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.
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.
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!