Sunday, July 20, 2008

Calabacitas rellenas de elote (Zucchini Stuffed with Fresh Corn)

Cooking gives me a great deal of pleasure, and I also find it relaxing, which is probably why I cook when I’m stressed out. I’ve been very stressed out about work lately, so today after church I went a little crazy and spent pretty much the entire afternoon making dinner. Tonight it was pork chops in adobo paste, served with stuffed zucchini and lentils with pineapple and plantain. About the only thing I didn’t make from scratch was the cheese for the zucchini. Everything else involved much toasting of chiles, roasting of tomatoes, shaving of fresh corn kernels, blending, and tasting for salt.

Overall it was a success. The only disappointment, from my point of view, was the lentils, which I finished early and reheated in the microwave. Lentils with pineapple and plantain is an unexpected combination. It was so good coming off the stove that I thought it would be the hit of the dinner, but after letting it sit and reheating, it turned out muddled.

Tonight I’ll blog the zucchini, which was a reasonably successful dish. The squash is stuffed with a fresh corn mixture, and on its own was a little bland. But, you serve it with a fresh, warm salsa ranchera, which was out of this world. Together, the zucchini and the sauce combined into something quite tasty.

So here’s the zucchini recipe, along with the salsa ranchera, both of which come from Diana Kennedy’s The Essential Cuisines of Mexico. For the salsa, I broiled the tomatoes and the chiles together. The recipe actually calls for four serrano chiles, but I used only three, and it turned out picante enough.

Salsa Ranchera
1 pound tomatoes, broiled
3 serrano chiles, charred
1 garlic cove, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt

Blend the tomatoes, chiles, and garlic together until fairly smooth.

Heat the oil, add the blended ingredients and the salt, and cook over fairly brisk heat for about 5 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan until the sauce has reduced a little and is well seasoned.

Zucchini Stuffed with Fresh Corn
1½ pounds zucchini
2 heaped cups corn kernels
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
salt to taste
6 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 recipe salsa ranchera

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a large shallow baking dish.

Clean and trim the zucchini. Cut them into halves lengthwise and scoop out the inner flesh, leaving a shell about ½ inch thick (Note: my zucchini were on the small side and the shell was nowhere near ½ inch thick). Discard the pulp. Place the zucchini in the dish and set aside while you prepare the filling.

Blend the corn, eggs, milk, and salt to a coarse mixture. Do not add more liquid unless absolutely necessary to release the blades. Mix about three quarters of the cheese into the corn mixture, saving the rest for the topping.

Fill the zucchini shells with the corn stuffing, which will be quite runny. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and dot with the butter. Cover the dish and bake until the squash is tender—about 30 minutes. Serve covered with the tomato sauce.

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