An enormous array of fresh exotic vegetables and fruits is something I've become accustomed to seeing in the big city supermarkets and ethnic grocery stores, but it's something that would have astonished me as a girl growing up in a small northern Ontario town where dinner produce consisted mostly of potatoes, onions, carrots, corn and peas with brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower occasionally making their appearance on the supper plate.
I like to take advantage of the abundance to be found in my urban centre and test produce that is completely new to me. I've discovered the delights of bottle gourds, bitter melons, mustard greens and plantains this way, and the exercise adds adventure to the kitchen and the dining experience.
This time around I've added a chayote to the basket and come up with a lightly spiced white rice dish to serve as a backdrop for it. Pronounced "chi-YOH-tee", the chayote or custard marrow is the fruit of a squash plant native to central America that looks like a green apple with a large wrinkled pleat tucked in at one end, with a firm white crispy and juicy flesh like an apple and a mild and slightly sweet flavor that resembles the tastes of apples, cucumber and summer squash. The chayote is widely used in Latin America and in the American South, where it is known as a mirliton or merleton. It's also used occasionally in India where it goes under the charming name of "chow chow" and where it's mild flavor makes it a perfect vehicle for the characteristic assertive spicing of Indian food.
Although paired here with cumin, coriander, cloves and cayenne, this chayote rice is really quite mild and serves as a delicious and palate-soothing accompaniment to a hot and zesty curry. Tender pieces of lightly cooked chayote add wonderful bursts of crisp, juicy and refreshing light sweetness that make a wonderful contrast in flavor and texture to the soft buttery rice and astringent spices. This is really a lovely dish to add to any Indian meal, and I quite plan to use chayote again soon … possibly just simmered in a little milk or cream with cinnamon and nutmeg for a simple palate-cleansing dessert.
The recipe below includes instructions for opening a chayote and removing its single seed. I must note that it's considered by some people desirable to peel a chayote with kitchen gloves or under running water to avoid an irritating stickiness from the raw vegetable (a stickiness that disappears when cooked), but I was not bothered myself. When buying a chayote, look for one that is firm but not too hard and with an unblemished skin.
|Indian-Spiced Chayote (Chow Chow) Rice|
|Recipe by Lisa Turner|
Published on April 26, 2013
Simple and lightly spiced basmati rice with tender pieces of crisp and juicy chayote — a great side for a spicy curry
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