Lately all this Farm to Fork marketing hubbub seems to be steadily driving up the pricing at my homebase farmers' market (the Sunday one at W and 8th). $5 for a small handful of blueberries? $6 for a basket of figs? Are you kidding me?! Your killin' me Smalls! In fact, a friend just told me this week that she can't afford to shop at the Oak Park farmers' market anymore- it's gotten too rich for her pocketbook! So to keep my wallet from feeling the sting but to still eat healthy, I've been driving out to the farmers' market on Thursday mornings on Florin Road were I can still get the reasonable prices on my fresh, local produce that I've grown accustom to over the years. Many of the vendors at Florin are the same ones that are there on Sunday at W Street with the same stock, just lower prices.
On a recent visit, I was intrigued by these spiky grenade-looking veggies with a rat tail. The vendor described them as being a cucumber and gave me a taste. He used a knife to carve off the outer skin of the "grenade" and told me the flesh was edible- seeds and all. He was right, the taste had some similarity to a cucumber, maybe a little less watery and it had a very slight citrus undertone. I bought a dozen for $1. I figured if I couldn't find a recipe to use it in, the kidlets could use them as weapons, Battle Royale-style.
When I got home, I researched my purchase and it turned out, my new spiny veggie buddy is actually called a maxixe. Maxixes originated in Africa and were brought to Brazil during the slave trade. These days, they're quite popular in Northeastern Brazil and in the Caribbean. (In the Caribbean they're called the Burr Gherkin.) Most of my research turned up that the maxixe was best enjoyed cooked- mainly in stews or sautéed. Neither sounded very appetizing to me. So I decided to use it in making some Japanese style cucumber salad. It came out pretty good. Kind of a pain in the butt to peel but quite tasty and refreshing.
8-9 maxixes washed, peeled and sliced paper thin
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1. Using a knife, remove the spiky outer skin layer of your maxixe. Then slice each maxixe into in half lengthwise; scrape the seeds out. Using a sharp knife, cut into very thin slices.
2. Gently press the maxixe slices in between 2 pieces of paper towel to get excess water out.
3. In a bowl, combine together rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Mix together well and make sure everything dissolves. Add maxixe. Toss. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds. Serve.