No offense to baby carrots and hummus, but sometimes I get tired of serving them as my default appetizers when guests are around. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a healthy combo, and a super-convenient one at that. But inspired it is not. I used to wonder what people in other countries served to their guests with cocktails during a casual dinner party. Fortunately, I had occasion to find the answer to my question in January 2008, when I scored an invitation to weekday family dinner at the home of a professor at the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) in Puebla, Mexico.
On the coffee table, our hostess had placed a platter of sliced jicama that had been tossed in lime juice and sprinkled with a bright red chile powder. It was so simple, and so addictive. It put baby carrots with hummus to shame.
All about Jicama
Jicama is the tuberous root of a legume plant that has the crunchy, watery texture of a water chestnut, raw potato or Asian pear. Its mild flavor is tinged with an everso slight sweetness,which is courtesy of our favorite prebiotic fiber friend, inulin. (To refresh your memory about the health benefits of inulin, check out my previous postings on Jerusalem artichokes and chicory root, other great
food sources of inulin.) The crisp, watery texture of raw jicama is so summery and refreshing, which makes it a fantastic addition to salads and slaws. Nutritionally, 1 cup of sliced jicama has a mere 46 calories, and 11g of carbohydrate (of which 6 huge grams are fiber) and 30% of the daily value for vitamin C. (This means that 1 cup of jicama actually has 5g of net carbohydrate, in case you are diabetic on a carbohydrate-controlled diet.)
If you’ve never worked with jicama before, there are only two pointers I can offer. One: If you’re not using it right away, do not refrigerate it (Jicamas don’t like the cold). Just store it at room temperature. Two: the only annoying thing about jicama is having to peel it. I’ve wrestled a jicama with a vegetable peeler before, but have found that cutting the jicama into quarters and using a sharp knife to shave the stubborn skin off along the silhouette worked way better.
Recipe: Jicama sticks with lime and chile
1 jicama, peeled
Juice of 2 limes
Sprinkle of your favorite chile powder*
* Note: the most authentic way to season your lime-tossed jicama sticks would be with a Mexican condiment called Tajin, which is a chili-lime-salt powder designed specifically for fruit and jicama seasoning. (I checked the ingredients and it’s gluten-free.) You can order it online through the link I’ve provided. Otherwise, you have a few options. You can take a dried guajillo chile (or any medium-heat dried chile), stem it and seed it, and grind it up in a food processor or mini coffee-grinder. If you have a favorite ground chile powder lying around the pantry, like an ancho chile powder, that’d be swell, too. Personally, I wouldn’t use the American version of chili powder (the stuff we use for actually making chili)… its flavor is a bit too heavy for this.
All you have to do is cut the jicama into sticks, toss them in a bowl with the lime juice, and sprinkle it all with some chili powder to taste. Easy!
If you want to take this concept from appetizer to a slightly more substantial summer salad, check out Tyler Florence’s recipe for Jicama and Mango salad with Chile and Lime.Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.