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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yuca with Radish and Parmesan

I generally appreciate the large selection of Latin American foods my local Dominican-owned grocery store offers, but I have to admit that I am slightly wary of the ever-present crate of unidentifiable produce. I am a fairly adventurous food-lover, but I also subscribe to the belief that "ethnic" doesn't necessarily mean delicious, at least to the untrained tongue. There is such thing as an acquired taste, and I believe that aloe vera leaf might just be one.

So, I can't really blame K. for looking horrified when I produced this gnarled tree root from my shopping bag and announced that it was dinner. Yuca, also known as Cassava or Manioc, is not winning any beauty contests in its raw form. Thankfully, the dish ended so much prettier than it began

Yuca is not only a mildly sweet alternative to the potato, it is one fascinating form of foodstuff. This plant is what makes Bubble Tea bubbly, and is the third largest source of carbohydrates for humans on the planet. Tropical cultures the world over cook it sweet or savory, despite the fact that it is completely POISONOUS! Some varieties must be soaked and dried for as long as 5 days to get rid of the paralyzing neurotoxins. I would like to think that my man Fernando  (owner of Supreme) would not risk the health of his loyal customers by selling them poisonous roots! Based on the fact that I am still alive and functioning, I am led to believe that most varieties sold in the US are alright as long as you cook them.

Having never made Yuca before, I had no idea how it would behave. My initial idea was to cut it like thick french fries or potato wedges, but my wedges fell apart into neat little cubes after I boiled them. Oh well! Bite sized is the right size. Ghee is my cooking oil of choice these days, and I thought radish would go especially nice because they taste so good with butter.

Yuca with Radish and Parmesan

1 whole yuca root (I have no idea if frozen yuca would work in this, but presumably so!)
1/4 cup ghee
1/4 cup cooking oil
5-6 radishes, sliced thin
handful Parmesan
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch chopped parsley
zest of lemon
squeeze of lemon

Boil chopped yuca first to soften. Then, fry in ghee and vegetable oil mixture until golden. Set aside. Saute garlic for 30 seconds or so in remaining cooking fat and add in sliced radish. Let them brown a little bit, add in fried yuca and toss in Parmesan, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, and if you are not on a diet, melt a teaspoon of ghee on top. Stir in and enjoy!

I served this over orzo. It's a bit heavy on its own and I think would also be great over brown rice or couscous.

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