Chayote, not to be confused with Peyote
It all begins with Chayote, or Xuxu, as the recipe calls it on Epicurious.com.
A few months ago, I was walking through the “No Frills” grocery store with my kids as I do every week, when my young daughter pointed at a green vegetable and asked, “What’s that?” If you’re not familiar with the chain of grocery stores where I was, you may be thinking I’m about to tell a cute story about a little 2-year-old girl who wanted to know what a zucchini was, but if, instead, you have a better understanding of the diverse, hodgepodge of a discount grocery store I’m talking about, your expectations may have taken you somewhere different – you might be able to guess that my daughter is slightly older, and that she had chosen a vegetable (fruit?) that left me without an answer to her question.
Instead of just reading the sign and telling her, “chayote,” which naturally would have made her ask, “what’s that?” once again, I said, “I don’t know,” and tried to move on. She wasn’t willing to give up, and asked, “Well can we buy one?”
I was in a rush, and I wanted to get out of there. The store doesn’t really pride itself on offering a heartwarming, indulgent shopping experience – you go because it’s cheap, and you get out as quickly as you can. I knew that a single vegetable that was the size and shape of a large pear couldn’t be very expensive, so I said, “Sure,” and threw one into the cart. I decided I would take it home and google it to see how to eat it, and that we would all have fun experimenting with something new. I got home, unpacked the groceries, and threw it into the metal veggie bowl thingy that sits on our counter, which was where I watched the mystery veg/fruit rot for two weeks while I cooked things I was more familiar with. Even a broken-english compliment from our beloved Brazilian housecleaner (“You eat? Good!”) couldn’t make me figure out how to eat it.
But the chayote refused to give up. It chased me. One day a few weeks after I had thrown it out, I was craving shrimp and had a big bag of them in the freezer. I am a person who rarely cooks the same meal twice, because I enjoy food, and also because I have a bad memory. I might have made a fantastic shrimp linguine three weeks ago that a party of ten raved about (unlikely, too much fussing to cook that for a dinner party in my opinion, but it’s just an example) but unless I had really loved it and recorded it in my “classics” album, I would be likely to forget about it and just google something new when I wanted shrimp again. I cook almost entirely on whims and Internet recipe intuition, and it generally works out, and keeps me cooking new dishes all the time.
So I was going through my psychic assessment of shrimp recipes on epicurious.com when I saw one called, “Xuxu and shrimp with chile and lemon.” For some reason I opened it and found that xuxu was the Brazilian name for chayote. I decided that finding that weird veggie twice was too much of a coincidence, so I bought a new one and cooked it. It was delicious! Even my skeptical husband, who calls any saucy food he can’t identify “slohrr,” said that the slohrr was good. The recipe had a very fresh flavour and the chayote added great texture.
Very soon after, I realized that there are many foods in grocery stores that I don’t recognize, and so I decided to experiment regularly and share with others. This blog had been born!
Now this first entry is getting too long, so I’m going to wrap up, and write “part II” of the story describing my goals and guidelines for what I’m doing in an “about us,” part of the site. I’ll finish with what will become tradition for each new blog entry, which is to describe a food that was previously unknown to me, include the recipe I used (which I will never have created myself, because I will have no idea how to cook these things), and evaluate what my husband and I thought of it. I almost always cook separately for my kids, because I like to eat and they don’t, so their opinions won’t be counted until they choose to expand their palates. Give it another 10 years or so, I guess. However, they actually did try the chayote, raw, and were surprisingly receptive to it.
New food: Chayote or Xuxu
How to eat: Peeled and pitted, although pit is edible. Raw or cooked
Taste: Raw, it tastes a bit like unripe melon. It’s crispy-juicy like a radish or cucumber, and kind of bland. Cooked it tastes more like a crispy zucchini to me, although it has a slight tang.
Recipe used: Xuxu and shrimp with chile and lemon
- 6 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup chopped white onion
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh jalapeño, including seeds
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 medium xuxu (chayote; about 1 3/4 pound total)
- 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 (14-ounces) jar or can hearts of palm, rinsed well, patted dry, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Overall Impression: Not bad. I don’t know if I’ll run out and try more recipes with it specifically because it was kind of bland, but I think that the recipe was great and will definitely cook it again. The chayote might offer variety in salads.
Rating: One Yum (the recipe deserves more, but I’m not convinced that the xuxu was the reason it was good)
Hey, just as an aside, don’t the bottoms of them look like an old man with no teeth? Or if you want to get nasty, doesn’t the other end look like a frog’s behind?