Maxixe. I saw the bin while shopping at Russo's the other day and couldn't figure out what they were. They were nestled next to the summer squash, sitting there all tiny and prickly with their squiggly tails.
When I tried to look up maxixe on the internet, the top sites that came up said it was a popular Brazilian polka-like dance. Hmm. Somehow this prickly little thing didn't seem to match up with its name. Not unless these little guys were like windup toys and could dance around to music.
After a little more digging, I discovered that maxixe is a Brazilian cucumber, popular in Northeastern Brazil. They are served raw or cooked and are also known as bur cucumbers. Now intrigued, I went back to the store to pick some up.
They are a little difficult to peel, given the bumpy texture of the skin and the fact that they are chock full of seeds. There isn't much of a layer of flesh between skin and seeds, so I had to handle them gently to ensure that I didn't accidentally dig into the middle with the peeler.
And what to do with these naked maxixes now? I decided that since I cook with kids all day and never get to plate, it would be nice to do something visually fancier. Out came the verrines ("protective glass" and also referring to composed dishes layered artfully in glassware) from Pierre Hermé.
I cut the maxixes into small dice, then tossed them quickly with minced parsley, rice wine vinegar, a few drops of sesame seed oil, sugar, and salt. In the middle I layered tiny Supersweet 100 cherry tomatoes from the fire escape garden, quartered and tossed simply with fleur de sel and extra virgin olive oil.
Summer in a glass. The maxixe had a lemony, sweeter flavor than regular cucumber. Although there were a lot of seeds, they seemed to add to the texture and burst with juicy flavor when bitten into, similar to eating pomegranate seeds. Crunchy, light, and an appetizer in the truest sense: the textures and flavors woke my stomach up and made me happy that I had discovered this new exotic cucumber.