Summer Salad: Jícama, Cucumber with Chile Serrano Dressing
You can feature these crisp vegetables as a buffet dish, or you can plate them as a first course for dinner. (Recipe is from Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage In Recipes.)
As a Mexican-American family, we ate lots of vegetables, many of them raw, and what we ate depended on the season. We enjoyed a bite or bites at all times throughout the day, because our kitchen always had crisp vegetables on the table, peeled, accompanied by some chile and lime.
This dish is inspired by my ama’s kitchen table plate of fresh, crispy vegetables, citrus, and chiles. For a twist, I add a touch of yerbaniz or pericón, an aromatic herb native to Mexico and common here in Texas. It has medicinal qualities, taken as a restorative tea.
Sometimes called anise blossom or Mexican tarragon, be sure to use just a touch, as indicated in the recipe. If you use more, it will completely overpower all the other flavors, which is not desirable. I have noted in the recipe that it is optional. If you are unable to find the herb, the salad will still be wonderfully bright and refreshing.
Recipe (Serves 4 as a first course)
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 1/4-inch by 1-inch sticks
1 cup jícama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup radishes, each radish cut into six very small wedges
1/2 teaspoon serrano chile, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon yerbaniz a.k.a. anise blossom (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1. In a molcajete, make a smooth paste with the serrano chile and salt, and then add the olive oil and blend together. Add the lime juice and whisk to emulsify. Set aside.
2. Place all sticks, cubes, and wedges in a bowl, add the molcajete dressing, and combine. Chill for 30 minutes, and then fold in barely 1/8 teaspoon finely minced yerbaniz.
It’s ready to serve. You can also serve it with some lettuce as a composed salad.
And in our Texas heat, it is a nutritious, cooling restorative.