Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. Since 2009 Aunt Nettie has known people were struggling to stretch their dollars during the recession. So she focused her tasty recipes on low-cost ingredients that would still offer delicious, healthy, stick-to-the-ribs foods, yet were affordable.

With the economy improving and more people back at work, Aunt Nettie felt the time was right to ease up a bit on strict bargain-bin shopping and gussy up the menu with a few small splurges.

Aunt Nettie is still happy to answer questions that come her way, but what she loves most is offering seasonal fixin's that inspire her while shopping at the farm stand.

Howdy there darlin's,

Y'all might not know this, but May is one o' my favrite months in the whole year--an' that's 'cause Cinco de Mayo is a-comin'. I jes love this Mexican celebration that's always so colorful and full o' fun celebratin'.

What I really like best is the nice spicy Mexican dishes my family learnt ta cook so so long ago I kin hardly remember when I first tasted chile peppers. I loved 'em right from the start, an' that surprises folks 'cause young'uns don't usually spicy foods--but I sure did and still do to this day.

So I come up with this mighty tasty appetizer that's got a l'il ole jalapeno chopped up nice and tiny. Now, if'n yer havin' a gotta-have-some-spice kinda day, why jes add 'nother jalapeno an' enjoy yer spicy day full steam ahead, darlin'.

Now, darlin's, fer the best flaver, ya gotta marinate yer jicama fer at least 24 hours b'fore puttin' the rest o' the fixin's together. You'll be mighty happy you did once y'all take the first taste. I think you'll agree it was worth the extra time an' trubble.

Purty soon, you'll be servin' the purtiest l'il ole cocktail y'all ever et--I tell ya true. I surely hope y'all enjoy one o' my favrite Cinco de Mayo dishes.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Jicama may be more familiar to those living in the Southwest than in the U.S. heartland or the East Coast. It's a root vegetable native to Mexico and Central America and is popular on Tex-Mex menus. The flesh is white and hides under a tough, light brown skin that's peeled to reveal a moist, deliciously sweet, crunchy vegetable. Jicama can be cooked or eaten raw but is enjoyed mostly raw and often cut into sticks and marinated. In this recipe, jicama is the featured vegetable that makes this refreshing cocktail so delightful.

This is an elegant way to present this appetizer for a dinner at home. It's especially fitting to serve on Cinco de Mayo. For an informal picnic, bring the salad to the park in a covered container fully garnished with cilantro, jalapeno slices, and olives. Serve in clear plastic cups or paper bowls.

Jicama Salad Cocktail


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    2 cups (480 ml) water
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) distilled white vinegar
    2 tablespoons organic sugar
    1 clove garlic, chopped
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 bay leaf

    Cocktail Ingredients
    1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) dice (about 3 cups/720 ml)

    1 orange bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) dice
    1 medium Roma tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) dice
    2 green onions, thinly sliced
    1/2 to 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
    Finely minced zest of 1 lime
    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    1 tablespoon minced cilantro
    1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
    Salt and pepper to taste

    1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped cilantro
    1 to 2 ribs celery, trimmed into 6 to 8 thin sticks
    2 jalapenos, sliced
    6 to 8 pitted black olives

  1. Combine the Marinade ingredients in a large bowl and mix them well. Add the diced jicama and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.
  2. To assemble the cocktail, have ready clear plastic cups, short glasses, or 6-ounce (180 ml) long-stemmed wine glasses and set aside. Combine the bell pepper, tomato, green onions, minced jalapeno, lime zest, lime juice, cilantro, vinegar salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  3. Add the marinated jicama and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the glasses and garnish each with a light sprinkle of the cilantro.
  4. Trim the celery sticks to a point at the top. Drape a jalapeno slice over each celery stick like a necklace and top the celery stick with an olive.
  5. Poke a decorated celery stick into each glass and serve the "cocktail" with spoons.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with megabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

Vegetarians in Paradise