This thrilling side dish is one of my favorite ways to eat the little summer squashes called calabacitas that you find in markets in Mexico and that are very similar to zucchini. An aromatic sauté of onion, garlic, and chile is enough to make the squash and corn special, but roasted tomatoes, cream (just a bit), and cheese push the dish into unforgettable territory.
- 1 pound tomatoes (about 3 medium)
- 1/4 cup mild olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 cup finely chopped white onion
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 fresh serrano or jalapeño chile, minced, including seeds
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 to 3 ears), or 10 ounces frozen corn kernels, thawed
- 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican, crumbled
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds calabacitas or zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 cup Mexican crema or heavy cream
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (1 cup)
- 3/4 teaspoon fine salt, or 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
1. Set the oven or toaster oven to broil and preheat. Alternatively, you can preheat the oven to 500°F. If you're using the oven broiler, position the rack 8 inches from the heat source.
2. Core the tomatoes and cut a small "X" through the skin on the opposite ends. Put the tomatoes, cored sides up, on a foil-lined baking pan and roast until their tops have blackened and the tomatoes are cooked to the core, 20 to 30 minutes. Slip the skins from the tomatoes, discard the skins, and coarsely chop the tomatoes.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 6- to 7-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions, garlic, and chile and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Add the corn, oregano, nutmeg, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the corn is lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until it is just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, crema, cheese, and salt and cook, stirring, 5 minutes more. Season to taste with additional salt, and stir in the cilantro just before serving.
5. This dish keeps in the refrigerator for up to two days.