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Oca

washed and trimmed oca

Oca is a starchy root vegetable that originated around the same time as the potato in the Andean highlands of South America. Unfortunately it lost the tuber popularity contest to it's more starchy and storage friendly cousin. Oca has a bright red or yellow skin with a firm light yellow flesh. Texturally oca resembles your basic waxy red skinned potato in both raw and cooked forms. Oca also has a similar but much fuller flavor. It's, slightly sweet (but not cloyingly sweet like the sweet potato) and slightly acidic.

Oca calls for no unique preparation method (indeed, the thin skinned tuber doesn't even need to be peeled). Use oca any way you would use a potato. Boil them, steam them, bake them or roast them. Serve your oca whole, sliced, diced, mashed or pureed. Toss them with butter and salt and pepper and herbs, cover them with cheese or fry them in oil and douse them with salt. When left on a sunny windowsill for a few days oca will sweeten a bit more, at which point they are excellent raw (as well as cooked) and can be used in much the same way as jicama — in salads or as part of a raw vegetable platter.

History

As noted above, oca originated with the potato in the Andean highlands of South America. For millennia it has served as a staple food for Indians in higher elevations of South America where it is a primary source of carbohydrates, calcium and iron. Oca has been cultivated in Mexico for about 200 years where it's called papa roja (red potato). It has also become very popular in the south pacific over the past few decades where it has become known as the New Zealand Yam.

Storage

One source says keep in cool dry area as you would a potato. Another source says you should store oca in cool humid area such as the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. Since oca has a much thinner skin than your average potato and is about 80% water, it makes more sense to me to keep the little tubers in the humid vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Also, like many fruit, when left in the sun (a common practice in the Andes) oca becomes sweeter some of the starch turning into sucrose. Sunning also reduces the amount of oxalate found in oca (which interferes with the absorption of calcium).

Recipe: Oca Salad with Capers and Cornichons

Serves 6 as a side dish

Oca Salad with Capers and Cornichons

This recipe substitutes oca for potatoes in a classic french style potato salad. The oca results in a much more flavorful salad. The oca also stands up to the strong flavors of capers and cornichons much better than traditional red potatoes.


Ingredients

sliced raw oca
  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds Oca, washed and trimmed of any blemishes and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 large clove of garlic, whole and peeled (or enough small cloves to result in 1 tablespoon or so of chopped garlic — but don't chop it)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons tarragon infused white wine vinegar (available in most supermarkets or easily made at home by letting a few stems of tarragon sit in a bottle of white wine vinegar for a day or two)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon style mustard
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil (any good olive or vegetable oil will do, though)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons rinsed drained and chopped capers
  • 1/4 cup chopped cornichon pickles (chopped dill pickles will do, but it won't be the same)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

  • Put the oca, 6 cups of cold water and the salt in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic clove.
  • After about a minute, remove the garlic clove with a slotted spoon.
  • Let the oca cook until just tender (a sharp knife will slide easily into a piece, but the piece doesn't break apart) — five to ten minutes.
  • Drain the oca, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water.
  • With a garlic press, a fork, or a knife, mince the blanched garlic very fine.
  • Place the reserved cooking water along with the remaining ingredients (garlic, vinegar, mustard, oil, shallot, capers, cornichons, and pepper) into a bowl and whisk together. Alternatively, place the ingredients into a glass jar with a lid, close the jar and shake vigorously (the jar, that is, but if you like to jump around, that's fine by me).
  • Pour the dressing over the oca and gently toss the salad with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to distribute the dressing.


Posted on Jul 06, 2002 @ 10:30 AM

Comments:


Nikki:

My son is traveling in New Zealand with a friend. I went to my favorite grocery store, Berkeley Bowl, and saw these gorgeous looking potatoes and the sign said Oca potatoes from New Zealand so I bought some. I had never seen these potatoes before and had no idea how to prepare or eat them. Lo and behold when I asked Google to help me, it brought me right to you and your wonderful page explaining all about this neat little potatoe. Your site is very interesting and now we will have a great meal with Oca potates and I also see other enticing recipies, especially for my vegetarian other son who is still home. Thanks

Posted on Sep 10, 2002 @ 09:56 AM

Ryan Parman:

As a web developer for a produce company, I must say that I am extremely impressed with this site's coding practices. You have moved away from the hell that was table-based layouts and browser hacks. That's excellent! The site looks very crisp and clean. Awesome!

There are a few minor quirks in the code. Most notably some capitalized tags and attributes, a few missing quoted attribute values, and "&" symbols which should be "& amp;". Other than that, it's awesome!

W3C XHTML Validator:
http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.simmerstock.com%2Farchives%2Fprops%2F000585.html

Posted on Jun 18, 2003 @ 12:39 PM


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