Calabacitas–roughly translated as “zucchini” is a hearty, vegetarian Mexican dish that is intensely satisfying. Serve it alone as a side or add rice and tortillas to make it a meal.
We see — or want to see — glimmerings of hope, of life after Covid-19, of a return to normal life. But honey, I think we left normal behind a while ago. In years past, Cinco de Mayo meant bottomless tequila, vats of guacamole, platters of nachos. This year, we may still have tequila, but we also have social media death announcements and virtual funerals (so the tequila still seems like a good idea). I know this, you know this, but like you, I’ve lost friends and colleagues. Being unable to hug and feed those grieving swamped me this weekend. And I couldn’t do anything about it. So I told myself, Ellen, if you can’t fix this, fix something. Be useful. Make lunch.
So I opened the refrigerator and sought inspiration. It didn’t come. However, I’d just scored some lovely zucchini, celery and spring onions from my local farm share and had a poblano pepper. So I chopped it all up and gave everything a sauté.
Soon my husband came into the kitchen. “What smells so good?”
“Calabacitas,” I murmured, adding some cumin and paprika.
I said, “I didn’t know you especially liked calabacitas.”
“I don’t know what it is.”
“It’s squash and seasonal vegetables, sautéed.”
“I just like the name.”
My husband’s smile can’t prevent coronavirus — nothing at this point can. But we are both here and healthy, and I’m grateful. Besides which, calabacitas, referring to squash, is fun to say, as well as flexible, fast, and easy.
Happy Cinco de Mayo. Reach out to the people you love. Feed them, if you can. I wish you all health, strength, and calabacitas.
Calabacitas | Cinco de Mayo During Coronavirus
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 spring onion or 1 small onion chopped
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 large zucchini chopped
- 1 good-sized celery stalk chopped
- 1 poblano chopped
- 1 cup tomato sauce or 1 good-sized tomato well chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 handful cilantro chopped, to finish
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion or spring onion, give it a stir, and after a few minutes, when it starts to soften, add the minced garlic.
- Continue cooking, and add the chopped zucchini, celery and poblano. After about 10 minutes, as vegetables start to sweat and soften, sprinkle in the cumin, paprika and coriander, then pour in the tomatoes.
- Stir well to combine. Cook for another 10 minutes or so until the vegetables are tender and the whole thing is heated through and on the dryish side. The tomato or tomato sauce is there to build flavor and help bind, but this is a sauté not a stew.
- Season to taste with sea salt, pepper and finish with chopped cilantro.