Tag Archives: what?

What do I do with this? Chayote


I’m finally catching up on my summer challenge here… finding fresh produce that I had never used before, mostly because I didn’t know what they were.

This week’s new thing is the chayote, a mexican fruit that is used like a vegetable, and sometimes referred to as the “vegetable pear”. It’s simple, and fresh tasting and doesn’t require any special preparation. To compare it to some other things you may have had before, it’s light and mild and crunchy like a daikon radish, or even a drier cucumber. Or maybe the texture of a green apple, but not the flavour? It can be used in cooked dishes, but is great raw in salads. For my first test of this vegetable, I tried both options.

I didn’t look up any recipes, and really just modified some recipes that I already enjoy.

Chayote Enchiladas

Chayote Enchiladas

To test it out, I used it in the filling for some enchiladas (that we cooked on the BBQ!) and as the crunch factor in a yummy corn and black bean rice salad.

First, let’s talk about the enchiladas. I first made enchiladas a few months back, as a part of a Daring Cooks’ challenge. I used the sauce recipe from that, as the tomatillo and poblano sauce is tart and fun, which is perfect for the summer. The veggie layer was made up of sauteed portabello mushrooms, onion and lightly cooked chayote. We did not, however, want to use the oven. It’s been a really hot and humid summer here in Toronto, and we do our best to avoid using the oven. I made a crazy decision, and we packaged them in foil and cooked them on the BBQ. This requires that you NOT put too much of the enchilada sauce in the stacks. Just put a little on each layer, and add the rest when serving. It worked like a charm! The only thing I would change is maybe spray some oil on the foil before layering the enchiladas. The hot cheese and tortilla stuck to the foil a little bit… no big deal. The chayote added a fun crunch to the cheesy, spicy mess.

Chayote Rice Salad

Chayote Rice Salad

The next dish I made was a Mexican spiced rice salad, full of grilled corn, black beans and bell peppers – oh yeah, and chayote. I think chayote really shines in salads, because it is nice and refreshing with a great crunch. Because it doesn’t have a really strong flavour, it could fit into just about any salad. I did go pretty heavy on the spices, using a mild ‘chili’ blend that I keep on hand, featuring paprika, cumin and various mild chili powders. To this, I added a touch of chipotle for smokiness and a touch of heat.

So… there are two ways to use a chayote. I’m sure there are about a million more!

What do I do with this? Karela

Desi Karela / Bitter Gourd

This post should be subtitled, “Are you trying to poison me? My lips are going numb!”

I picked the strangest looking vegetable from BJ Supermarket, in the Gerrard India Bazaar. Its bumpy, bright green flesh was intriguing. The sign said ‘Desi Karela’ – I had never heard of it before, so I wrote it down.

A quick Google resulted in many pictures of half-naked girls. Oh wait, I mistakenly typed ‘Desi Kerala’ (Kerala being a state in India).

A quick correction brought me to the vegetable I was looking for… and it turned out to be Bitter Gourd. I had read about bitter gourd before – sometimes in recipes with no mention of the fact that this gourd is, in fact, evil. Other times, the author would curse the evil within, with comments such as “Why would anyone ever want to eat this?!”. Although frightened, I refused to give up and I found a recipe that sounded like the perfect way to introduce myself to Desi Karela.

Curried Bitter Gourd

I chose this recipe from Foodskaypes, because the mix of bitter gourd with coconut and tamarind sounded really tasty and different from the dishes I usually make. In case you are planning to click that link and read the recipe – no, I didn’t buy a fresh coconut and grate it for my dish. We aren’t used to fresh coconut here, so I bought the packaged (unsweetened) stuff. No doubt it isn’t as good as fresh, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

The dish smelled amazing as it was cooking. It was a fun assortment of spices (yay!), and I crossed my fingers that the karela wasn’t too bitter. Then I tasted the sauce. It was so bitter that my heart immediately sank, and I scolded myself for not making a backup dish. I knew J would NOT like this.

We sat down to eat, and I took my first bite. Yowza, that gourd is bitter! Bite two wasn’t so bad, and by bite three I noticed a flavour beyond the bitter that intrigued me, something I’m sure I haven’t tasted anywhere else. I looked up at J, who had also taken about three bites. “That’s about all I can do. My lips are going numb.” That was that. I finished his plate, and gave myself a little bit more, and he went to the fridge for some pitas and veggies.

I should mention that the recipe itself was great, and I’ll be trying it again with some other, less evil vegetable.

I don’t think I’ll be buying desi karela again, but I’m really happy I tried it once. The leftovers are still in my fridge, waiting for me to finish them. I’m kind of afraid of what it will taste like – you know how evil is when given time to collude.

Sorry, J. I swear I didn’t try to poison you!

What do I do with this? Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes

This is a new monthly challenge that I’m imposing on myself, where I find an ingredient that I have never used before (or even better – have never even HEARD of before) and make something with it.

My first entry is the Garlic Scape. I first heard of this earlier in the year, but had never seen any in the market before. I actually tried to grow my own, but failed miserably.

I finally found some at the market this month.

Garlic scapes, or green garlic, are the stalks of the garlic plant, growing above ground. They’re sort of like scallions, but garlicky tasting and much more dense. To me, they seem like a cross between a garlic and a green bean. Raw, they are pungent and crunchy. When cooked, they are soft and mild.

My first big dish using garlic scapes was a simple pasta tossed with sauteed vegetables, garlic scapes, garlic scape infused yogurt and Parmesan cheese.

Pasta featuring Garlic Scapes

There are many recipes for garlic scape pesto, which I plan to try making soon. Sounds right up my alley!

Now that I’ve tried them, I’m a little embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of them before. Anyone that knows me should be ashamed of me!! This was a great find, and a really fun thing to put in summer dishes. I know they won’t be in season for much longer, so I’ll be buying them every chance I get.

Next year, I plan to try growing garlic again. I’m not too sure what went wrong this time around, but I think it’s because bulbs don’t overwinter very well here when in pots. I might try planting them early March with my daffodils.