Chayote (shy-OH-tee) squash is one of my favorite things to play with for several reasons, (not the least of which involves attaching googly eyes, hee hee!). They are available pretty much year round, and lend themselves to a wide array of culinary applications. The small, young, tender ones can be used raw on salads, while the larger, tougher ones taste better after some cooking, and sometimes even need to be peeled a little bit. (*Wear gloves or peel them under cold, running water, as they release a chemical which causes a tingling, numbing sensation*).
Nutritionally, I love these mild-flavored squash for their folate content; a large one can provide 100% of your RDA of folate! As many of you know, folate is important for rapid cell division, therefore being vital to pregnant women to help prevent neural tube defects in their growing babies. When a woman becomes pregnant, her folate intake should actually double.
The high-fiber/low-calorie content of chayote makes it an ideal food for fighting cardiovascular disease and cholesterol. Chayote contains 13% RDA of vitamin C, which provides good immune support, as well as small levels of antioxidants which work by scavenging harmful free radicals from the body.
Lime Braised Chayote Squash with Tomatillos and Cumin
4 average chayote squashes, halved and seeded
1 lime, cut into eighths
2 tomatillos, quartered
1 small jalapeño, sliced
1/2 C sliced mushrooms
1/4 C vegetable stock
3 Tbsp cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 pound of diced shrimp, chicken, or lamb, if desired
Preheat the oven to 350
Scoop out the flesh of the squashes, being sure to leave a 1/4″ wall to support the filling later on. Dice the removed flesh.
Season the insides of the squash with salt and pepper, and place them open-side-down in a casserole dish
Scatter the diced squash, mushrooms, jalapeños, and tomatillos around the chayotes. After squeezing the lime wedges into the pan, place them around the dish.
Add the veggie stock, cumin seeds, cilantro and pepper flakes, cover with foil, and braise in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the squashes yield slightly when pressed.
Place the chayote shells in a serving dish
In a hot pan, cook the diced or ground meat if desired, and then add the filling from the casserole dish
Cook this until most of the liquid is evaporated, and then re-fill the chayote shells with the cooked filling.
Serve immediately, garnished with fresh cilantro leaves
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