I love this versatile side dish that Nicolasa Ramírez serves at La Pereñita, the always busy stand in the 20 de noviembre market in Oaxaca City. It’s a basic, almost effortless technique more than a recipe. I find it great for party menus because I can do everything ahead except the final sautéing of the vegetables. The same approach works well with many vegetables, though you must adjust the cooking time and size of the pieces depending on what you’re working with.
- 3 chayotes
- 2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, crumbled (see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Peel and seed the chayotes and cut into ½-inch dice. Place in a medium-size saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to a boil over high heat, and cook for 5 minutes. Have ready a large bowl filled with ice water. Drain the chayotes and quickly plunge into the ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain well. Set aside in a bowl.
With a mortar and pestle or the flat of a heavy knife blade, crush the garlic to a paste with the oregano and salt. Toss well with the diced chayotes. Let stand until ready to serve.
In a medium-size skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until rippling. Add the chayotes with the garlic mixture that clings to them and cook, stirring constantly, until the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Serve at once.