My daughter Ariela went to a friend’s ranch last week and she brought home a freshly-picked giant zucchini. This inspired me to make something I hadn’t made in a long time. It is a wonderful summer or fall vegetarian dish infused with the rich and smoky flavor imparted by two roasted Pasilla chili peppers (the type used in making Chile Relleno). While not very spicy, these peppers add a lot of flavor to the dish. This recipe can be made with giant or regular zucchini, or it can be made with the smaller white Squash, also known as Mexican squash, which can be found in farmers markets or any supermarket. This weekend I made two versions: one using the giant zucchini, and the other using the Mexican/white squash. There is a definite difference in the end result in terms of taste and texture, but both versions are delicious. The giant zucchini has a more starchy, pumpkin-like consistency, while the white squash is a bit more firm. Both go beautifully with the peppers, corn and tomatoes that are currently in season, so go ahead and give either one a try. If you use the giant zucchini you MUST peel it, but not so the smaller type. I served it over a bed of white rice for a light, end-of-summer supper, but it can also be served as an hors d’oeuvre with tortilla chips, or on a tostada (a pan-fried crispy tortilla).
Zucchini, Corn and Pasilla Peppers
2 Pasilla chili peppers
1 cup onion sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup shallots sliced into thin strips
1 large garlic clove thinly sliced
5 cups squash (peeled if using the large) cut in 1/4 inch squares
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 corn cobs)
4 ripe roma tomatoes, diced
2 tbs olive oil
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried crushed oregano leaves
2 tbsp cilantro leaves (optional for garnish)
Roast the Pasilla chili peppers by placing them directly in a dry, non-stick griddle or frying pan over a medium stove-top flame. As the peppers brown, you will hear slight popping sounds. With a pair of tongs, flip them gently until the skin is charred on all sides. Remove them from the heat, place them in a plastic supermarket bag, seal the bag and set it aside for 10 minutes. This will allow the skin to loosen. While the chili peppers rest, prepare the other vegetables; if you’re using the giant zucchini, peel it, cut it in half lengthwise and, using a spoon, remove the seeds and any pumpkin-like fibers from the center. Cut the zucchini into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside. Slice the onion and the shallot into strips, and thinly slice the garlic. Dice the roma tomatoes, retaining their natural liquid. Remove the Pasillas from the bag and peel the charred skin off of the peppers (it should come off easily). Gently open up each pepper, and under running water, rinse away the seeds and any remnants of skin, and then remove the stems. Slice the peppers lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips.
In a 12-inch skillet or larger, heat the olive oil on a medium-high flame. Add the onions and stir until they become translucent. One at a time, and stirring after each addition, add the Shallots, the sliced garlic, and the strips of Pasilla chili pepper. Add the zucchini and stir constantly for about 2 more minutes. Lower the flame to medium and cover for 5-7 minutes. One at a time, stir in the corn kernels, diced tomato, salt, pepper and oregano. Cover for another 5-7 minutes. The dish is ready when the zucchini and corn are tender. Choose your accompaniment, and serve hot.