Calabacitas rellenas

Calabacitas rellenas: Grilled Mexican green squash, stuffed with chilaca chiles, chorizo and queso fresco. Get the recipe from theothersideofthetortilla.com.

One of the things I love most about the summer is grilling. It’s an opportunity to do all kinds of different things with meats and vegetables that I don’t get a chance to do during the rest of the year.

During the spring and summer, my local Mexican markets have a wider variety of produce which means endless combinations for creative dinners at my house. I’ve recently been craving calabacita, a zucchini-like squash that has lighter green speckled skin, and is also one of José’s favorites. As I was strolling through the aisles, I was trying to decide what to stuff them with and as soon as I saw chilaca chiles, I knew that was what I wanted.

They’re long and skinny with dark green skin, but you may recognize them better when they’re dried – known as chile pasilla. When fresh, they’re mild with a very subtle sweet flavor and you can char and peel them just the same way you do with a poblano.

This dish is a variation of one that José grew up eating and when I served it for dinner over the weekend, the first thing he said after taking a bite was, “sabe a mi casa.” To me, that’s the ultimate compliment.

TIPS: If you don’t have a grill or want to make this dish during other times of the year, you can also use a grill pan to cook the calabacitas. You can roast and sweat chilaca chiles in the same way you would with poblano chiles.

If you’ve never roasted chiles before, check out my tutorial on how to roast poblano chiles.

This dish can also be made vegetarian-friendly if you substitute soyrizo for the chorizo…. 

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SOPA DE TORTILLA

I love tortilla soup. I will order it just about anywhere, at any time of year, and I’ve been known to judge the entire menu of a restaurant solely on the quality of their sopa de tortilla. I’m obsessed in every sense of the word–and having not been able to find a version I deem delicious in Chicago, I learned how to make it.

This soup is very representative of a typical Mexican kitchen and uses the traditional flavors and textures of the tomato, chile, avocado, epazote and tortilla. I’ve never cared much for tomato-based soups or broths, but this soup converted me.

The secret, I’ve found, is adding a few crunchy little pieces of chicharrón (also known as pork rinds or cracklings here in the U.S.). They add a depth to the soup’s flavor that I’m convinced cannot be achieved otherwise. All of my favorite places in Mexico for tortilla soup serve it similarly; all the ingredients for assembling the soup are brought to the table separately and the waiter puts it together right in front of you, almost like a little show with your meal…. 

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