Object of desire: Huazontle
If you have spent much time in the produce departments of local Mexican supermarkets such as Gonzalez or Northgate, you might have run across huazontle, an odd-looking vegetable that looks a little like skinny broccoli subjected to electroshock treatments. If you picked some up and brought it home, you were basically on your own. Your trusty Diana Kennedy isn't going to tell you what to do with it, "Chez Panisse Vegetables" doesn't mention it, and "How to Cook Everything" might as well be called "How to Cook Everything but Huazontle." If you tried your usual cooking methods for vegetables, you might have been rudely surprised – quickly blanched and sauteed with garlic, huazontle is bitter as a fistful of raw dandelions, and the stalks stick in your teeth like twine.
Properly cooked, though, often as part of a fritter, huazontle is definitely a thing, an essential component of a great Mexican Lenten meal. I've had great huazontle at La Casita Mexicana in Bell. And at the new Bizarra Capital, a swell Whittier gastropub run by the family who owns Guisados in East L.A., you can get fried huazontle even after Easter: dipped in beaten eggs, fried like chiles rellenos until crisp, and served crossed like swords on a platter slashed with a vivid red stripe of chiles striped with onions and pungent Mexican herbs. There are, apparently, lots of ways to eat huazontle, but the preferred method seems to involve picking it up with your fingers and stripping the crunchy blossoms from the stalks with your teeth.
12706 Philadelphia St., Whittier, (562) 945-2426.
-- Jonathan Gold
Photo: Huazontle as served at Bizarra Capital. Credit: Jonathan Gold / Los Angeles Times