I’ve been around the culinary scene for awhile, but once in a while I come across something I’ve never seen before.
We are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with a large Hispanic population, and the local produce markets are great. They feature a wide variety of fresh, inexpensive produce, as well as lots of different kinds of beans, rices and sauces.
They also have a lot of scary-looking produce, things like cactus leaves, prickly pear, and today’s featured vegetable, chayote squash.
At first, I was intimidated by this vegetable because it looks strange, sort of like a mutated green pear. But it’s hard, almost like a potato. It also comes in another variety that is covered with prickly spikes, but that’s a story for another day.
Always wanting to confront my fears, I did some internet research and discovered chayote (pronounced chy-YO-tee) squash is very similar to zucchini, yellow squash and other summer squashes. It is eaten both raw and cooked in most parts of the Americas, as well as Australia and New Zealand, and its flavor is mild and slightly sweet.
After downloading a recipe for Chayotes Rellenos al Queso, I returned to the produce market and bought a couple of the squash.
It turns out chayote squash are nothing to be afraid of. In fact, they are quite delicious. Their texture is firmer than zucchini, but when it is cooked it would be difficult to tell the difference in a blind taste test.
Lesson learned: A lot of times, fear is just the same thing as ignorance.
Unlike chiles rellenos, this recipe is baked, not battered and deep fried. Although I’m sure it would taste pretty great that way, too.
Chayotes Rellenos al Queso (Chayotes Stuffed with Cheese)
1 egg, beaten
3 chayote squash
1-1/2 cups bread crumbs
2-1/2 cups Muenster cheese, shredded
2 tsp garlic, crushed
1/4 cup scallions, sliced fine
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Fresh cracked black pepper
2 TBS unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1. Cut squashes in half. Put into pot and cover with cold water and about 1 tsp salt and put on the fire. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook about 10 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water to stop the cooking process. This can be done a day or more ahead of time.
2. Preheat oven to 425F. Use an ice cream scoop or tablespoon to scrape the meat and seed out of the squash, leaving about 1/4 inch around the perimeter. I discarded the single, disc-shaped seed, but it is completely edible and you can use it if you want. Chop the the squash fine. In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped squash with 1 cup of the bread crumbs, 2 cups of the cheese, egg, garlic, pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Use a tablespoon to stuff each of the squash halves with the squash mixture, using your hands to pack it down firm. Spray a sheet pan with pan spray and lay out the stuffed squash. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese with the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs and sprinkle it over the peppers. Top each squash half with the dabs of the butter and the grated parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes. Garnish with sliced scallions.
Have you ever overcome your fear about cooking a certain food? Share your experience in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!