Summer Comfort

Dinner:  July 23, 2007

Yesterday was one of those dank, gloomy days, a rainy Monday which left me feeling particularly uninspired. Mike filled me in on his Greenmarket haul early in the day, and while I knew everything he had picked up would be beautiful, I just couldn’t decide what to do with it. Here I was with an abundance of fresh summer produce, and all I wanted was comfort food. I was stuck, and stayed that way for most of the day, but then I had a thought – a memory of a dish my Grandma used to make (and probably still does) which would give me the best of both worlds. It was a stew of sorts, tender pieces of chicken cooked with zucchini and corn and a light tomatoey broth that she called calabacita.


A quick search of the internets revealed that there are about as many variations of this dish as there are Mexican grandmas, so I felt okay about doing an adaptation of my own. Since we try to eat meatless dinners most Monday nights, I thought I’d omit the chicken and let the veggies play the starring role. I’d cook the vegetable mixture so that it would still be a little saucy but not too much so, and would spoon it into warmed tortillas with a bit of grated cheese and a topping of crema. It turned out to be an excellent use of our summer squashes, sweet corn and tomatoes, a light meal that brought out the best of these vegetables and also took me back to the warmth and comfort of my Grandma’s kitchen.

Calabacitas Tacos

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large beefsteak tomato, cored and chopped
2 medium summer squash, chopped
2 cups fresh corn kernels
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For serving:
12 warmed tortillas (corn or flour, though I think flour tortillas hold up better to juicy fillings like this)
Grated Mexican cheese (I used a mixture of mozzarella-like Oaxaca and salty aged Cotija)
Additional chopped fresh cilantro
Mexican crema, crème fraiche or thinned sour cream

Heat the oil in a shallow pan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until softened. Add the garlic and tomato, an additional pinch of salt and the oregano. Stir and cover, cooking until the tomato is very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and corn and another pinch of salt, stir well and cook for another 3-5 minutes, uncovered, until the squash is tender and most of the liquid has reduced. Off the heat, add lime juice and cilantro, and spoon the mixture into warmed tortillas, topping with grated cheese, crema and additional cilantro.

13 thoughts on “Summer Comfort

  1. You need to start taking it easy on the weekends like you plan! I’m guilty of the same thing though. There just isn’t enough time in the week. Delicious looking meal, yet again! When I first looked at this, it looked like ratatouille! I guess I just have ratatouille on the mind :)

  2. calabacita looks nice. It looks like Ratatouille, and looks more delicious. I like cilantro. I always use the root of cilantro to cook south Indian curry.

  3. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hillary – believe me, I know! We have high hopes for a restful weekend this coming one. :)

    Neera – there is really nothing like the smell of onions and garlic cooking. :D

    hikalu – yes, I bet it would go really nicely with couscous or risoni, or even plain old rice.

    As for Ratatouille, I have been less than successful in my previous attempts at making it, but Deb’s version looks so gorgeous I feel like I must try it again!

  4. this was inspiring to me. some bastardized version will be our dinner tonight. i got me some corn, tomatoes, zucchini, onion, garlic and limes – even the tortilla’s – i think i’ll go get some shrimp and cilantro. but i gotta do an eggplant side. i just wish i knew what to dooooooooooooo…

  5. i gotta stop reading this blog. last night i was so proud of myself for basically making the vegetarian version of the store-bought taco kit, and then i pull THIS up! and i thought i was fancy for slicing a jalapeno on top :D

  6. Jennifer Hess says:

    Claudia – I’m telling you, do it! And I think shrimp would be a great addition. As for the eggplant, Mike brought home two beauties from the greenmarket on Monday that I need to figure something out for… stay tuned!

    JL – Ha! Just wait until you see what I have planned for when you and J. come over for dinner… ;)

  7. I never used to think much of vegetarian tacos until a few months ago when I had tacos de guisado in Mexico City made with all sorts of atypical fillings like swiss chard, cauliflower and squash. Your calabacita tacos remind me of them–they look really tasty.

  8. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hi, Krista! I found a Rick Bayless recipe for swiss chard and caramelized onion tacos a while back and I’m a big, big fan of those. It’s nice to switch things up a bit and stuff tacos with something other than the typical meat, fish or chicken!

    (Also, happy birthday!)

  9. Mary C says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    What a wonderful blog! I stumbled upon you about a month ago thanks to Stumble Upon and you have been a wonderful source of inspiration! I can’t wait to do this for dinner tonight…squash is plentiful in middle Tennessee these days. I did a Ratatouille the other night that was better than most….basically layers of eggplant, vidalia onions, smashed garlic, slices of roma tomatoes, slices of oil marinated sundried tomatoes , thick slices of red peppers, handful of mixed herbs..winter savory, rosemary, basil and italian parsley chopped and a drizzle of great olive oil and a good sqeeze of lemon….stack in a casserole..and bake for about an hour at 350. Maybe twice I pulled it out of the oven and squished (for lack of a better word) it down with a spatula.
    It was really divine with grilled lemon chicken and more of the herbs… you may like it.

  10. Adriana says:

    Cheep, fast, easy and very delicious…My husband love it! He don’t usually eat leftovers but this time he said he would take the remainings to work the next day. Thanks for the easy recipe.

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