Monday, January 31, 2011

Ensalada de Chayote

The first time I remember eating chayote, was in a hospital in Mexico City. I was seventeen, and had been in an automobile accident, which I luckily escaped with only a broken nose. I don't know if I'd ever eaten a chayote before that point--I had lived in Mexico since age two, and had eaten a lot of Mexican dishes--who knows? Maybe one of them had a few chunks of the odd little pear-shaped squash in it. Hospitals served only very bland food, and chayote is a staple in the bland world. Apparently it's also highly nutritious, rich in amino acids and vitamin C.

It wasn't until a few years later that I began to notice chayotes secreted in salads, on tostadas, and in side dishes that I had probably been eating all my life without realizing the little stowaways were there. As a cook, I find it intriguing how a vegetable that has such an unassuming flavor profile can hold its own and even stand out in a complex, assertive dish--like this one I invented, for example. Even though chayote comprises only about a fifth at most of the total volume of this salad, it still manages to shine through all the other ingredients: grilled corn, celery, onion, roasted poblano chiles, avocado, garlic, tomatillos, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil.

I've made much simpler dishes with chayotes, some with only three or four ingredients, but I enjoy smothering them with wild, vibrant flavors that logically should overwhelm their blandness, just to see how their understated presence refuses to melt away. On the contrary, everything you throw at them only serves to make their subtle taste more pronounced.

No comments:

Post a Comment