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Recipe: Calabacitas, or Summer Squash, with Sweet Corn and Roasted Green Chiles

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In Mexico—and New Mexico—summer squash are known as calabacitas. Small, tender calabacitas may be elongated like baby zucchini, or plump and rounded like little pears. But however they’re shaped, they have a sweet, delicate flavor that trumps the pallid taste of the big overgrown doorstoppers.

Saturday at the Carrboro farmers market, I found an abundance of young summer squash–some dark green, some golden, and my favorite, one with a lime green neck and a pale—yellow belly. And although it hasn’t been a great year for corn—the drought took care of that—I ran across one farmer with a truckload of Silver Queen ears picked earlier that morning. The shucks were still dewy, and the kernels, the color of moonlight, unbelievably sweet and tender.

Ever since I got back from Santa Fe, I’ve been obsessed with roasting green chiles. It’s too early for New Mexico’s famous Hatch chiles—they’ll start to arrive here on the East Coast around the end of the month—but in the meantime poblanos roasted over flaming coals outside, or on my new stovetop grill inside, are divine. Poblanos are fruity-tasting peppers with just a touch of fire—they’re down near the bottom of the Scoville scale at 1,000 –1,500 units– and when they are roasted, they become deliciously smoky. (Dried poblanos become ancho chiles, one of the mainstays of Mexican cooking.)

You can probably see where I’m going: This recipe combines minimally cooked “calabacitas” and sweet corn—a classic summer pairing—with roasted green poblanos—not so classic. Eat it the very instant it comes off the stove.

The raw ingredients for this dish include dark green poblano chiles, tender summer squash and fresh sweet corn.

The raw ingredients for this dish include dark green poblano chiles, tender
summer squash and fresh sweet corn.

Calabacitas or Summer Squash with Sweet Corn and Roasted Green Chiles

To serve 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1-1/2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1-1/2 cups onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
1-1/2 pounds very fresh, small summer squash, diced
2 ears fresh, sweet corn, shucked
1/4 to 1/2 cup roasted poblano chiles, diced
Salt to taste

Method:

1. Make the cilantro butter: Combine the softened butter, chopped cilantro and lime juice in a small bowl. Blend with a fork and set aside.
2. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Reduce the heat to medium low and sauté the onion for 3 to 4 minutes, until it is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, for 1 minute more. Do not let the garlic burn.
3. Stir the diced squash into the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 8 minutes, or until the squash is just tender. Check the pan every few minutes—if the squash seems to be sticking, add a tablespoon of water.
4. While the squash is cooking, cut the corn kernels off the cob using a sharp knife. When the squash is tender, add the corn and the roasted poblanos to the pan. Cover and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the corn is just cooked through.
5. Stir in the cilantro butter, add salt to taste, and serve immediately.

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