Cucumber Jicama: The Odd Couple
Jicama is highly favored in Mexico and enhances dishes featuring cucumbers, especially those with a sweet-and-sour note. Some people cook jicama, substituting it for water chestnuts in Chinese dishes, while certain French recipes call for braising cucumbers.
To assist you in making the perfect cucumber jicama combination, here are a few essential tips:
- Choose cucumbers that are firm and unblemished. Check the ends to be sure they have not softened. Thin cucumbers will not have many seeds. Avoid those that are turning yellow. Cucumbers at that stage can be mushy.
- Keep cucumbers in the refrigerator in a plastic bag in which you have made a few holes. Try not to pile them one on top of another.
- Peeling most cucumbers is optional, unless waxed.
- Choose jicama with smooth skin and no blemishes or soft spots. Avoid those with wrinkled skin they are beginning to dry out.
- Store jicama as you would store onions in a well-ventilated place at room temperature. While ones keep about one week in warm weather, longer when the weather is cool. Put cut jicama in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will keep about five days.
- The easiest way to prepare a jicama is to cut it in half with a study knife before peeling it. If the jicama is large cut off as much as you want and peel that piece.
- For peeling jicama, a sturdy knife is easier to use than a vegetable peeler. Simply cut a wedge out of the jicama and slice off the peel, cutting downward toward the board. Under the skin, a thin fibrous layer is lighter in color than the peel. If it does not come off when you remove the outer peel, cut it off.
- Like cucumber, jicama can be grated, sliced, diced or cut into sticks.
Cucumber Jicama Recipes
Following are a few recipes for this unusual, but tasty combination.
Cucumber Jicama and Pepper Salad with Green Olives
This goes well with broiled salmon steaks or grilled lamb chops. For the best results, use Mediterranean olives.
4 pickling or one hothouse cucumber, cut in sticks about 1/4 by 1/4 by 2-inches (about 4 cups)
1 pound jicama, peeled, cut into sticks 3/8 by 3/8 by 2-inches (about 4 cups)
2 small red, yellow, orange or green bell peppers, cut into 1/4 by 2-inch strips (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried
Combine cucumber jicama, pepper strips and olives in large shallow serving bowl. Mix gently. In a small bowl, whisk oil with vinegar and salt and cayenne to taste. Add to salad and mix. Add cilantro and mint and toss lightly. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.
Mediterranean-Inspired Cucumber Jicama and Orange Salad
Spiked with black olives, cumin and cayenne, this salad goes well as an appetizer before grilled chicken and couscous.
4 small pickling cucumbers (about 3/4 pound)
1 jicama (3/4 pound)
2/3 cup black olives, pitted
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and black pepper
2 navel oranges, peeled
Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise, then slice halves into 1/4-inch slices. Halve jicama from top to bottom and cut off peel. Put each half-cut side down on cutting board and cut each half in half through its equator. Cut pieces into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Cut largest slices in half so they are roughly the size of the cucumber-slices. You will need 2-2/3 to 3 cups.
Mix jicama, cucumbers and olives in shallow bowl. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, cumin, and whisk to blend. Season to taste with pepper, salt and cayenne. Add dressing to salad and mix lightly.
Trim excess pith from oranges. Halve oranges from top to bottom. Set cut sides down on cutting board and cut in crosswise slices about 1/4-inch thick. Cut each slice in half, removing any pits. Gently mix orange pieces into salad. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve cold.
Cucumber Jicama Salad with Yogurt, Pistachios and Raisins
Toasted pistachios and raisins lend a festive look to this Middle Eastern salad. Goat’s milk yogurt gives the salad an intriguing tang but cow’s milk yogurt is very good, too. Use all yogurts or a combination of yogurt and sour cream of any degree of richness to make the creamy dressing as luscious or as lean as you like. If your raisins are too dry, soak them in hot water for a few minutes to soften, then drain them.
1-1/2 cup coarsely grated peeled cucumbers
1 cup plain yogurt
1-1/2 cup coarsely grated peeled jicama
3 tablespoons chopped green onions, green and white parts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (divided)
1/3-cup moist raisins (divided)
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped (divided)
Salt and pepper
Drain grated cucumbers in strainer for 5 minutes. If there is water in yogurt, pour it out. Lightly mix cucumbers with jicama, green onions and dill, using fork. Reserve 1-tablespoon parsley, 2-tablespoons raisins and 2-tablespoons pistachios for garnish. Gently stir remaining parsley, raisins and pistachios into vegetable mixture. Lightly stir in yogurt. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve cold in shallow bowl. At serving time, sprinkle salad with reserved parsley, raisins and pistachios.
Israeli Salad, California Style
This salad tastes best with its traditional dressing of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. You can get by with little dressing or none at all. This salad is at its best if you cut the cucumbers, jicama and tomatoes in small dice, preferable 3/8-inch but no larger than 1/2-inch.
3 pickling or Persian cucumbers or 2/3 hothouse cucumber, cut in 3/8-inch dice (about 2 cups)
1 piece jicama (1/2 pound), peeled, cut in 3/8-inch dice (about 2 cups)
5 ripe but firm plum tomatoes cut in 3/8-inch dice (about three cups)
6 tablespoons of chopped green onions white and green parts
2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Hot sauce or cayenne pepper – optional
Mix cucumbers, jicama, tomatoes and green onions in shallow bowl. Add oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature.