Jicama & Arugula: a Farewell Two-Fer

Sous Chef Ladi moved to Georgia, but before she left, we made time for one more evening of adventurous cuisine and international TV. The original plan was to attempt #50 Jerusalem Artichoke, but apparently it’s only available seasonally (and not right now). I was really disappointed, but I’m keeping that pasta recipe in my back pocket because it looked delicious!

While traipsing about Trader Joe’s in search of fresh inspiration, I happened upon an arugula salad mix with a lemon-basil dressing. It checked the boxes–it was a vegetable not yet featured in a blog post, and it was a new flavor combination to me–but a pre-packaged salad mix felt like such a cop-out. I really wanted something exotic for Ladi’s last collaboration!

Then I saw it–the perfectly odd, yet oddly perfect solution–jicama wraps! The package advertised thin-sliced jicama as tortilla substitutes for street tacos. I just so happened to already have a pork shoulder at home that could easily become carnitas, and I immediately got pumped! What a novelty! I gathered onion, cilantro, and tomatoes, and a farewell fiesta was born!

I’d never had an all-arugula salad before, and I was afraid it was going to be too bitter. The lemon-basil dressing did liven it up tremendously, but it certainly wasn’t sweet at all. The mix included some nuts and parmesan shavings which we supplemented with shredded parmesan from the fridge. (Both of us believe you can never have too much cheese.) It probably could have done with some croutons too, if I’m honest.

The salad was good, but it was a little awkward to eat. First of all, delicate greens like arugula are hard to puncture with a fork. I usually end up scooping more than stabbing which makes every trip to my mouth a rather dicey balancing act. Secondly, the arugula had a decent length of stem beneath the leaf. They were pokey and hard to maneuver. I had to resort to some horse-like lip action trying to feed them all the way past my teeth. Flavor-wise, I’d probably only buy this particular salad again for a dinner party where I know I only have to eat 1/6 of the package myself. However, the unladylike wrangling with the stems probably wouldn’t present a very decorous scene at a formal gathering.

The jicama, on the other hand, was an unqualified success! Corn tortillas are the pits because they always break or get soggy. How many times has your street taco split down the middle and the filling dumped out on the plate? Well, jicama was the ideal solution! The rounds were moist and flexible, and they naturally have much more structural integrity than fried cornmeal dough. Best of all, they added crunch without any other flavor to compete with the taco filling. It was like eating a lettuce wrap–the tasteless package is simply a vehicle to get the meat and toppings to your face.

The end of an era is always bittersweet, so it was fitting that we celebrated with bitter arugula and the sweet new discovery of jicama tacos. Ladi’s legacy is immortalized here, and we WILL cook together again!

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