Thursday, August 5, 2010
Lately, I feel like I’ve been missing out on what just might be the very best part of summer – farm fresh produce. Stuck inside with my nemesis – aka mono – for the past two weeks, I’ve had to skip my anticipated jaunts to the farmers market, the pick-your-own blueberry farm, and even my beloved Trader Joe’s. As a result, in my crazy (and in my defense, fever-induced) moments, I seem to have adopted something of a produce paranoia. My fears? That the peaches might be gone by the time I’m up and moving around. Berries? Gone til next year. And forget about tomatoes – missed my chance for those summer gems. I know; it’s ridiculous. I blame it on the fever.
The other night, however, I decided I couldn’t handle anymore carb-heavy prepared foods. Even though my taste buds hadn’t returned yet, the health-conscious part of my brain demanded vegetables. Stan’s not exactly into “lighter” fare, so veggie days can take some creative thinking. I’ve been meaning to tell you about this casserole for months, and with several of the ingredients in peak season, this seemed like the perfect time. The fact that I had just about all of the ingredients on hand clinched the decision.
Calabacitas means little squashes in Spanish. It is a traditional Mexican side dish that is made with summer squash, and often with corn, peppers, onions, and other assorted vegetables. This recipe turns Calabacitas into something of a casserole by topping it with slices of prepared polenta and lots of gooey cheese. Bursting with fresh flavors, it is the perfect showcase for summer produce, particularly the zucchini that is so prevalent at this time of year. Served alongside grilled meat or fish, it is a perfect summer side dish. It is also an excellent vegetarian entrée served with a side of black beans.
Calabacitas Casserole with Polenta and Cheese
Adapted from Rachael Ray via Food Network
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen, defrosted if frozen
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large (or 2 or 3 small) poblano pepper(s), seeded and diced
2 medium zucchini, diced *
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
1(14-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, drained **
2 teaspoons chili powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (16-ounce) tube prepared polenta
1 to 2 cups, Monterey Jack, Cheddar or Mexican cheese blend, shredded
Sliced green onions
* Feel free to use all zucchini or all yellow squash – whatever you have on hand.
** When I’m out of stewed tomatoes, I have used canned whole tomatoes, drained and torn apart, with great success. Fresh tomatoes would also likely be delicious.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn, garlic, and poblano pepper(s). Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the zucchini, yellow squash, onion, chili powder, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Add the stewed tomatoes and cook until just heated through.
While the vegetables cook, cut the tube of polenta into 1/2-inch thick round slices.
When heated through, transfer the vegetable mixture to a baking dish.
Top the vegetables with the polenta slices then sprinkle the cheese over the top.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or the polenta is heated through and the cheese is starting to brown.
Serve hot, garnished with chopped scallions and/or cilantro, if desired.
Serves 4 to 6.