second cousins

August 27th, 2013

Everyone is familiar with the famous dish from Provence known as Ratatouille, perhaps in thanks to the animated film, more hopefully because they’ve experienced this indigenous combination of tomato, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, onion and peppers, perfumed with Herbes de Provence.

Ratatouilles are like snowflakes – there are no two alike.

Its American second cousin, to my mind, has to be the equally indigenous and perhaps more ingenious dish of the Pueblo known as Calabacitas, generously demonstrated to conquering Spaniards long ago.  It features a variety of summer squash, onion, garlic, black beans, fresh corn and tomato.  The ingredient that throws Calabacitas over the top is the New Mexico chile, from Hatch Valley, which just came into season!

Preparing the dish is a multi-staged event, just like its French second cousin.  First, the chiles need to be dry roasted and peeled and then the corn on the cob is charred in a skillet until the natural sugars start to caramelize.  Other ingredients follow, with individual exactness, and then the whole lot is gently warmed in a skillet.

In keeping with the region, leftover Calabacitas contribute to superb versions of quesadillas, tostadas and Huevos Ranchero.

Just another snowflake…

Calabacitas with Fresh Hatch Chilis



Related Recipes

Calabacitas with Fresh Hatch Chiles

This is not your usual recipe for Calabacitas!  Although it takes a bit more time and a few more bowls and plates, I like to cook or roast each ingredient separately and then gently warm all of the components when it’s time to serve.

Leftovers, if you’re lucky enough to have them, contribute to superb quesadillas, tostadas and Huevos Ranchero!

For 6 servings:

½ red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 summer squash (7 inches), half-inch inch dice
2 zucchini (7 inches), sliced
2 cobs of corn
2 scallions, sliced
3 Hatch chiles, hot or medium
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 cup black or red beans, drained and rinsed
½ teaspoon cumin seed

Peanut oil, as needed

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Roast the chiles: Place chiles in a cast iron or other heavy skillet in one layer.  Roast under the broiler until charred on all sides.  Remove chiles to a bowl and cover with a plate to steam and loosen the skins.  When cool enough to handle remove skins and seeds and chop in a medium dice.  Set aside.

Roast the corn: Heat (the same) skillet on the stove top until very hot. Shuck the corn and brush lightly with peanut oil.  Roast ears in the skillet, rotating periodically, until half of the kernels are browned.  When cool enough to handle, slice kernels from cobs and set aside.

Heat two tablespoons of peanut oil in (the same) skillet and sauté the onion and garlic until softened.  Remove contents to a bowl and set aside.

Add a thin film of peanut oil to the skillet and sear the zucchini, in a single layer, until golden brown.  Season lightly with sea salt and pepper.  This may take several batches, subject to the size of your skillet.  Remove zucchini to a plate.

Add a thin film of peanut oil to the skillet and sear the yellow squash until golden brown.  Season lightly with sea salt and pepper.  Remove yellow squash to a plate.

When ready to serve, warm the skillet and add all the ingredients.  Toss gently until heated through and serve immediately with chopped fresh cilantro.

Copyright © Katherine Stetson, all rights reserved.