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Zucchini and Corn Torta with Cilantro-Lime Crema

Quick and easy to make and infinitely adaptable, tortas are a favorite light supper dish in Mexico. This popular combination of zucchini, corn and roasted poblano chil is the perfect dish to make in the summer, when fresh corn is at its peak. Dark green poblano chilies have a wonderful, rich flavor but can be spicy. If heat is a concern, substitute mild Anaheim chilies for some or all of the chilies.

To make crema, in a small nonreactive bowl, stir together 1 cup heavy cream and 1 Tbs. buttermilk or good-quality plain yogurt with active cultures. Cover with plastic wrap, poke a few holes in the plastic and let stand at warm room temperature (about 85°F) until well thickened, 8 to 24 hours, Stir, cover with fresh plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm and well chilled, about 6 hours. If the crema becomes too thick, thin with a bit of whole milk or half-and-half. Makes about 1 cup.

Ingredients:

  • Unsalted butter for greasing
  • 2 large poblano or Anaheim chilies, roasted and peeled
  • 1 ear white sweet corn, husk and silk removed
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
  • 1 lb. zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Oaxacan or Monterey jack cheese
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. ancho chili powder (optional)

For the cilantro-lime crema:

  • 1/3 cup crema or sour cream
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbs. chipotle chilies in adobo, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste

Directions:

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 325°F. Butter a 6-cup gratin dish or other shallow baking dish.

Cut the roasted chilies into 1-inch pieces. Set aside. Holding the ear of corn upright on a cutting board, use a sharp knife to cut off the kernels, keeping the blade angled so you get the whole kernel but none of the tough cob. Or cut off the kernels with a corn stripper. You should have about 3/4 cup kernels. Set aside.

In a fry pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the chilies and onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp. of the salt. Scrape into a colander and let cool.

Add the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil to the pan and return the pan to medium heat. Add the corn and zucchini and cook, stirring often, until the zucchini are softened but not breaking up, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano, 1 tsp. of the salt and the 1/4 tsp. pepper and cook to blend the flavors, about 30 seconds. Add to the colander with the chilies. Let the vegetables cool and drain for 15 minutes.

Spread 1 cup of the zucchini mixture in an even layer in the bottom of the prepared dish. Sprinkle half of the Oaxacan cheese on top. Repeat to make a second layer of the vegetables, top with the remaining Oaxacan cheese and end with the remaining vegetables.

Season the eggs with the remaining 1 tsp. salt and a pinch of pepper. Pour into the dish and use a spatula to spread evenly. Scatter the cotija cheese over the top and dust with the chili powder. Bake until puffed and lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small serving bowl, stir together the crema, lime juice, cilantro, chipotle and the 1/4 tsp. salt. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Serve the torta warm or at room temperature with the crema. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Latin Cooking, by Patricia McCausland-Gallo, Deborah Schneider & Beverly Cox (Oxmoor House, 2010).