Vegetable haters. They’re all around us. People who’ve had the misfortune of being raised on mushy, canned or frozen things like peas and carrots. People who’s idea of a salad involves nothing more than a pile of wilted iceberg lettuce with some Wish-bone dressing slopped on top. People who’ve never tasted a home grown tomato right off the vine. You know what I’m talking about.
I really can’t blame these people for being such haters. Frozen lima beans and over-steamed broccoli are worthy of hatred, I’ll be the first to admit it. Luckily most of these people are capable of recovery.
My wife is one such person, now undergoing intensive therapy. The following vegetable dish was responsible for a real breakthrough for her, and it’s so simple to prepare. She said, and I quote, “I never liked vegetables before I tried this dish”. If that’s not a good endorsement I don’t know what is.
I believe this dish is of Italian origin, but I was first introduced to it while living in the city of Mérida, Venezuela back in 2003. A couple of friends had invited me over to their home for lunch one Sunday, and I had no idea what a culinary treat I was in for. Señora Rojas, my friend’s dear mother, had prepared delicious homemade gnocchi with pesto sauce, minestrone soup, and this dish using “calabacines”(little squash in Spanish), also known as White Mexican squash, White or Grey zucchini, or Tatuma squash. It was a meal I will not soon forget, and have tried to replicate many times since.
Having only asked Señora Rojas what was in her recipe (in my best Spanish), and not how much of each thing there was, here is my best approximation of her calabacines dish:
Calabacines with Lemon, Mint, and Garlic:
- 6 medium Calabacines (maybe 2 lbs), sliced about 3/4″ thick
- 1 Tbs. spearmint, minced
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 large clove garlic, pressed
- 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbs. butter
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Sea salt to taste (I used a heaping 1/4 tsp.)
- Steam squash until just tender.
- Add all ingredients to a warmed bowl starting with the squash and butter.
- Mix gently to distribute the dressing evenly.
- Zucchini or any other summer squash can be substituted if necessary.
- For a less soupy version olive oil OR butter could be used instead of BOTH, but I love the soupy broth at the bottom of the bowl.
- Be careful not to overcook the squash or mix the ingredients too vigorously or you could end up with a mushy mess.
- Follow this recipe the first time, then improvise to your own taste the next. Some people may like more or less garlic, mint, lemon, etc.