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Ensalada de Jicama
(Recipe from Authentic Mexican, Rick Bayless, Morrow © 1987 )

Jicama, the large, bulbous, woody-looking root vegetable, has something of a raw potato texture and a slightly sweet apple taste. And when it's one of the small (3/4 pound) fresh-dug variety that comes out in the fall, it needs nothing more than the street vendor's squeeze of lime and sprinkling of salt and hot chile powder. In West-Central Mexico, restaurants sometimes offer jicama prepared with orange and cilantro (pico de gallo), and everywhere in the Republic the street-side fruit salad sellers mix it with cantaloupe, watermelon, papaya and the like. The refreshing recipe that follows is from a street vendor in Merida, Yucatan; it goes well with other Yucatecan dishes like Stacked Tortillas with Shark and Tomato sauce or Chicken Pibil and White Rice.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
  • 1 small (1-pound) jicama, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup bitter orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 red-skinned apple, cored and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (optional)
  • 1/2 small cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (optional)
  • 3 tangerines, peeled, broken into sections and, if you wish, seeds cut out
  • About 2 Tablespoons fresh coriander, roughly chopped (cilantro)
  • Powdered dried chile, about 1 teaspoon
  • 2 or 3 small leaves romaine lettuce, for garnish
Marinating the jicama: Place the jicama in a large non-corrosive bowl, pour in the bitter orange juice and sprinkle with salt. Toss well, cover and let stand at room temperature for an hour or so.

Finishing the salad. About 15 minutes before serving, add the apple, cantaloupe, tangerines and fresh coriander to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Toss the mixture every few minutes until time to serve. Season with powdered chile, and add more salt and fresh coriander, if desired. Toss one final time and scoop the salad into serving dish lined with romaine lettuce.

Cook's Notes

Jicama: If none is available, you can make a nice salad (though one that lacks the gentle sweetness and open crunchy texture) by substituting small fresh turnips and/or daikon radish.

Powdered Dried Chile: Jicama gets sprinkled with the fiery-hot powdered chile seco in Yucatan and chile de arbol most everywhere else. I like to use the less-hot powdered New Mexico or California chiles, then add a little cayenne to bring up the heat level.

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