Our amazing gardener has been introducing us to the edible delights of the property here in Atenas. I think he brings over new treasures in a way to return my friendly gestures. I offer him a glass of water with cucumber–he brings over lentil beans; I bring him a plate of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies–he drops off some ripe plantains. Today, after I gave him a cold glass of strawberry and banana juice, he was at our door minutes later, with a curious cluster in his hands.
After doing some research on wikipedia, I’ve learned that the cassava–or yuca, as Alfredo calls it–root is widely eaten in tropical countries. They are a great source of carbohydrates, and have provided nourishment when resources are low and there is a threat of famine. While it does not have much protein, Alfredo insisted that it makes you strong (while curling his bicep).
He saw me struggling to peel the hard shell of the yuca, and decided to take matters into his own hands. While Chris and I watched him peel, chop, and wash the white interior of the crop, we chatted back and forth about how it was to be cooked. We learned the word hervir for boil, and rico for delicious. Alfredo is a big fan of this side-dish.
Once the meat of the root was chopped and washed, he added a tablespoon of salt and boiled it in water for 10 minutes (while stepping out to hose the garden). Once the yuca was soft (or suave) enough to pierce easily with a fork, he sautéd it in olive oil, in a sartén (pan). Alfredo mentioned some aceite (oil) that I hadn’t heard of (flower oil, rose oil?) while I pushed an oil towards him that he didn’t recognize (olive!). Just a few minutes of sautéing, and they were finished!
I would describe the taste of the yuca as similar to a boiled potato, except saltier and mildly sweeter. I liked it. I think I actually prefer it to mashed potatoes. I served it with chicken (ran out of veggies), and it was a nice combination of tastes. Give it a try, if you’d like to find a new starch for la cena (dinner).