Sunday, August 24, 2014


Well I don't know about y'all, but I'm drowning in zucchini! What is it with those things? It's like they seem to go from too small to eat to the size of a limb in a matter of hours!

OK... I've never gotten quite as desperate as the person who apparently took that photo, but over the years I've begged quite a few neighbors to take some off of my hands.

After a few summers, I started to notice a distinct pattern in the neighborhood. The white folks would all run when they saw me coming, zucchini in hand, but my neighbors of Mexican descent would happily accept as many as I offered saying that they would make "calabacitas."

"Interesting," I thought... wondering what this mysterious "calabacitas" dish was. Finally, I asked one of my neighbors for the recipe and suffice it to say, I don't give away quite so many zucchinis anymore!

Now, depending on who you ask "calabacita" can be translated to mean either "squash," "small pumpkin" or (you guessed it) "zucchini"! But any way you slice it, this recipe is a great and simple way to use up a lot of the suckers and create a wonderful and tasty side dish.

This recipe comes by way of my neighbor, Maria. It can easily be made in smaller portions, but generally when I'm making it, it's because I have a TON of zucchini to use up, so I make a big pot and freeze most of it for later.

So... without further ado, here's the recipe:

Maria's Calabacitas

* Please Note: all measurements are approximate and flexible

  • 1 large or 2 medium sized onions chopped into medium sized pieces
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
  • 24 ounces of roasted, peeled & chopped green chilies (California Anaheim Peppers or New Mexico Hatch Chiles)**
  • 3 large arm sized, or 6-7 small zucchinis - remove any seeds and chop into small pieces (any kind of summer squash will work)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or lard (I know lard is traditional, but I can't bring myself to use it)
  • 2 tablespoons of corn starch or flour 
  • salt to taste
  • grated cheese (monterey jack, cheddar, colby, queso quesadilla, or asadero)

**Green Chilies might be difficult to find in certain parts of the world. In my neighborhood there are chile stands on virtually every corner this time of year with big roasters where they'll roast them while you wait.

If you have to roast them yourself it's best to do it on an open flame, or you can put them directly onto the stove burner (even an electric one).

When the chiles are well blackened you put them in a paper bag until they cool. At that point the skin should basically wash off under running water. You remove the stems and most of the seeds but don't worry if a few seeds sneak in there.

I'm generally too lazy to deal with the washing and chopping, so I don't buy the fresh ones unless I'm making rellenos or something that requires the whole chile. I usually buy them frozen, but you can also get them canned. I like the mild ones, but they come in various degrees of heat... but be careful, hot means HOT!

Saute onion in olive oil or lard until clear. Add a bit of salt at this stage to help the onion along. When the onion is almost done add the garlic if you're using it and saute another minute or two. Add the chopped zucchini & green chilies. Cook stirring occasionally until zucchini is cooked through, depending on how much you're making this can be anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour. When zucchini is thoroughly cooked mix cornstarch or flour with a spoonful or two of water and add it to the pot. Stir to distribute until liquid thickens. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle each serving with shredded cheese and enjoy!

I've since learned that there are infinite variations on this recipe - some include corn, or tomatoes - and I've even seen cream used in some versions. I'm pretty happy with Maria's simple recipe, but feel free to experiment as you see fit.

Calabacitas with corn and tomatoes

Calabacitas are great all by themselves as a snack, or as a side dish with any Mexican food. They go wonderfully with refritos or beans & rice. You can use them in place of green chile salsa to smother burritos, or pour them over some fried eggs & chorizo for quick huevos rancheros. You can dress them up with fresh tomatoes, avocado, cilantro (if you're not allergic) & sour cream or just enjoy them simply.

They freeze really well and are a wonderful way to enjoy the taste of summer all year round!

So tell me, what are your favorite recipes for using up a bounty of zucchini?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain

In Memory of Robin Williams

So, I've been trying to find words to express my feelings about the passing of Robin Williams, and the issues of depression, addiction and suicide - all of which run deep in my own family. But I'm afraid that at the moment, I just feel really sad. The world is so much poorer for having lost him.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Soooo Tired of Corporate Dickwaddery

I'm not sure if y'all have noticed or not, but I haven't been around on the interwebs as much as usual. This is because my telephone and DSL service went out AGAIN and I was completely without service for about 4 days.

To make a long gruesome story short, the phone lines in my neighborhood are the original lead lines strung in the 1950's and since this is the barrio, the telephone company has no intention of upgrading them any time soon.

This means that I lose service every few months and have to put up with slow internet (2.5 megs on a good day) and lots of static on the phone line. Anyhow, after dealing with these problems for years, I finally decided to switch providers.

This was not a move that I was terrible excited about, because the only other option in my area is the cable company, and they have a TERRIBLE reputation for customer service - which they have been living up to in the few days since I signed up.

Basically, they quoted me an introductory offer of one price, but are charging me almost double. And there are intermittent problems with the voice quality... which they say is a problem with the lines - AGAIN? Doesn't anybody believe in maintaining their equipment these days? Of course, they can't fix an intermittent problem, it has to be constant... yadda, yadda, yadda.

I dunno. Perhaps my expectations are just too high, but it just seems like in the year 2014 I ought to be able to get functioning telephone service.

I mean, back in the 1970's and 80's we never EVER had any problems with the telephone, and if you did, they treated it like an emergency instead of shuffling you around the globe several times to various "help" centers... where they never seem to be able to solve the problem, but are really anxious to tell you about the exciting new offers and services they have.

It's not just the telecom industry either. These days I feel like ANYTHING that has a major corporation attached to it is a deadly quagmire.

My blu-ray player died a few weeks ago, so I bought a highly rated new one... it lasted about a week before it died completely. Seriously? One week?

This is why I hate to buy things. You think that you can just throw money at a problem and it will be all better, but it seldom if ever works that way. Generally speaking, buying something is just like signing up for a whole new set of problems.

And speaking of signing up, I signed up for health insurance through Obamacare - and I assure you that I am utterly grateful for the new law and the protections it affords a self-employed person like myself. But dealing with the whole thing has been a complete and utter nightmare!

I kept the same health care company that I had before, because I love my doctor and I've never had any problems with them.

But apparently they decided to outsource the billing for all of the Obamacare patients and it's been a total disaster!

The billing company has NO clue what they're doing, and every month there is some problem or another with my premium bills, that required endless hours of sitting on hold (on my poorly functioning telephone)....

Is this just me? Seriously, I just can't escape the feeling that our entire society is rotting from the inside out.

It's like we've turned over the reigns for everything to corporate America - and the only thing they care about is their short term profitability and what it does to their stock prices.

Meanwhile, all the products and services they are supposedly offering are basically just a complete and total sham - a useless pile of barely functioning stuff propped up be ever fancier marketing schemes.

I dunno... it all just makes me want to back up 10 yards and punt (apologies to any international readers who don't get my American football references).

But even if I seriously wanted to drop out of society, I'm not sure you really can these days. As my post on the solar storm apocalypse illustrated, we're all pretty interdependent, like it or not.

I guess the only solution is to continue on the path I'm on... that is to limit my interactions with the corporate scumballs to the minimum necessary.

But it just seems like our society can't continue on this path forever. I mean as some point these proverbial chickens have to come home to roost.

In the meantime, I think I'm gonna go mend some clothes. Soooo much more satisfying than spending money for the privilege of being treated like a pile of crap.

So how about you? Am I the only one with these sorts of frustrations? Does anybody else out there see this stuff as the beginning of the end for this society of ours?