Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Best Things You Probably Aren't Eating Yet: Jicama

My family eats weird food.  And we love it.  And it may even be good for us.  Variety is the spice of life, right?  So, with that in mind, I'm going to share some posts of foods that we love, and that you might not be eating...yet.  Hopefully it will inspire somebody to get out there and broaden their horizons.

I'm going to start with jicama.  You pronounce it "hick-a-ma", or at least, that's how I say it.  It's a total hit at my house, loved by all 5 of us.  Yes, even little Mr. Picky will chow down on jicama.  It often makes it's way into the girls' lunchboxes, and at the start of every school year, they get a big kick out of telling me about all the people (kids and adults both) who ask them, "What the heck is that?".  The trials and tribulations of being a foodie kid, I guess.

So, what the heck IS jicama?  Jicama is a tuber, an underground veggie, also called Mexican potato.  It's crunchy and on the sweet side.  It sounds weird to say, but it tastes kind of like a cross between a potato and an apple.  A little starch, a little sweet, a lot of crisp.  Jicama is delicious and refreshing on its' own, but it can also give a pleasant crunch to salads, salsas, and stir-frys.  It picks up flavors well.  Nutrition wise, it's fat free, and it has a ton of vitamin C.

At most of the grocery stores around here, I find jicama in the ethnic vegetable section.  It looks like a big, tan turnip.  Most of the time, it's super affordable as well.  Around here, it's around 69 cents a pound, so you'll usually be right around that $2 mark for a good-sized jicama.  When you're buying a jicama, you want one that's about the size of your two hands held together.  About 2 pounds or so.  You want to look at it closely.  It should be firm and not wrinkly looking, and you want to make sure that it doesn't have wet or moldy spots on it.  Sometimes there is wax capping the cut ends, and that's fine.  You're going to cut that off anyway.

Once you get the jicama home, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.  It never lasts that long here.  I recommend only cutting what you need each time, as it can dry out a bit once the flesh is exposed.  I usually start by cutting off the ends so that it is flatter to work with. Next, I cut the brown skin off what I need.  As much as you might be tempted to use a peeler, let me save you the trouble and tell you that it will not work, and you might end up hurting yourself.  Preachin' from experience here.  After that, you can cut or shred it however you want to.  French fry-like sticks are what I usually put in lunches, but some people like "chips" too.  I've had good luck with taking a julienne peeler to it too, once the outer skin is gone.  You could also grate it with a grater.

Honestly, we love jicama plain, as is.  But I also get a kick out of mixing a little dipping bowl of a little salt, chili powder, and lime zest and rolling the jicama in that before crunching into it.  Flavor and crunch explosion!  One of the best recipes that I've come across for jicama is this cucumber and jicama slaw.  I make this like crazy in the summer for my family and to share at get-togethers, and it's always a huge hit.  It's got the crunch, the sweetness, the tart, and a little kick, and it's totally refreshing.  Goes great with mojitos!  Another great combo is making a mango salad with diced mango, diced jicama, cilantro, lime juice, and a little chili powder.

Lunch today: berries, beet brownie, trail mix, salami and cheese, and jicama

So, that's installment number one of "The Best Things You Probably Aren't Eating Yet".  What other weird and wacky foods do you want to know more about?

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