Saturday, 14 July 2012

Yolo. Carpe diem and Thai Jicama and Red Onion Salad

SmartCooks here.

"Yolo".  "You Only Live Once." It sums up my approach to life these days.  I used to say "carpe diem" but apparently now I have it on good authority from a hip, young, very fit folk that is all the rage to tweet and tell each other:  "Yolo."  "Carpe diem," I replied. 

Like most urban slang, the origins of "Yolo" are unknown but the dictionary attributes it to the lyrics from R&B hip hop singer Drake from his 2011 hit, "The Motto" (edited version included here).  The Urban Dictionary defines it as an acronym used to persuade people to take risks to do something they normally wouldn't do.  

So Yolo.  I'm off to new adventures starting Monday.  New job, more responsibility, fascinating public policy issues and lots of travel back and forth between Ottawa and Charlottetown.  It's a risky change of life for me, a switch from working at central agencies and economic departments in Ottawa to double managing out of HQ in Charlottetown and Ministers/staff here in Ottawa. I've spent the weekend reading briefing binders, looking at Google maps of condos for rent and gyms.  On the latter... hmm.. not what I'm used to at all.  No Goodlife with aerobics/pump/flow etc, No Greco's circuit training.  Oh well, I will take a risk and try something new.  Yolo.  

It's been so hot and dry it's difficult to even think about cooking food.  Ottawa is heading for a Level 3 drought to be declared likely by Friday of this week.  Unbelievable.  It's never happened.  Officials will start deciding which taps stay on and which get shut off.  We've only had 1 measly mm of rain so far in July (usually 90 mm by now); since the beginning of June only about 20 mm of rain have been recorded, which is wayyy down.  

Like many folks, I've shunned hot, heavy cooking and looked for inspiration in salads with herbs and spices. Thai Jicama and Red Onion Salad fit the bill nicely.  

It has all the ingredients I crave these days -- raw, crunchy, Thai flavours and punchy spices.  All good nutritious vegetables, low calorie and yummy.  It's very fast to assemble and, bonus, no stove, gas cooking top or BBQ necessary! 

A whole medium-sized jicama made into a salad lasted three days' worth of lunches -- jicama keeps its crunch for up to a week apparently.  By Day 4, I'd had enough for a bit and didn't eat what was left.  

Facts About Jicama 

I knew almost nothing about jicama so in my usual way took the opportunity to look it up.  

I passed by jicama for years, turned off by the knobby, irregular shaped blobs that weigh anywhere from half a pound to monsters of 5-6 lbs.  Peeling it, however, unveils its wonders (not that peeling is alll that easy but persist. ...)  Once peeled, there's a crispy white flesh underneath that is sweet and crunchy.  

I love the C-r-u-n-c-h plus that it is very low in sodium, is a good source of potassium and vitamin C and has only 50 calories in a cup.  It's native to Mexico (called a Mexican potato or turnip) and is widely used in Malayasian cuisine.  

Cookin Canuck

I found the recipe on a foodie blog with an intriguing name, Cookin Canuck.  The author is Dara, a Canadian by birth (spent most of her childhood and early 20s in Vancouver) "but has lived happily in the US for the past 15 years, and in Utah for the past 10 years."  Her blog started as a place to file recipes but blossomed to the point where she now works as a recipe developer and food writer.  Good for her!  

So try it.  Yolo.  Enjoy! 

Thai Jicama and Red Onion Salad
(Enough for 4 servings)


1/2 jicama, peeled
1/2 small red onion, peeled
1 1/2 T fish sauce (can substitute low-sodium soy sauce if you're horrified by the sodium content of fish sauce)
1 1/2 T unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp agave nectar (can substitute sugar)
1 red chili, minced or 1/2 tsp red chile flakes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro


Cut the jicama in quarter wedges, then thinly slice. Thinly slice the red onion into half-moon pieces.
In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce (or soy sauce), rice vinegar and agave nectar until the agave nectar dissolves. Add red chile flakes and whisk again.
Place the jicama and onion slices into a medium-sized bowl. Toss with the rice vinegar dressing.
Add the cilantro and toss again. Serve.

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