Wednesday, February 25

Monday Market Mysteries

Agathe Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle can all bite me. My mysteries involve fruits and vegetables and things that I'm not sure if they are fruits or vegetables. How about that for suspense? Instead of tension and suspense being so thick you could cut them with a knife, I've got tangible mysterious things you can actually cut with a knife. And eat. If you dare. Whahahaha.

Grocery shopping has always inspired a few What the hell. . . .?-moments--generally at food, sometimes disgusting magazine covers. Shopping in Mexico at the market, my double-take-What the hell. . . ? reaction is constantly escalating. Not just because my love of profanity grows each and every day, either.

The whole market scene is completely overwhelming. It's crowded, hot, colorful, and delicious. On my first trips to the market, the mysteries were totally overlooked. My inability to successfully maneuver the crowds, being a (comparatively) gangly figure, and my blond hair, made me feel like an oddly yellowish leviathan with poor coordination. A leviathan that didn't speak Spanish very well.

The conspicuousness has decreased a bit (the "güera"s that greet me denote more of a familiar and amiable circus freak than a space invader) and my success at maneuvering through the crowds and the Spanish language have been consistently advancing. So now, instead of focusing on my conspicuous pain and useless tongue, I notice little heads of things I've never seen before peeping out at me.

Things with spikes, things with eyes, things of every color, shape, and size! All Dr. Seusiness aside, the fruits and vegetables are amazing, mainly because there are things I have never seen before, not even at Whole Foods for a thousand dollars per pound.

One of my first mystery purchases was what looked like a gourd's impression of my own dear sweet aguacate. Or an avocado that has had extensive plastic surgery. The shape is similar, a little more tucked and puckered in places, but it's smoother, tauter, and has opted for a chemical peel to remove the dark age spots and sun damage, resulting in a much lighter green, youthful appearance.

I wasn't exactly sure what it was or what to do with it, but my first instinct said "Bite it," so I did.
It was a little gross. Maybe gross is too strong of a word. It was fresh and crisp, true, but also a definite flavor I would describe as Elmersesque. It didn't make me gag, but it wasn't exactly a pleasant surprise. A little more work than my lazy instincts would like was definitely necessary.

So I chopped it up, sauteed it in some garlic, whipped up some spicy peanut sauce, cooked some rice noodles, and my mystery gal played well with others. It absorbed the other flavors nicely , but retained more of its squash-like crispness than zucchini and summer squash generally do. Oh, and it lost its glue taste.
So this is the part where you can't put the book down, because you're just dying to know who the killer is-- or in this case what this fruit is, right?

The rain pounded against my office window. The wind howled like a blood-thirsty wolf as I sat hunched at my desk. The lights flickered off . I felt a presence--I knew they would come find me, I had gotten to close to the truth and had to be stopped--the lights flickered on, I looked up.
"Aah, so it was you, Chayote."

I've never noticed chayote in the U.S., but I've also never looked for it. If you happen to stumble upon it, check it out. Or make yourself some spicy peanut noodles and throw in whatever the hell you want (I'm dying to rip off The Onion and add a tagline to my blog so it's Aguacate: Now with Twice as Many Swears).

Spicy Peanut Noodles
or as I prefer calling them "Hot P-Noods."
I always make a huge batch of these, because they're great leftover.

1 package rice noodles--I prefer a medium thickness with this sauce, but again, WtHYW.
2 Tbsp peanut oil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 cups chayote, peeled and chopped (zuchini, brocoli, peapods, green really can't go wrong)
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 cup natural unsweetend peanut butter
1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c sriracha
1/4 c honey
1/4 c water
Spicy peanuts to garnish*
Fresh cilantro

Begin cooking rice noodles according to package directions.
In a medium skillet heat heat peanut oil over medium low heat. Add garlic. Sauté for 1 minute. Add chayote and bell pepper. Sauté for 5-6 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Lower heat and add remaining ingredients. Mix well and taste for desired spiciness, sweetness, and saltiness. Simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes or until sauce is warm and vegetables are desired tenderness. Mix with rice noodles and top each serving with spicy peanuts and fresh cilantro.

*spicy peanuts are essentially peanuts coated in chile powder--easy to substitute if you don't have ready made ones at hand.


  1. Holy mierde, you are turning into one spicy latina!

  2. "...Spanish language have been consistently advancing. So know instead of focusing..."

    Spanish knowledge goes in, English knowledge goes out, huh? :-P Jokes.

    With an opening sentence like that, you can make all the typos you want. And as our Word Twist record would show, you are ahead of me in both Spanish and English.

  3. Haha...I cracked up reading this. Even though I'm not necessarily the food adventurer I would like to be, I think I would try it. And it's not everyday I get to read something referencing Mary Higgins Clark, Dr. Seuss, and the Onion all in one sitting. Well played, Margaret, well played.

  4. Jeff, everyone knows (nows) when you learn something new (knew) it pushes something old out. Like the time I learned how to make the perfect mojito and forgot how to drive. (joke adapted from The Simpsons)
    Thanks for keeping me in check--and don't worry, corrections have been made, the appropriate people have been fired, and all is well again.