeze lime over salad, sprinkle cayenne or chipotle powder and salt, mix well. Serve immediately.

 

Fish Tacos without grease – Tacos de Pescado sin grasa

???????????????????????????????I first tasted Baja-style fish tacos in a fast food place by the beach in Los Angeles. I thought they were the most wonderful thing! But I needed to find a less greasy alternative.

I make a lighter version (361.5 calories for 2 tacos) of those fried fish tacos, using Barbecued Salmon or Poached Salmon. Substitute lime for lemon in the recipe.

Or try my spicy pan-fried rock cod or salmon with Tajín (chili powder with lime and salt) in the recipe below.

Salmon is rich in omega-3, the healthy fat.

I add lots of fresh vegetables and heat the tortillas on a comal until stiff enough to hold a taco shape. Top with lime juice, salsa and avocado chunks or  Sonia’s guacamole.

Pan Fried Fish Tacos Serves 3 hungry people

Crunchy yet still not as greasy as deep-fried fish tacos, I made these with dry masa harina (corn flour) that I used for making tamales. It’s not as coarse as cornmeal, but not as fine as tortilla masa. If you don’t have masa, substitute 1/2 all-purpose flour and 1/2 cornmeal.

2 large fillets (1  1/2 pounds) of rock cod (red snapper) or salmon. Tail pieces of fish are best as they contain few if any bones

2 Tb canola oil

1/2 cup masa para tamales (or 1/4 cup each flour and corn meal)

1  tsp salt

several grinds black pepper

1 tsp Tajín (tah -Heen) (chili powder with lime and salt)

1/2 cup milk (I use 1% fat)

juice of one lime

Wash fillets well and dip in milk.

Combine masa, Tajín, salt and pepper on a plate.

Shake excess milk off fish and roll it in the masa.

Heat oil until hot. Place fish in oil and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, until it browns. Turn over and cook until golden brown on the other side.

Sprinkle with lime juice. Serve with vegetable slaw as below.

Taco Ingredients: Makes 6 tacos

6 corn tortillas

½ lb cooked salmon fillet, skin removed.

Veggies:

1 cup finely chopped or shredded cabbage

1 red bell pepper, diced

¼ cup cilantro leaves

1 large radish, sliced or chopped

½  cob of cooked corn (boiled or roasted), stripped (You can substitute defrosted frozen corn)

juice of 1 lime, plus another lime to squeeze on tacos

salsa to taste

salt to taste

avocado chunks or Sonia’s guacamole to taste

Mix chopped vegetables together, adding a bit of salt and lime juice.

Flake the salmon and squeeze lime juice on it.

Heat tortillas on comal or heavy frying pan until pliable, then fold in half. Heat until they hold their shape but are not so crispy as to break when you open them.

Fill with salmon and cabbage slaw. Top with guacamole, lime juice and salsa.

This recipe can also be viewed at

http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/cookbooks.asp?cookbook=288991

Nutrition Facts
3 Servings 
Amount Per Serving
Calories 361.5
Total Fat 17.6 g
Saturated Fat 2.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat 9.0 g
Cholesterol 36.4 mg
Sodium 185.1 mg
Potassium 1,069.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 40.2 g
Dietary Fiber 11.4 g
Sugars 3.5 g
Protein 18.8 g
Vitamin A 18.0 %
Vitamin B-12 26.1 %
Vitamin B-6 49.1 %
Vitamin C 162.0 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 11.7 %
Calcium 8.5 %
Copper 24.0 %
Folate 31.0 %
Iron 14.6 %
Magnesium 16.4 %
Manganese 15.0 %
Niacin 39.9 %
Pantothenic Acid 27.3 %
Phosphorus 23.2 %
Riboflavin 27.1 %
Selenium 35.9 %
Thiamin 22.7 %
Zinc 9.4 %
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

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Squash blossom and fresh corn chilaquilas

Summer squash or zucchini are easy summertime vegetable to grow. Just give them plenty of room as they will spread out rapidly! Soon your plants will be bright with yellow squash blossoms. Pick ones that have started to fold up, even ones that have little mini squash on them, and combine with fresh corn for this summer scramble.

Chives and cilantro are easy to grow in pots, and along with fresh corn and salsa, brighten the flavor of the eggs. I boil an extra cob of corn when I make dinner and save it for this breakfast.

Chilaquilas are a traditional way to use stale tortillas. My late brother-in-law, Larry Luna, taught me to substitute tortilla chips for a nice crunch. I made the chilaquilas in these photos with blue corn tortilla chips, but any kind will do.

Serves two people.

1 tea. butter

½  cup (1 cob) cooked corn.

1 tea chopped fresh chives (two sprouts)

4 eggs

1/4 cup salsa, such as salsa casera

¼  tea salt

2 squash blossoms

6 tortilla chips, broken into pieces.

2 tsp. cheese such as cheddar or Colby jack, grated.

2 tsp cilantro, diced

Melt. butter in nonstick frying pan.

Use a knife to strip kernels off corn. Add to butter and sauté for 3 minutes on medium flame.

Add chopped fresh chives for the last minute.

Whip eggs in a bowl with salsa and salt.

Remove the stems and spiky part connecting it to the squash blossoms. Dice blossoms and whisk into the eggs.

Pour egg mixture over the corn. Using a spatula, stir the eggs.

Add tortilla chips and grated cheese.

Cook until desired consistency, then add cilantro.

Serve with more salsa on top, if desired, and warm corn tortillas on the side.