Perhaps you too have noticed an odd, pale green, oblong is-it-a-fruit is-it-a-vegetable in your market and wondered what the heck it was, or what you could make with it. Actually I’ve known the name of it for a while—chayote; one sees them often in Mexican markets out here, and Whole Foods carries them. But it wasn’t until a friend thrust one into my hand with the challenge “it’s good, I’d love to see what you make with it” that I actually set out to cook one.
Chayotes, also known as “vegetable pears”, are related to zucchini, cucumber, and melons, and in a way, taste like a combination of all three. They are a staple of Mexico and Costa Rica, are high in vitamin C, low in calories, and are a good source of fiber. They can be eaten raw, or cooked, and like zucchini, fried, baked, broiled, sautéed, steamed, or mashed. The following recipe is based off of one from Diana Kennedy, who so often comes to the rescue when one is contemplating a Mexican ingredient. The dish reminds me of my mother’s summer zucchini, which is sautéed with onions and tomatoes, and served with cheese melted in. And like zucchini, the mild chayote is a lovely backdrop for the more flavorful ingredients.
Do you have a favorite chayote recipe? If so, please let us know about it in the comments.
- 1 pound chayotes
- 6 ounces of roasted tomatoes (can use canned fire roasted tomatoes, or roast whole tomatoes on stovetop or under broiler until skin begins to blacken, do not remove skin but process whole)
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp chopped onion
- 1 large green Anaheim chile (stem and seeds removed and discarded), chopped
- Pinch red chile pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup water
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup finely grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 The peel is tough and inedible when cooked, so peel the chayotes completely. (This may take a little doing, as the folds in the chayotes can make it difficult.) Cut the chayotes into 1/4-inch wide, 2 inch long julienned strips, including the core.
2 Purée the roasted tomatoes and the garlic in a blender, set aside.
3 Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and green chiles. Cook on medium heat until just soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato mixture, red chile flakes, and continue to cook 3 minutes more. Add the chayote, water, and salt to taste. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro and cook for 5 minutes more. The chayote should be just tender, moist but not watery.
4 Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.