Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tacos de Calabacitas a la Mexicana

I picked up some dried epazote last time I was at Penzey's, so I was excited to try it out in this recipe from Rick Bayless's Mexico: One Plate at a Time cookbook. The recipe is very simple but seems adventurous because I've never cooked with epazote or queso fresco (we used queso blanco). But it was tasty and delicious. We hated it as a taco! Neither of us really like corn tortillas! So I busted out the tortilla chips and we scooped it up with chips, and that was delicious. I don't know if we'll make it again, but if we do, it will be with chips.

Oh also instead of broiling the poblano, I torched it with my creme brulee torch. Roasted the pepper in less than two minutes!

calabacitas

Tacos de Calabacitas a la Mexicana
(Mexican-Style Zucchini Tacos)
from Rick Bayless

1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 lb (2 medium-large round or 6-8 plum) ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped OR 2/3 of a 28 oz can good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 large fresh poblano chiles
1 large ear corn, husked and kernels cut off (about 1 cup)
4 medium (about 1 1/2 lbs total) zucchini - or use the Mexican round or teardrop-shaped light green calabacitas - trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 5 cups cubes)
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh epazote, roughly chopped OR 3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2/3 cup homemade crema, creme fraiche, or heavy whipped cream
Salt
1/2 cup (about 2 oz) crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other crumbly fresh cheese, such as salted pressed farmer's cheese or feta
24 warm, fresh corn tortillas

1. Preparing the flavoring base. Measure the oil into a large (12-inch) skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until richly browned, about 8 minutes. While the onion is cooking, coarsely puree the tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Add the garlic to the browned onion and cook for 1 minute, stirring, then add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

2. Roasting the chiles. Roast the poblanos directly over a gas flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly, until the skin has blistered and blackened on all sides, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes for the broiler. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes. Rub off the blackened skin, then pull out the stems and seed pods. Rinse briefly to remove any stray seeds and bits of skin. Slice into 1/4-inch strips.

3. Finishing the dish. Uncover the skillet and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the poblanos, corn, zucchini, epazote or cilantro and the crema (or one of its stand-ins). Cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is crisp-tender and the liquid has thickened enough to coat the vegetables nicely, about 8 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 tsp. Serve in a decorative bowl, sprinkled with the crumbled cheese, and pass the hot tortillas separately for do-it-yourself tacos.

Working ahead: If you find it helpful, the dish can be prepared a day ahead through step 2; refrigerate the flavoring base and chiles separately, well covered. Return the mixture to the skillet and finish step 3 just before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

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