One of the benefits of our daughter’s internship at WW Norton was the addition of many wonderful new cookbooks to our already extensive collection. As an employee, Julia had access to Norton’s infinite selection of published books and, like a good, young GourManiac in the making, she brought home a vast array of cookbooks from just about every world cuisine. We are very thankful to Julia and to Norton for our delightful gastronomic additions; because of them I recently discovered Rick Bayless and his outstanding “Mexican Everyday” cookbook and have tried several of his easy and delicious recipes. His food combinations and suggested variations, or “riffs” on the traditional themes are brilliant. Last night I made Ricks’ Chayote Salad with Tomato and Roasted Garlic Dressing – my way. Having already tried several of his consistently tasty, yet mild dishes, I decided to pump up the recipe as I went along and I must say that I like my adaptation better. I also added the exotic looking brown tomato – the intensely sweet kumato. If you should ever have the chance to try both recipe versions, I’d love to hear your feedback.
In spite of the chayote being somewhat unattractive and bland, this commonplace fruit has a number of redeeming qualities. It can be used raw or slightly cooked and its crunchy texture, nutritional value and ability to take on the flavors of a marinade or dressing, makes it a great addition to salads, stir fries and various other food preparations.
Rick’s recipe is on page 77 of his “Mexican Everyday” book. Mine is below.
~ 8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
~ 6 pickled green chilies
~ 4-6 bird chilies
~ 1 T garlic powder
~ 3 medium chayotes
~ 3/4 cup mixed olive & vegetable oil
~ 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
~ 2 small red tomatoes, cut into wedges
~ 2 brown kumatoes, cut into wedges
~ 3 green onions, cut into thin rings
~ 1-2 T chopped cilantro or parsley
~ salt & pepper to taste
Dry-roast the unpeel garlic and chilies for about 10 minutes. Peel the chayotes (optional) and slice in half, removing the pits. Cut the chayotes into 1/2 inch chunks. Place in a microwavable bowl and sprinkle with salt. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, slitting a few openings on top. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, until crispy tender. Uncover, let cool and drain any extra liquid. Remove skins from garlic and, along with the chilies, place in a blender, adding the oil and vinegar, plus salt and garlic powder. Blend until smooth. Transfer the chayote into a salad bowl and add the tomatoes and green onions. Pulse the dressing one last time to mix well, pour 1/3 of it on the vegetables, and toss well. (Reserve the remainder for another use). Add more salt if necessary, tranfer to small plates, top with chopped cilantro or parsley, and serve.