Monday Meal Review: Guinea and Guinea-Bissau

THE SCENE:

I cut into the yucca root, first trimming the ends, then cracking it down the middle. Instead of revealing creamy white flesh, the yucca was speckled and streaked with brown. Rotten.  I grabbed the peeler and stripped off the thick skin, exposing even more bruised flesh.

Why I peeled that rotten yucca, I cannot tell you, but when I was done, I dutifully cut it into thick sticks and placed them in a pretty pile. I then pushed the pile straight into the trash.

Darn yucca. Mocking me again.

I looked over at the second and final yucca root, eying the waxy brown skin. It looked exactly the same as the first – no outer signs of distress.  No signs of rot.

I took a deep breath and cut one end open, swearing I would never ever make another yucca dish if this one wasn’t any good. At the very least I wouldn’t make another yucca dish that day – I had no way to get to the supermarket.

As I cracked the knife away from the yucca I glanced under the cut – pure, snow white, creamy yucca. I cut the other end. Just as good. I sliced it down the middle. Perfection. Not ready to do a happy dance just yet, I boiled the yucca, waiting for it to fall apart. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Nothing bad happened. It did beautifully. A few slices were a bit big, but I just trimmed them.

After the last of the steam billowed out of the hot yucca they were good and dry. I heated the oil until it shimmered and slid a few yucca in, watching them sizzle.

I waited. And waited. They didn’t turn color. They stayed pale.

I knew it, I murmured. ready to throw the entire batch in the trash.

Just then an inkling of golden color emerged, like first beam of light at sunrise. Gorgeous.

When the last one turned golden, I fished them out, drained them, salted them and stared. I could barely bring myself to eat one.

So far so good.

I took a bite and thought with surprise, this is not yucca. Not yucca at all.

THE FOOD

Papaya and orange rind chutney [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

The sweet, slightly bitter flavor is totally addictive. I spooned heaps of this onto my toast with zero regret. Even Mr Picky liked it, although Miss Ava turned her nose up after one taste.

What I liked least about this dish:

I wish the chutney would have set up more like a jam (that was my original intent). The natural pectin in the orange rind set it up a little, but I think much more would be needed to give it the texture I desired. Still, as a chutney it was perfectly delicious.

Yucca Chips [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Set off the fireworks. I made something tasty with yucca. Finally.

I’m not sure if you were aware, but yucca can be pronounced one of two ways, depending on where you are from. Yuck-a or You-ka. For those of you who know my struggles with this troublesome tuber, you’ll understand when I say I pronounced in yuck-a. Well, today is the day I can call it you-ka. This is a mighty fine treat.

What I liked least about this dish:

Just make sure the yucca isn’t rotten. Check for soft spots and even strange, molding spots. They are usually fresher at Latino markets because the turnover is high. Also, be sure that the yucca is totally dry when you go to fry it, or you’ll be at risk of some nasty oil spatters.

Jollof (West African Rice with Veggies) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

I love the combination of rice and cabbage, with the slight hint of spicy cayenne and earthy cinnamon. This was also the first time Ava’s gobbled up peas since last year. Another excuse for fireworks!

What I liked least about this dish:

Mr Picky lived up to his name, whispering (so Ava couldn’t hear) that it tasted funny. He is still not used to savory foods with cinnamon – something so common in other parts of the world.

Portuguese Cinnamon Cookie (Raivas) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

It was fun making the squiggly shapes and the dough was easy to work with. Great to dip into tea and coffee.

What I liked least about this dish:

A little plain to be called a cookie for Mr Picky, but he ate it up when I called it cinnamon bread. Go figure.

Ava’s Corner

How do I get Miss Ava (almost 2 years old now) to try food from around the world? ♥ I ask. I beg. I use silly voices. I cheer & clap when she eats. I act the fool. More importantly: She helps me in the kitchen and garden. Being a part of the process makes her curious and receptive. And, then, sometimes – when none of that works – just trying again later is the best solution.

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Comments

  1. That happened to me when I tried to make the Oil Down. The yucca looked ok, but then I cut into it and it was all black inside. I don’t even know how to tell if a yucca is good.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      It’s known to spoil fast, so get it from a place with high turnover. Also, sometimes, if you look close, you’ll see soft spots and even a bit of white fungus/mold growing on the spots. Those ones have definitely been around too long. In general I’d say you should buy it the day or the day before you need it.

  2. Collette Lemons says:

    I would not mind trying the yucca fries and see if my Mr. Picky would give them a go. What store did you go to to buy them?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      The ones at the supermercado morelos near I-44 and Peoria looked really good (a new latino market that I really like in the plaza across from Braum’s). You can also get them at Whole Foods. They might even be at Wal-mart…. Oklahoma eats enough that I think it’s fairly common. Good luck – let me know how you like them :)

  3. Jessica Bennett says:

    I don’t think not liking to eat things is her problem since she clearly enjoyed the dish later (although I’m sure there are things she doesn’t like). I think she’s just deciding what she wants to do and when and seeing what she can and can’t get away with. She’s asserting her independence. The rice sounds delicious, by the way. Cinnamon does sound like a taste to get used to in a savory dish like that though. From the video, you couldn’t tell Mr. Picky didn’t enjoy it.

  4. Too adorable!! She is so adorable!! The fries, the cookies – I’m drooling!

  5. Hi Sasha:

    I have a friend with the same cinnamon problem as Mr. Picky. I hear over and over, “Cinnamon is a sweet spice.”

    Nice post! – I like the yucca drama, and can relate to it. The East Asian market is 20+ miles away, so when something isn’t good , or a I run out – it is a schlep to go get more.

    Laura

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Laura, 20+ miles is quite the hike… I suppose it makes for better planning, though. Yucca is very common here, in Oklahoma, but the quality varies so much. As for the cinnamon, I hope he’ll be used to it by the time we’re done with this Adventure – he has 2.5 years to go. I find it a refreshing change of pace from my norm, actually. – Sasha

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