Vintage ladle by Ian
I’m Ian and I am a food addict. Not in the literal sense, which is known as Prader-Willi syndrome (although I do love to eat), but addicted to everything food! When I grow up, I want to be a chef and own my own restaurant until then…being a pharmacist will suffice.
I started my culinary journey at the ripe old age of seven. I made an apple pie from scratch (including the crust) while my mother was taking a nap. Needless to say when she woke up, she was quite surprised or perhaps perplexed… and maybe thankful that I didn’t burn the house down.
Of course I would like to say that I was born with a divine gift for cooking, but I honestly owe my passion for food to my grandparents, Bill and Bonnie. They have always been passionate about food and loved sharing their passion with their grandkids. Over the past nineteen years, I continued to cook, eat, explore cultures through travel, and fortunately developed what I like to think of as a complex culinary outlook.
When Amber asked me to be a guest on her blog, I was a bit nervous. But just this past Sunday, I called her up (after she ignored my calls on Saturday—for shame) and told her I had an idea for a Mexican inspired meal. When I think of Mexican food, I think about authentic Mexican street food. Although I am far from being Mexican (Hungarian, Italian and Finnish), I have developed a bit of an obsession for Mexican cuisine. My grandparents used to winter in Santé Fe, New Mexico. When they would return home, they couldn’t wait to share all of their culinary experiences with me. This introduced me to modern New Mexican cuisine and from there I naturally started exploring all of the culinary wonders of Mexico.
Since then, my spice cupboard has become ever so complex with a variety of ground and dried chiles, epazote, Mexican cinnamons, and cumin (yes, I frequent Penzeys spices and may have a spice hording problem). Anyways, I am pleased to share with you some of my favorite Mexican comfort foods and hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Although they may seem complex, these dishes are actually simple to prepare. Just the way your Mexican grandmother would have made them (yes, you have one… somewhere out there). On a side note, I am in need of a Jewish grandmother, so if you have a nice one I can barrow and that happens to know what kreplach are, I am willing to adopt.
As an amuse-bouche (appetizer) for our Mexican inspired meal, I thought I would share a yummy snack. This one is SIMPLE to make, tastes great, looks even better, is great for cooking on a budget, and will wake your taste buds up for the main course.
Drum roll please… may I present Jicama with Chile &Lemon.
The Jicama is also known as a “Mexican potato”… a name, which does not do it justice. Perhaps I should start a movement and call it the “Mexican Love Apple.” This thing, this simple root (bulb), has a complex floral taste, is very starchy, crisp and sweet. It is anything but a potato. Its starchy goodness and refreshing taste are only amplified with the umami factor of ancho chile and a bit of lemon.
This appetizer is great for hot summer days, as there is no dairy to spoil and it is great served chilled or at room temperature. I am confident you and your guests (if you save any for them) will keep coming back for more! Words of caution though… if your grocery store only has Jicamas coated in wax, don’t buy them. I have found that these guys, who are usually lurking around in the winter months, have a strange fermented flavor and are just not worth it. Look for their non-waxed counterparts. The “au naturale” variety is in season and taste like warm Mexican sunshine.
1 large Jicama, peeled, and cut into ½ inch wide sticks
Ancho chile powder (you can also use plain chili power)
Grey Sea salt/fleur de sel/table salt
To peel the Jicama, think of it as a melon. Slice off the top and bottom ends, so you have a flat surface to work with. With a sharp knife (not a dull one that will slip off the Jicama and into your finger) simply follow the flesh just under the skin and peel the tough exterior off. I suppose you could also use a vegetable peeler, though this may be a bit more difficult.
Once you have your Jicama all peeled and clean, slice it into ½ inch slices. Then lay them flat and cut the slices into ½ inch sticks.
From here, simple stack them up, or sprawl them out on a platter. Give them a squirt of lemon (this will amp up the flavor as it hits the receptors of the tongue similar to salt), a light dusting of ancho chile powder, and a sprinkling of salt. You could also use a bit of cumin or cinnamon. I told you this dish is super easy!
Serve and enjoy!
Stay tuned for part dos where we venture into the wonderful world of Pazole Verde de Pollo…. Mmm.