THE PLACE TO GO WHEN YOU CAN'T GO BACKPACKING

An Inspiration from the Produce Aisle

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We were planning to head out for a weekend backpacking trip and the hike was going to be the testing ground for some new recipes because I was getting a little bored with our menu. The problem was, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to make until I got to the store, wandered the aisles, and let the inspiration find me. This is often the way recipes start for me.

As I walked into the produce section I noticed that the Savoy cabbages were exceptional so I decided to create another trail slaw because, as many of my readers know, I love salads on the trail. I grabbed the cabbage, continued to wander the produce section for ingredients to complement my find. I picked up some ripe mango, carrot, a bunch of celery for the leaves, and a red pepper. The slaw would still need something else but I couldn’t decide what I wanted to use. Then I saw it—a jicama. It was a product that I hadn’t seen or thought of in a long time. I spoke with the produce manager to find out if it was something they only carried on occasion or if it was a stock item. I often do this bit of research because I don’t want to create recipes where ingredients are next to impossible to find. To my delight it was an item that they have all the time. I grabbed two, medium-sized and continued shopping.

For those of you who don’t know what this unusual root vegetable is, here is what the Food Lover’s Companion, by Sharon Tyler and Rob Herbst, states about this interesting member of the legume family. “Jicama is a large bulbous root vegetable with a thin brown skin and white crunchy flesh. Its sweet, nutty flavor is good both raw and cooked.” They also mention that “Jicama is a fair source of vitamin C and potassium. It’s also called Mexican potato and yam bean root.”

I made the slaw and my guys devoured it for lunch that day. Food not making it to the dehydrator happens quite a bit around here and that meant I had to make another batch to dry for our trip. The slaw dehydrated beautifully, rehydrated well, and was a delicious addition to our trail menu. I served it with leftover naan bread that I had from the curry dinner we shared the night before our hike but you could use Greek pita, leftover bannock or flatbread. One could also serve this in a wrap. We’ve enjoyed on several trips since then and it was deemed “cookbook worthy”. We even like to have it as a side dish for dinner on a sultry summer evening at home.

Jicama, Savoy Cabbage, and Mango Slaw
from Another Fork in the Trail

Dehydration Time: 5–10 hours
Makes 3–4 servings

Jicama (pronounced hick-a-ma) has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor with the texture of a water chestnut. Although it looks like a turnip and is often referred to as “Mexican turnip” or “Mexican Potato,” jicama is actually a legume. I first made this slaw for a backpacking trip along the rugged coastline of Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada.

2/3 cup carrot, coarsely grated
1 cup jicama, coarsely grated
2/3 cup mango, julienned
1 1/4 cup savoy cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup celery leaves, optional
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/3 cup red pepper, julienned
2 tablespoons white balsamic or white wine vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

At Home
Grate the carrot jicama on a coarse grater. Place on dehydrator trays to dry. Dry the mango on a separate dehydrator tray. Shred the cabbage, mix it with the celery leaves, if using, and dry the mixture on separate dehydrator trays lined with parchment paper or an additional mesh screen. Dry the minced red onion and red pepper on separate mesh-lined trays. When all the ingredients are dry, place them together in a ziplock freezer bag. Put the vinegar in a leakproof container and put that in the bag with the cabbage and jicama mixture. Add the olive oil to the oil you will take with you on the trip.

At Camp
Shortly before you plan to eat the salad, rehydrate the dried ingredients with cold water using a ratio of 1 part dried mix to 2/3 part water. Check the salad after a few minutes and add a little more water as necessary. Drain any excess water once the cabbage and jicama have reconstituted and dress with a mixture of 2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar, 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Adjust to suit your taste. Season the slaw with salt and pepper.

Tips
Don’t let the slaw rehydrate in too much water or for too long or it will become soggy.

recipes_1
Jicama, Savoy Cabbage and Mango Slaw © Laurie Ann March

I ended up with a lot of leftover jicama so I created another slaw and I tried my hand at making jicama chips for a trail snack. I blanched thin slices of jicama in boiling water for 60 seconds and then plunked them into ice water to stop them from cooking any further. After draining them well, I patted the jicama dry with paper toweling and tossed them in a very scant bit of vegetable oil that had been mixed with a little lime juice and black pepper. I then sprinkled them with a pinch of Kosher salt. You can use whatever spice blend you like though. These were then dried at 135°F for 14 hours or so—until they were crispy and dry throughout. The process can take up to 24 hours and I flipped the chips several times during the drying time. Once they are dry, let them cool to room temperature and pack the chips in a sturdy, airtight container. This works well for other vegetables too.

Jicama can also be used in place of grated carrot or grated zucchini in muffins if you like baking on the trail. It can be used in salads, soups, and stews. So, next time you see jicama in your local grocery store, pick one up and give it a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the versatility of this ingredient.

Laurie Ann lives in Brant County, Ontario, Canada. She loves to escape the city as often as possible to backpack, hike, or paddle with her husband, Bryan, and her two children. Seeing nature through her children’s eyes is one of her greatest rewards and she remembers how special camping trips were in her own childhood. Her passion for the outdoors has gone far beyond hobby. She is the author of two backcountry cookbooks and an instructor of wilderness cooking workshops in which she teaches the special skills needed to prepare food for wilderness excursions. Laurie is the owner of the popular Canadian e-zine www.OutdoorAdventureCanada.com. Her other hobbies include photography, sketching, and throwing dinner parties. Laurie's second cookbook, Another Fork in the Trail, is now available on a bookshelf near you.

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