Sunday, 19 August 2012

Rick Bayless' Spicy Jicama, Cucumber and Fruit Skewers

We Canadians are not necessarily well versed in the ways of jicama - but I am always interested in working with new or less than familiar ingredients.

With these crunchy and refreshing skewers, Rick Bayless pairs jicama up with cucumber and sweet fruits, sprinkles them with chile powder and salt and serves them up on bamboo sticks for the perfect summer treat. The contrast of the sweet and spicy, salt and veggie is brilliant - no wonder they are such a popular street food in Mexico. As an added bonus - they are easy to make! 

From WiseGeek
photo from What's Cooking, Mexico?
Jicama is a crispy, sweet, edible root that resembles a turnip in physical appearance, although the plants are not related. Jicama has been cultivated in South America for centuries, and the vegetable is quite popular in Mexican cuisine. Jicama has a unique flavor that lends itself well to salads, salsas, and vegetable platters. The roots can sometimes grow to be quite large, although when they exceed the size of two fists, they begin to convert the sugars that give jicama its sweet flavor into starches, making the root somewhat woody to the taste.

Jicama is actually a legume, and it grows on vines that may reach 20 feet (six meters) in length. The vines tend to hug the ground, terminating in tubers that may grow up to 50 pounds (22 kilograms) in size, although the majority of jicama roots sent to market are approximately three to four pounds (1.3-2 kilograms) in weight. Before eating, the coarse brown outer layer of the jicama should be peeled to reveal the white inside.

When choosing jicama at the store, look for medium sized, firm tubers with dry roots. Do not purchase jicama that has wet or soft spots, which may indicate rot, and don't be drawn to overlarge examples of the tuber, because they may not be as flavorful. Jicama will keep under refrigeration for up to two weeks.
Rick Bayless' Spicy Jicama, Cucumber and Fruit Skewers
A Slightly Dressy Version of a Popular Street Food

online recipe from ABC Good Morning America
Catching up with chef Rick Bayless, master of Mexican cuisine.
From the kitchen of Rick Bayless

Difficulty: Easy

Here's a slightly dressy way to serve that beloved street food snack of fruit or jicama or cucumber (or, in this preparation, all of them) jazzed up with lime, chile and salt -- the seasoning pillars of Mexican street food.

While I always want to include the fresh crunch of jicama on these skewers, the other elements are easily substituted. Try cantaloupe (or other melon), orange segments, peaches, raw quince or apple or pear. And, while pure powdered guajillo chile gives a distinctively Mexican character with its wonderfully rich flavor and bright (but not overpowering) heat, there are other options: Guajillo can be replaced by powdered ancho chile, New Mexico or California chile, or paprika with a little super-spicy cayenne, arbol or chipotle chile powder mixed in.

Cutting the fruits and vegetables in circles creates a very beautiful presentation -- and a fair amount of waste. Feel free to choose any shape you like. But, make sure to peel the jicama with a knife, not a vegetable peeler, so that you can go deeply enough to remove all the fibrous exterior.

The skewers can be put together a day ahead; cover and refrigerate. Sprinkle with the spicy salt when you're ready to serve.

1 small (about 3/4 pound) jícama, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch slices
1 English (long, thin-skin, hot-house) cucumber, cut into 3/4-inch slices
1/2 small pineapple, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch slices
2 large (about 2 pounds total) mangos, peeled, flesh cut from the pit in large slices
8 bamboo skewers
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons powdered guajillo chile
2 teaspoons fine-ground table salt

Cooking Directions

Using a 1-inch round cutter, cut circles out of the jicama, cucumber, pineapple and mango slices. Thread the circles on the skewers and arrange them on a serving platter. Surround the skewers with lime wedges.

In a small shaker (a salt shaker works fine here), thoroughly mix together the powdered chile and salt. Secure the top and lightly sprinkle the skewers. Serve the remaining chile-salt mixture on the side, for guests to add al gusto.

*Recipe courtesy of Ricky Bayless from "Fiesta at Rick's: Fabulous Food for Great Times with Friends"; W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.; 2010

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