To my friends, family and the Mister, I’m Jenny, and sometimes Jen. My cousins, aunts and uncles throw in a childhood nickname, Jen-Jen, every now and again. To my cancer survivor friends from First Descents, I’m Flip Flop. To my Grandma Maria, I will always be Jenita. My grandma moved to the United States from Veracruz, Mexico when she was a young girl.
Calabacitas soup, although New Mexican in origin, has been a staple comfort food in my grandma’s, mom, and aunts’ kitchens for as long as I could remember. This recipe has evolved in my own kitchen as I’ve made it, and I’ve finally settled on a version that satisfies my taste memory of the soup I ate growing up, and has my own touch, which is why I call this recipe Jenita’s Calabacitas!
My family has always made calabacitas with a plethora of colorful vegetables: zucchini, yellow squash, corn, carrots, green beans, onions and tomatoes cooked down with salsa to create a flavorful broth. Mom and the aunties always add a couple pieces of monterrey jack cheese which form cheesy, melty goodness in the bottom of the bowl. My version uses vegetable broth as a base, and is seasoned with fresh herbs and spiced up with green chili. I like to heat up corn tortillas until they’re soft and dotted with little golden spots, roll them up and use them to scoop up the tender flavor-soaked squash and veggies.
When the smell of fire roasted green chilies wafts through the air at the farmers’ market, I know it’s time to make a big batch of Calabacitas, my ultimate summer and fall comfort food.
I hope it makes its way into your kitchen while the produce is so beautifully colorful!
Jenita’s Calabacitas Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds zucchini and yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- kernels from 3 ears corn (about 2 cups)
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, diced (or 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes)
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 8 ounces roasted hatch-type green chilies, chopped (choose spice level carefully)*
- 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
- 2 quarts vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4-6 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour until the squash is very soft and has soaked up the flavor of the broth. Season again to taste with salt and black pepper.
This soup makes great leftovers, as the flavor improves when refrigerated overnight and also freezes well.
*If using hot chilies, start with less, and taste for spiciness before adding more.