A Chayote by any other name…

…is a Pataste. When I found some on sale last week, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. A very light, simple, straightforward tasting soup.  Almost like what Mima makes, but completely different. But she is still to blame for this soup.  If she hadn’t given me chayote last year, twenty chayote that sat in our fridge for weeks, I would have never discovered this bit of incredible.  Mima’s soups always had chunks of chayote, and all sorts of veggies and meats mixed in unexpected, and delicious, combinations.  And there didn’t seem a chance that I could recreate one, so I tried this recipe.  And liked it.  And my roommates liked it.  And I made it again yesterday. With only five chayote this time.  And they stacked quite nicely in little mason jars waiting to cool off.  Maybe the marinating Cornish hens should have been cropped out. … …next time.

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Before I give you the tasty recipe, I have to say  bit more about grandma, or Mima as we call her. I love Mima. Aside from being her own whirlwind of wisdom and opinions, she really likes to talk with me about –and give me- food. Last summer, I spent an awesome week with her and Grampa (yup, he’s just Grampa), and we talked about pataste. Related to soup? Yes. Pataste is what Mima (& a lot of Central Americans) call the light green form of a fun fruit that sits innocuously in many supermarkets’ produce stands, and what to me was previously a boring chayote. Mima told me all about it’s growing conditions, different varieties, what she tosses it into, all sorts of jazz. I remember that growing up, mom would buy a few on impulse, halve ’em and stuff them with something tasty. But the chayote seemed to be just tasteless filler, not bad, memorable mainly because Mom was so excited about them. And until I was talking with Mima about it, I never realized that the much tastier version she put in her soups was the exact same. Somehow, soup makes chayote better. Or maybe Mima makes chayote better.  We talked about a lot of other things, and at the end of the week I was shocked by the massive amount of chayote she gave me. Without a single actual recipe, Mima sent me home with bags of the stuff and memories of conversations.

After they sat for a while, I tasted one. You’d be surprised at the crisp, clean taste of slightly nutty, honey-kissed-pears, I sure was. Turns out, chayote is actually pretty decent chilled, peeled & raw. Even better as soup like Mima makes it. But until I can faithfully reproduce hers, or you get to visit some day, try this one.

The Soup

First you have to peel the chayote. I don’t normally like wearing latex gloves to do things, but every time I start peeling them, I wish I remembered to put some on. Raw chayote gives off a strange, slippery sap that dries out my hands and leaves them scaly for a couple of hours. So grab some gloves. Or rinse often.

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After you admire how innocent and dew covered they look, you can cut them in half and take out the flat, fleshy seed from the middle.  I think it actually tastes good and isn’t worth the effort, so I just started chopping the whole thing.  Having some bacon from breakfast still on the cutting board helps too, rounds out the flavor.  And then we dice some garlic, green onion (scallions), my last jalapeño, and a bunch of unrinsed cilantro. Who thinks of rinsing things until after they’ve started chopping?

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Once everything is sprawled out in little piles, the onions and jalapeno get sautéed with a bit of butter.  *there is actually more chayote out of the picture, but I was going for a mise en place picture, and a second pile of chayote just seemed strange.  And showed just how crowded the counter was*

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Then some cilantro and the chayote get thrown in. Sauté, sauté, and sauté till you realize the whimsy of the word.

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Then, when you decide that sautéing may actually not be that much fun, add water and chicken bouillon and cover. Or use homemade chicken broth if you have some. I did once, and my friends got furious when my roommate dared to spill the finished soup all over the kitchen floor. They were ready to hang somebody. It was that good. Their fury had nothing to do with the mess, of course.  Or use plain salt –or Adobo!- for a vegetarian friendly version.  Here’s the next, very difficult part. Everything so far should have taken less than half an hour. Now it has to simmer for 15-25 minutes. All by itself.

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You can’t help it. You can stir it, but that’s it. It just sits there, covered. Eventually, it gets to cool, and then go through the blender with the rest of the cilantro in a few batches that should not be allowed to explode and cover the kitchen. So do small batches of chayote, blend, add some liquid, blend, new batch.

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Don’t make unnecessary messes – especially if there’s no nice friend offering to clean.

For some odd reason, I really enjoy this particular soup after its chilled. It’s the only soup I’ve tried chilled, and normally I don’t even like the idea of cold soup, but this one works nicely hot or cold.

If you need a cut and dry recipe, here’s what I used yesterday:

Chayote Soup – adapted from Epicurious.com http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chayote-Soup-107958

· 5 chayote – I’ll go with 6 next time

· 1 tbsp buttr

· 3 cloves garlic

· 4 scallions

· 1 jalapeño

· bunch of cilantro, rinsed & chopped

· chicken bouillon

· 1.75 cups water, but I’ll go with 1.5 next time, or add another chayote

-Peel & halve chayote. Remove seed if desired, then chop roughly & set aside.

-Chop garlic, green onions and jalapeño, then sauté them with the butter in a large sauce pan 2-3 minutes.

-Add the chayote and half the cilantro and sauté 5 more minutes. Sprinkle some bouillon, add the water, and simmer, covered for 15-25 minutes.

Once the chayote are nice and soft, remove from heat, cool slightly, then blend in small batches. Include more bouillon and the remaining cilantro to taste. Serve and enjoy. Or chill and enjoy. Or chill, pack with lunch for tomorrow and enjoy.

Yeild: 6 or 7 cups.  Placed in 1 cup jars, lead to several servings as a side dish for my lunches, and several –healthy- snacks

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4 responses to “A Chayote by any other name…

  1. interesting

  2. Wow, woW, I was blessed with unlimited access to this epicurean delight …. to my surprise I enjoyed this decadent elixer as a hot and cold soup. I consider it divine and many kudos for your presentation. I awaite your next creation.

    • I actually thought that was a spam comment at first. “Who in their right mind would go on that much about something they saw online?” Then I realized. Love ya.

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