Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yuca: From Cuba with mojo

Original Title: Trust us, yuca tastes better than it looks

Chicago Sun Times

September 19, 2007

BY LISA DONOVAN Staff Reporter /

The first time you lay eyes on the hairy yuca, also known as cassava, it's hard to believe that the starch from this ugly root vegetable can be transformed into slightly sweet, very civilized tapioca pudding.

While yuca -- pronounced "you-kuh" -- is native to South America, today it is largely grown in Africa, according to The New Food Lover's Companion.

Cooks say the footlong yuca require some muscle and patience. After peeling the woody brown skin with a knife, there is the matter of removing the first layer of flesh and coring the yuca.

Edgewater restaurant Col-Ubas, 5665 N. Clark, offers yuca frita -- sliced, fried yuca -- and yuca mojo, in which yuca is boiled for about 15 minutes and then drenched in a garlic sauce.

Col-Ubas owner Pedro Navarrete says fried yuca is a nod to both Colombia and Cuba, for whom the restaurant is named and where it is served as a side dish. The mojo version is native to Cuba.

Known in Africa as cassava, yuca is turned into a grain called gari, says Emmanuel Abidemi, owner of Lakeview eatery Bolat African Cuisine, 3346 N. Clark.

He says the grain can be eaten like cereal or boiled in water to make a dough called fufu, which is used to scoop up the spicy, meaty stews that are the hallmarks of Nigerian and West African cuisine.


Yuca with Mojo (Garlic Sauce)

Three Guys from Miami:

Glenn: Yuca is another one of the root vegetables that are staples in Cuba.

Jorge: We especially like to eat it at parties and at holiday gatherings like Christmas Eve.

Raúl: Be sure to remove any "woody" parts from center of the yuca.

1 1/2 pounds yuca, peeled, halved and cut into chunks
(Frozen yuca may be available in Latin markets in your area)
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of one lime
6 cloves garlic, mashed into 1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine

Place yuca in a saucepan; add water until yuca is just covered. Add salt and lime juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tender -- about 30 minutes. Drain. (Remove any "woody" parts from the center of yuca.)

Mash garlic cloves into salt with mortar and pestle. Add garlic, lemon juice, and onions to olive oil in a separate saucepan, heat until bubbling, and then pour over yuca.

Toss the yuca and all ingredients lightly while continuing to sauté over medium heat until barely browned, but not crisp!

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