Calabacitas, also known as Mexican-style zucchini, was always a quick-healthy meal that my abuela would whip up when she was in a hurry.
They were always accompanied by hot, fresh handmade flour tortillas and topped with lots of cheese and salsa picante.
Abuela made calabacitas the traditional way using whey to make it “caldosa” or soupy. My favorite part was, and still is, the cheesy part folded into a warm tortilla with cilantro and a little extra salsa picante.
Now that I’m making my own calabacitas, I make them with less caldo and of course lots of cheese in a warm tortilla with salsa, queso fresco and sliced avocado.
I’ve written the recipe with the option to make them more caldosas (no whey used) or mas secas (dry). Either way, this is a quick meal which is loaded with vitamin rich vegetables and tastes like spring in a tortilla.
They can easily take center stage or they can accompany other well known actors like carne asada or pollo asado.
Calabacitas de mi Abuela
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes, plus 5 minutes resting
Total Time: 40 minutes
Yields: 4 main servings or 8 side servings
Olive, or avocado oil, or like abuela used, lard, enough to cover the bottom of the skillet.
1 small onion, or half large onion finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper diced
1 poblano pepper diced and deseeded
1 celery stalk diced (optional, not traditional but good)
1 large jalapeño finely minced
2 zucchini (large-ish) cubed, about 1 pound, no less, but a little more is fine
2 small tomatoes, diced
½ cup drained corn or corn cut from 1 ear
½ bunch of cilantro chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Mexican oregano
½ teaspoon cumin
½ cup chicken broth (optional)
2 ounces Jack or Colby Jack cheese, grated
1 -2 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
1 handful cilantro
Warm corn or flour tortillas
Preparing the calabacitas
- Start with a large skillet (12”––large enough so that the veggies don’t get too crowded), on medium to medium-high heat.
- Place enough oil or lard into the skillet to cover the bottom.
- When the oil is hot, add onion and sauté for about 1 minute, then add garlic and sauté until just soft. Careful not to burn it.
- Don’t add any salt yet. We don’t want the veggies to weep, so we’ll add the salt at the end of the cooking with the other spices.
- After about 3 minutes, add red pepper, poblano, celery, jalapeño and cook until softened.
- Add zucchini and stir so that they keep moving and get seared on all sides. We want to cook them rather quickly so they don’t get mushy. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, corn and spices and combine. Cook about 3 more minutes.
- If you like your calabacitas “secas” (dry), heat the corn and tomatoes through and turn the heat off.
- Top the ingredients in the skillet with the grated cheese.
- Cover the skillet and let the cheese melt for a couple of minutes before serving.
- If you want juicier calabacitas, add 1/2 cup of chicken broth (or water with a Maggi cube), stir and cover for 2 minutes, with the heat on low until the liquid is absorbed. If you want them even
juicier, you can add more liquid.
With the heat off, add the grated cheese, and cover for two minutes.
Serve with warm tortillas, sliced avocado, chopped cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, lime slices and radishes.
I suggest using a large open skillet rather than a dutch oven or pot for the best texture.
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