Trails of Memories and New Experiences

It’s weird the things that are emblazoned in our memories. I remember very clearly the first time I saw cut up jicama at a Whole Foods in San Francisco. Why is that memory so vivid and rich when I sometimes can’t remember things I did a few days ago? Perhaps it's the tactile nature of eating and the multiple senses it engages that leaves such vivid images in my mind. That's probably why there can be thousands of food blogs and we don't get tired of reading, looking at pictures and enjoying other people's experiences with food. Ok, back to San Francisco.
I saw a container of unidentifiable white cubes amongst the fresh cut fruits and veggies. The label said jicama and there was a lime sitting on top. The whole container cost less than $3 so I decided it was worth a try. When I got back to my computer I looked it up jicama on the Internet (have to find out that nutrition information to dose my insulin). FreshDirect’s web site has become my de facto source for food information and nutrition facts. Their description is great: “Jicama is all about crunch. Its flavor is slightly nutty and fruity, almost like an apple, but its real virtue is its light, juicy crispness. It resembles water chestnuts (for which it can substitute easily). You can boil jicama like a potato, but we prefer it raw. In Mexico, chilled jicama slices seasoned with chili powder, salt, and lime juice are a favorite cocktail snack.”

Since my first foray into the world of jicama in San Francisco I have been pleased to find it in dishes at Candle Café. Recently I decided to make a jicama appetizer for a dinner party. Because my local Whole Foods doesn’t have it pre-cut I had to find out what the root looks like and how to peel and chop the rather unwieldy thing. The first time around was definitely not easy. My Knife Skills 1 class at ICE did not prepare me for this. I’ve since become more adept, though I did have a small accident involving a dull chef’s knife, a jicama root and my fingernail. (It hasn’t kept me from integrating jicama into my diet on a much more regular basis.) I've had some trouble finding jicama at my "regular" grocery stores so you may need to go to a produce market or Whole Foods if your local market doesn't stock it.

Give these spicy chips a try, but unless you are knife skills master allow some time and extra jicama for practice.

Spicy Jicama Chips (from Donna Klein’s Gluten Free Vegetarian Kitchen)

1 large jicama (about 12 oz), peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/3 cup)
½ tablespoon gluten-free chili powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the jicama slices in a shallow nonreactive dish and add the lime juice; toss well to coat. Let marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature, tossing a few times. To serve, drain the jicama chips and transfer to a serving platter; sprinkle with the chili powder, salt and pepper.

I have also tried these with just a dash of cayenne. For you spice lovers, it really ratchets up the heat.

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