Calabacitas is a traditional New Mexican side dish, but its ingredients can vary from family to family. The basic ingredients include squash, onion, garlic, and salt sauteed in oil or fat. Some people add mushrooms, chile, and or cheese. Cumin and Mexican oregano may also be used.
This recipe is a new spin on this dish by acknowledging its indigenous Mexican roots and the concept of the milpa, meaning cornfield. Similar to the Three Sisters, the milpa ecosystem thrives on the mutual reciprocity of corn, squash, and beans and is a sustainable way of growing food. The milpa could also include chiles, squash blossoms, herbs like epazote, wild greens like quelites and huazontle, and more.
Kind of like the everything but the kitchen sink concept, add any vegetables that need to be eaten up and you’ll get a medley of flavors that is both familiar and fresh.
- 3 cups squash (yellow, green, Mexican)
- 1 cup corn
- ½ onion (red or yellow)
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ – ½ cup green chiles, roasted and chopped (poblano for a mild flavor or a locally grown chile similar to Anaheim for some spice)
- 1 tablespoon of fresh, epazote (chopped)
- 4 squash blossoms (chiffonade or cut in thin strips)
- 2 cups mushrooms (shitake and oyster were used, but use any you have like cremini or white button)
- quelites or huauzontle to taste
- 1-2 pats of butter (add one pat when all ingredients are in the pan and another if it seems dry)
- salt, pepper, Mexican oregano to taste
- cheese: (Oaxaca or queso fresco)
- Heat oil over medium heat in a pan on the stove. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for about five minutes.
- Add in your garlic, squash, corn, chile, squash blossoms, and herbs and spices. Stir everything together and cook until the squash is shiny and tender.
- Serve with a sprinkle of cheese and buen provecho!
Mexican squash, squash blossoms, epazote, and huauzontle from Little Red Sands in El Paso, TX
Corn, zucchini, and yellow squash from Rock House Farms in Deming, NM
Onion and Garlic from Martinez Ristras in Las Cruces, NM
Queso fresco from JEM Ranch in Deming, NM
Mushrooms from Full Circle Mushrooms in La Mesa, NM
Recipe and photos by Alison Penn
Cook’s Note: This recipe comes from my family and similar recipes from “adopted family” in the Albuquerque area. The addition of the milpa ingredients was heavily inspired by Ericka Sanchez’s Sopa de Milpa in her cookbook Buen Provecho: Traditional Mexican Flavors from My Cocina to Yours. I’ve always loved my family’s version and I am obsessed with Ericka’s soup, so that’s why I combined them.