underground tuber pronounced (HEE-ka-mah) grows on a plant that also produces
a poisonous legume - pea pods. There are two primary varieties, one that
originated in Mexico and the other in South America. Spanish traders brought
it to Asia in the 17th century where it flourished. Today, it is primarily
enjoyed in Southwestern restaurants, as chefs love the texture it brings
to recipes with its fabulous crunch. Because of the proliferation of Latin
and Asian communities nationwide, jicama is now readily available in most
Parents should take note that its inherent crunchiness, juiciness and
slightly sweet flavor offer tremendous appeal to children. At dinnertime,
when little ones are bored of snacking on the ubiquitous carrot, why not
let them explore this fascinating looking vegetable? My youngest has been
known to keep focused for 20 minutes on the task of peeling a chunk of
jicama. While it can be awkward to hold, if you cut it into 'building
block' shapes of rectangles and triangles, kids can easily peel the outer
sides one by one with a vegetable peeler while you are close at hand supervising.
Because it's so subtly flavored, my favorite way to use jicama is as a
tasting device for kids. Once they agree that they like its subtle taste,
you can set them on a quest to find jicama's most delicious accompaniments.
While you're cooking, offer long fingers of raw jicama (cut like long
French fries) for your child to dip into various sauces, soups, dips,
etc. (If you store it this way, it will keep for about one week wrapped
tightly in plastic or in a plastic container.) Start this with your child's
favorite foods. Rather than use a spoon to 'taste' your spaghetti sauce,
let them dip the jicama into it. The hot sauce will cool more quickly
for a taste than when it's on a spoon as well.
you have had success with foods they like to taste, it's time to use it
to entice your child to taste new foods you want them to try. The jicama
trick will make it more fun, especially if you're asking their opinion
about what foods taste good with jicama. There are so many foods that
would taste delicious when tasted with a jicama stick:
types of soups
types of pasta sauces
for meat or fish
tend to be pretty fussy about these things, so the jicama trick can be
a welcome strategy for encouraging kids to taste something new. Here is
my family's favorite jicama recipe. Since it absorbs the vibrant flavors
of Asian and Latin cuisine, adding jicama to recipes will provide a crunchy
addition with textural fun to simple meals.
Avocado, Crab and Rice Salad
Adapted from Lynn Fredericks
1 cup water
cup rice (Japanese sushi rice or regular medium-grain rice)
very ripe avocado
artificial crab sticks
ounces jicama (about 1/4-1/3 typical sized jicama)
Tablespoon mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
teaspoon rice vinegar
teaspoon sesame seeds
your child measure the rice and water and pour them into a saucepan. Heat
the rice and cook on low heat until the water is absorbed. (If you are
not using Japanese rice, you may need to add more water).
While the rice is cooking, have the children help you peel the avocado.
With a table knife, even small children can help you slice and chop the
avocado into small pieces. Place in a medium salad bowl.
The children can also help you cut up each crab 'stick' into 5-6 small
pieces and add to the bowl. Then they can help peel the jicama. If you
are working with very small children (under 8 years), the adult should
slice the jicama into small matchstick shapes or tiny dice.
When the rice is cooked, turn it into a bowl to cool. When just slightly
warm, add the seasonings and mix. Then add rice to the bowl with crab
and vegetables. Adjust seasoning, adding some salt if necessary. Just
before serving, sprinkle the sesame seeds over the salad. It's a great
side dish for Asian marinated flank steak, pork or shrimp.
Jicama, jicama, jicama how many times can you say it in a row?
While trying, check out these jicama recipes from other Star Chefs, keep
kids in mind and give them tasks you know they can do safely!
Check out other
recipes that bring the whole family together:
Cooking Time is Family Time: Cooking Together,
Eating Together, and Spending Time Together
by Lynn Fredericks, William Morrow & Co., August, 1999
COOKING TIME IS FAMILY TIME, Lynn Fredericks shows people how they
can improve the time they spend with kids by inviting them into
the kitchen to help prepare meals.
Included are 125 recipes emphasizing a variety of fresh, healthful
ingredients and strategies to get kids to gobble them down. Each
recipe offers directions that specify which steps are right for
younger kids and which are more challenging for their older siblings.