Friday, September 2, 2016

Meet the Yuca

Ah, the dog days of summer. Still dry here. Still hot, although maybe the nights are getting cooler. I’ve shuffled the chapters of my WIP so often I have no clue what day it is in the book. I’ll blame it on the heat.

So I will return to my quest for exotic recipes. If you’re having a final frolic on a beach somewhere this holiday weekend, or better yet, on a mountain, you can probably skip this recipe and live happily ever after. Me, I’m stuck here.

After my initial encounter at our market, I had to educate myself about the yucca. “Yucca” is, in fact, the wrong term for this potato-ish root thing. Yucca (with the two “c’s”) is an ornamental shrub (I’ve even had a few in my day). What my market labels yucca is in fact cassava, AKA Brazilian arrowroot, manioc or tapioca (yes, that tapioca). It is an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions (including Cuba), known for its starchy tuberous root. In the US and Spanish-speaking countries, it is called “yuca” (pronounced yoo-kah). It is a major staple food in the developing world.

And if you use the wrong variety, it has a nice menu of toxins, including cyanide. But it can keep pests, animals and thieves away! A perfect mystery-writer’s vegetable.

Enough education! How the heck do you cook and eat it? Most of the recipes I found combined it with garlic, onion and lime and/or lemon juice, plus salt. So here’s what I cobbled together from a couple of different suggestions.

Cuban Yuca


1-1/2 pounds yuca root, peeled and cut into chunks (you may have to cut around or dig out the woody core)

Cut into chunks

1 tsp salt
Juice of one lime
6 garlic cloves, mashed
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine

Garlic and salt, combined


Put the yuca in a saucepan and barely cover with water. Add the salt and lime juice and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 25-30 minutes. Drain, return the yuca to its pan, and keep warm while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, mash the garlic and salt together.

In another pan, combine the garlic, lemon juice and onion in olive oil and heat until bubbling. Cook for about five minutes over medium heat.

In the first pan (with the yuca), toss the yuca and sauce together lightly, then cook over medium heat until just beginning to brown. Serve immediately.

If you want to spice things up a bit, a similar recipe I found suggested adding cumin and butter. Another recipe called for most of the same ingredients, with the addition of hot milk. I think I’ll pass on that one.


--The yuca root in its natural state looks like . . . well, we won’t go there, but on first glance it seems that it has a seriously thick skin. Not so! An ordinary peeler will take care of it.

--However, it is hard and dense (like the boniato), and might serve as a good weapon if you whack someone with it.

--The recipe itself is easy to make, and tasty. Mostly it tastes like (drumroll) a potato. But it’s more work to prepare.

Will I make it again? Probably not. But if it appears on a restaurant menu I may well try it. 

Nobody eats yuca in Seeds of Deception (coming next month!).

Sometimes solving a murder can kill your appetite . . .

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


  1. You had me at cyanide lol! If this vegetable is so much like the potato I wonder if it's grown as a staple in countries where potatoes wouldn't thrive as well?

  2. I don't know. My entomologist husband had a colleague years ago who was working on some sort of cassava pest, but I have no idea what happened with his project. Maybe it's more blight-resistant?

  3. I admire your curiosity. Keep up the adventure.

    1. I haven't tried seaweed yet. Who knows what else is waiting for me out there?

  4. Pat D ( 2, 2016 at 2:01 PM

    I'm laughing. Whatever possessed you to pick this vegetable to experiment with?

    1. These odd veggies just started popping up in our market, and I want to encourage them to keep trying different things. At least I've heard of yuca. Boniato, not so much. And there's always the translation problem, if the market is confused. Hey, you should see me with wild game! How long does it take to cook a partridge that weighs about two ounces, and how to you make sure you've got all the birdshot out of it?

  5. I've never had yuca, but I do have a yucca plant and now I'm going to look at it in an whole new light - lol! Happy weekend! Nicole
    p.s. I'm not going anywhere exciting either, just riding out Hermine. :-)

  6. I had some just today. It's soooo good fried like french fries and dipped in a white sauce.

  7. I had some just today. It's soooo good fried like french fries and dipped in a white sauce.