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Lent is the optimal opportunity to unlock the potential of forgotten vegetables, those that never surfaced on our shopping list or made an appearance in our recipe book.
If you have been following my blog for some time, you probably know that the Coptic church that I belong to celebrates Easter on May 2nd. In other words, in my household, lent continues for another month, which gives plenty of time to attempt more vegan recipes.
I cease this rare opportunity of observing a mandatory vegan diet to abandon my comfort zone and delve into the realm of unfamiliar vegetables. My latest discovery is yuca.
To educate myself on yuca (aka cassava), I read a bit and came to know its richness in vitamin C, and hailed qualities as anti-cancerous, an immune booster, and a stabilizer of the digestive system. In addition to that, it is a white canvas that offers many cooking possibility and resembles potatoes in its versatility.
Knowing my kids, I realized that vegetables masqueraded in fries would immediately hit the spot and would meet no objection.
The yuca that I found in the market was vacuum sealed which saved me the time of peeling the rough, stubborn skin.
I immersed the yuca as whole pieces in a deep pan with boiling, salted water. To flavor the bland vegetable, I dropped a whole clove of garlic and a pair of bay leaves into the pan.
After five to seven minutes of vigorous boil, I turned off the heat. Usually the right time to turn off the heat is when it is easy to pierce the yuca through with a knife.
I removed the softened yuca from the hot water, let it cool down a bit and then cut it into fingers using a sharp knife.
In a preheated to 400°F oven, I popped in an empty sheet pan, while letting the yuca fingers dry on a paper towel. When the yuca fingers were totally dry, I massaged them with canola oil mixed with cumin, garlic powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, and a dash of paprika.
I got the hot empty sheet pan out of the oven and arranged the yuca fingers in one layer and popped it back in the oven.
In 15 to 20 minutes, the yuca was tanned and sizzling on the baking sheet. I removed it from the oven, sprinkled it with kosher salt, and served it with ketchup.
The kids ate almost the whole plate, leaving me some that I froze in a ziplock for a quick mom-alone-lunch on a weekday.
Now that yuca is officially a family favorite, I can’t wait to experiment with yuca croquette when lent is over. Yet for now, I am glad to share the tested recipe below, which yields to crunchy yuca fingers, seasoned the Egyptian way with garlic, cumin, coriander and ginger powder.
Yuca Oven Fries
Serves 4 people
- 3 whole yucas
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 whole clove of garlic
- 1/4 cup of canola oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/4 cayenne, optional
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF and pop in an empty sheet pan. (See notes).
- Boil the yuca. Immerse the yuca in a deep pan with boiling salted water and bring to a vigorous boiling for 5 to 7 minutes, or until a knife can easily piece through the yuca flesh. (See notes).
- Air dry the yuca. Dry the yuca over kitchen paper or clean tea towel until they are completely dry.
- Cut the yuca into fingers.
- Season the yuca fingers. Massage the yuca fingers with the oil and spices. Mix thoroughly until all the fingers are fully coated with the oil-spices mixture.
- In a preheated oven, arrange the yuca fingers in one layer on the hot, empty baking sheet for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are tanned and sizzling in the pan.
- Serve. Arrange the yuca fingers on a plate with a ketchup and/or aioli and serve hot.
- Store. The leftovers could be stored in ziplocks in the freezer and reheated in the oven.
- Remove the yuca from the boiling water before it disintegrates. It should soften but not fall apart.
- Heating the sheet pan while it is still empty speeds up the process of oven frying the yuca.