Here’s an exciting appetizer or side dish for you…. It’s not exactly a fall dish per se, but it is oh so good! Cassava can be easily found at most mainstream grocery stores or health food stores. It’s a slim, light brown, wooden-like root. It’s kind of shaped like a carrot, but triple the size.
This nutritious root goes by many names, and I mean many. It’s a common staple in a myriad of cultures but because of the “name game”, so many of us are talking about the exact same plant without knowing it. Yuca, cassava, Brazilian arrowroot etc. Yep, all the same thing… This delicious plant originated in South America where it was a key staple to native diets. When the Old World (AKA Europe) stumbled across the American continent while trying to find the closest route to China, cassava exploded onto the global stage. It’s now even popular all the way to Southeast Asia; where a wide variety of desserts are prepared using this versatile root.
It tastes a bit like potatoes, but with a more earthy, root-like feel. I grew up eating fried cassava as a healthier alternative to fries or a pile of white rice. If you follow a paleo or grain free diet, cassava is a wonderful alternative and a far healthier starch. To make it even healthier- you may boil it and season it. But if (like me) you are intent on frying it- you could use coconut oil. If the oil is deodorized, you won’t even smell or taste the coconut.
I like to top this wonderful dish with a mountain of chirmol, also known as “pico de gallo”, or “salsa”. I found the most amazing organic tomatoes during a farm visit this week and they will be perfect for this salsa. You bet I’ll be making this on Friday night. But not just any salsa, homemade, incredibly fresh, real-deal & real simple type-stuff. Trust me, you will make this more than once! And it’s oh so easy.
For the Cassava:
- 3 tablespoons of coconut oil for every cassava root (a single, long root). I usually fry 2-3 cassava roots at once and this is generally enough for 4 servings.
- Sea Salt
- I always peel off the brown skin and wash it with abundant water both before & after the peel.
- Fill a medium sized pot with water and bring it to a boil
- Cut the cassava into chunks or slices & throw them into the pot. Boil for 10 minutes, don’t let it get too soft.
- Put it in a colander and allow it to drain & dry up for about 2-3 minutes
- Bring a saucepan to medium to high heat and add the first 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides. I like mine with a crispy exterior and a tender interior.
For the Pico de Gallo:
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 small white onion
- a handful of cilantro
- fresh limes (usually 1 or 2)
- sea salt
Finely chop the first three ingredients & season with limes & sea salt to taste. I like to add a few drops of Tabasco to the finished product for a nice little kick.