Spring is an in-between time of year for salads. There are two seasonal additions to salad that I love to use—jicama and celery root (celeriac). Jicama, which is pronounced ‘hick-a-ma,’ is a root vegetable native to Central America and related to the sweet potato. They are about the size of a large yellow turnip and weigh half a pound on average.
The root vegetable goes by other names like Mexican potato, yam bean root, and Mexican water chestnut. The taste is often compared to apples, cucumber, water chestnuts and potatoes. It offers a unique delicious crunch, enhancing any salad. It can be cut up in fruit or green salads, stir-fried with meat or seafood, stewed like potatoes or sauteed with other vegetables.
A popular way to prepare and serve it is also my favorite snack. I cut jicama into thin strips and toss with the juice of one lime, then sprinkle with chipotle or other hot chili powder, letting the flavors get acquainted for a short time before eating.
Celery root, or celeriac, is a knobby root, which needs to be pared and cooked until tender to the center. Boil or steam with a little lemon juice to keep it from oxidizing, remove and put in ice water, then chill. It has a more definite flavor than jicama. It does taste like celery, yet very subtle and can even be combined with jicama in a salad for an interesting mix with colorful bell peppers. It is good plain and cut up with a light vinaigrette dressing too.
Super Jicama Slaw
1 carrot, shredded
3 cups cabbage, shredded
1-1/2 cups jicama, peeled and cut in small thin strips
2 scallions, sliced thin
Combine all in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground red pepper
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
Combine the dressing ingredients in a glass jar with a lid, cover and shake well. Pour over cabbage mixture and toss lightly. Cover and chill for at least two hours or overnight in the fridge.
Celery Root Salad
2 fat celery roots, trimmed and cut in julienne strips about 3 cups total
¼ cup good olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fine chopped sweet onion
1 or 2 dashes of pepper
Boil celery root for 4 to 5 minutes, no more. Drain. Put oil, vinegar, dill, salt and pepper in a jar with a cover and shake well. Chill celery root, then pour dressing over and chill again until serving.
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for over 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with them and her husband in Madison, Connecticut.