Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Zucchini with Roasted Peppers, Corn, and Cream

I don't know anyone, myself included, who really loves zucchini. Like tofu, I find it has a nice texture when cooked properly, but it really just serves as a palate for other flavors. When it comes to such a empty vessel of an ingredient, I think it best to turn towards cuisines bursting with flavor, like Mexican. As I've said so many times, who better to look to for a recipe than Rick Bayless? I'm one of those super type-A people who loves to meal plan (based on what's at the farmers' market, of course), stumbling across this as I was perusing Rick Bayless cookbooks for all-too-plentiful zucchini inspiration. In this recipe, zucchini serves as the perfect backdrop for the melding of spicy and smoky roasted poblanos and the fresh sweet corn that I am lucky enough to pick up right alongside my zucchini at the farmers' market. Like so many of my favorite recipes, this is bursting with flavor without requiring Herculean effort. While I am certainly happy to regularly take on complex culinary projects, on weeknights I rely on easy dishes like this to reward myself for a long day at work while still getting dinner on table before dark. Though a flavorful and decadent side, I made this into a main dish by serving it with some grilled chicken breast and brown rice. Feel free to lighten it up by substituting half-and-half or whole milk for the cream, but you will have to cook it for a bit longer to thicken up the sauce, so cook the vegetables a touch less before adding the dairy, lest they turn into mush. If you're looking for a way to spice up plain Jane zucchini, give this recipe a try - you won't be disappointed by how Mexican flavors transform this ordinary vegetable into something really special.

Zucchini with Roasted Peppers, Corn, and Cream
from Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless
yields about 2 cups, 4 servings

1 pound (4 small) zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 scant teaspoon salt, plus a little more to season the sauce, if necessary
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
The kernels cut from 1 large ear fresh sweet corn (about 1 cup) or 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 fresh chile poblano, roasted and peeled, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2/3 cup Thick Cream or whipping cream

1. "Sweating" the zucchini. In a colander, toss the zucchini with salt; let stand over a plate or in the sink for 1/2 hour. Rinse the zucchini, then dry on paper towels.

2. Cooking the vegetables. Heat the butter and oil over medium-high in a skillet large enough to hold the zucchini in a single layer. When quite hot, add the zucchini and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is browned and just tender. Remove the zucchini, draining as much butter and oil as possible back into the pan. Reduce the heat to medium.

Add the corn kernels, chile and onion. Stir regularly until the onion is lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Finishing the dish. A few minutes before serving, stir in the creamy and the zucchini and simmer for a few minutes, until the cream is reduced to a thick glaze. Add a little salt, if necessary, scoop into a warm dish and serve.

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