Last week I taught an afterschool 4th grade nutrition class at the International School in the Garden District. The topic my partner and I chose was eating local foods. We led a discussion on what is a farmers market and why you should shop there for your produce and what seasonal food are down here in Louisiana. We taught them how eating food from your region not only helps support local farmers, but local foods are fresher and taste better. We made a harvest calendar and split the students into groups where they were each assigned a season and to design a meal where they used season ingredients. The kids thought up of summer berry lemon smoothies, fall produce gumbo, veggie pizza, satsuma fruit salad, persimmon blueberry pie… they were incredibly creative.
So what's mirliton? The New York Times recently published an article on the most Googled Thanksgiving food by state. New York was stuffed artichoke, lol, but Louisiana’s was shrimp mirliton, something I have never heard of in my life. Apparently mirliton is a local squash and is also known as the Latin American chayote. I tried it for the first time at a holiday party I accidentally stumbled upon in my building last week, and it was great. And I needed to make it.
I first made my own spice packs... yes, I am that Louisiana. You can buy these spice packs at grocery stores, which are basically the holy trinity (celery, bell peppers, onions) pre-cut with shallots, parsley, and garlic. I picked up a couple of mirliton, a bag of Louisiana shrimp, and a Creole tomato from Rouse's. Because I am in a dietetics program, I can't help but make recipes healthier, so instead of bread crumbs, I decided to use quinoa. Not going to lie, my Cajun quinoa shrimp dressing is the best you will ever have.
Quinoa Shrimp Mirliton (serves 4)
1/3 cup celery, chopped
1/3 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 tbs parsley, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 stalks green onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 cups quinoa, cooked
1 cup shrimp, deveined and chopped
1 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs canola oil
1/2 tsp Cajun spice (Slap Ya Mama, hot)
1. Boil mirliton in a pot for 30-45 minutes or until soft. Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out meat. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. In a large pan, sautee celery, peppers, garlic, green onion, parsley, shallots, garlic, and Cajun spice in canola oil. Once browned, add the tomato and tomato paste.
4. Mix in quinoa and shrimp. Sautee until shrimp is cooked.
5. Scoop an ample amount of the dressing into the mirliton and bake for 30-35 minutes.