I just harvested two Ronde de Nice summer squashes from my backyard garden. This is a French heirloom variety of Cucurbita pepo, the same species as, and very similar to, zucchini, but as the name indicates, it produces rounded fruit:
In Mexico, all summer squashes are known as calabacitas – little squashes, from the common, elongated zucchini, sometimes called “calabacita italiana” – Italian little squash, to several varieties of round fruit. A dark toned, oval variety, is the heirloom tatume, cultivated in Mesoamerica since 8,000 to 10,000 years ago; other round varieties, of which Ronde de Nice could be an example, are called calabacitas criollas – creole little squashes. Calabacitas are often cooked stuffed, and my recipe proudly features a classic “Three Sisters” filling that includes pulp from the squash, corn kernels and green beans; round squash is preferred, but if not available, long zucchini may be used, by cutting crosswise to apportion into short logs, before hollowing for stuffing.
Stuffed Summer Squash – Calabacitas rellenas
Ingredients (for four)
4 summer squashes; washed
½ cup corn kernels; fresh, shaved off the cob, or thawed from frozen
½ cup green beans; washed, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch (2.5cm) cylinders
½ white onion; peeled and finely chopped
2-3 jalapeño or serrano peppers, to taste; washed, stems removed and chopped
½ cup unripened cheese, such as panela, Canadian feta, etc.; crumbled
1 sprig epazote, optional; leaves only, washed and chopped very finely
1 tbsp oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Depending on the size and shape of each squash, slice to obtain sections about 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) tall. In the photo below, left, two sections from a long zucchini, and a half from a Ronde de Nice, after cutting along its equator. If round squashes are small, just cut a “lid” off the top of each fruit. Working with a small serrated knife or spoon (my grapefruit spoons come in handy for this type of job), scoop most of the pulp from each squash, being careful not to break the walls and bottom; in the photo below, right, one half of a round squash, after scooping:
Reserve hollowed pieces, chop extracted pulp, and also reserve.
In a large pan, warm up oil over medium heat, then sauté veggies by adding in order, and cooking for a couple of minutes in between additions: first, chopped onions, followed by corn kernels, then green beans, jalapeños (or serranos), epazote leaves (if using), and finally, chopped squash pulp. Stir all together, seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste (photo below, left). Continue cooking and stirring for another minute, then incorporate crumbled cheese, and mix (photo below, right):
Remove from heat, and allow to cool down for a few minutes. Generously stuff the reserved hollowed squash sections, and arrange in a steamer basket, set over a hot water bath* (photo below, left). Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until everything is hot, the cheese has melted, and the squash shells are cooked, but not falling apart. Serve one piece as a side or appetizer, or two to three as a full vegetarian dish. In the photo below, right, three stuffed sections from a large zucchini:
At the top of this post, one half of a stuffed Ronde de Nice, and below, a generous serving from a whole squash:
* Note: If a steamer basket is not at hand, the stuffed squash may be cooked directly in a pan with hot water, making sure that the water level is well below the top of the veggie cups, keeping the filling from getting too damp. In this case, also monitor frequently to avoid overcooking.
These calabacitas rellenas are a well balanced dish, and their low calorie and fat content provide enjoyment without rue:
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I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #503, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.