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Native Cooking: A Picnic-Perfect Jicama Salad

A jicama salad is both healthy and refreshing for a picnic—and it's the perfect time of year for a fun picnic getaway.
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Eating out at restaurants is festive and wonderful because it means we don’t have to cook, though it is getting kind of expensive, but what isn’t? While at a restaurant you can keep the cost down by not ordering an appetizer or drinks. Sometimes, food trucks are not as expensive as a restaurant, nor as comfortable. Food trucks seem to have more unique items on their menus though.

The food trucks in our town tend to serve ethnic food. There are traditional hot dogs, burgers, and ice cream trucks as well. A new truck here has a pizza oven, and they can push them out pretty fast. Some people invite these trucks to come to their private events. A local store here had a cupcake truck show up to highlight a big sale. The line was very long and they sold out. Then there is the real eating out—as in outside dining.

Picnics have come a long way since PB&J or tuna fish sandwich eaten on a blanket under a shady tree. Not so long ago we had to be very careful about food storage and transport, now there are those blue ice packs, and all kinds of little plastic bags and food boxes to make life easier. Coolers are great for keeping food fresh and easier to haul onto a beach. The vista is an important element of the picnic, so is planning ahead. Freeze water bottles, or maybe some lemonade, iced tea or other beverages. Some things to remember: paper towels, salt and pepper, trash bags. Think it through so you know what utensils will be needed, and pack accordingly. The main idea is to have a good time, have a change of scenery and clear your head.

To keep it Native American is easy. Get some thin smoked turkey, put it in whole grain tortillas or roll it up with tomato and avocado slices with some sprouts thrown in for good measure. Jimica slaw made with colorful bell peppers, beans, corn and onion; or a bean salad (black bean and corn) with those peppers, celery root, any combo of the previously mentioned vegetables. You could even do a three-bean salad with salmon or tuna. Peanut butter and beach plum jam, cranberry juice, sumacade, wild rice salad, potato salad, it all sounds good. I must learn to stop listing foods, it’s a hard habit to break when the ideas keep coming. With June here, I get blueberries and strawberries on the brain! Even with so many recipes out there for both of these delicious fruits, none appeal to me. I prefer them just plain. This makes them the perfect picnic snack, too.

Jicama Salad

1 cold jicama, peeled and cut in thin strips

1 cup pineapple chunks

2 oranges, peeled, seeded and cut up

½ cup cilantro leaves, minced

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Dressing

¼ cup fresh lime juice

¼ extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all dressing ingredients in a lidded jar and shake to blend.

Put all salad ingredients in a big bowl. Pour dressing over everything and toss to blend. Chill before serving.

Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking,” “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.” She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.