A Recipe for Roasted Cho Cho Caribbean Journal

With spring in the air, we tend to loosen up the heavy winter meals to shed the pounds in anticipation of the big reveal of summer fashion and the body to match. I have a strong tendency towards plant-based dishes with a little pop of color that goes with the coming season.

While shopping in the market, I noticed how mainstream some tropical climate products that used to be considered exotic have become.

I’m talking about big box supermarkets that sell items like jackfruit, yellow yam, scotch bonnet peppers, and breadfruit, to name a few. These were usually more or less available at specialty vegetable markets, but seeing green bananas marketed to be cooked as green bananas in whole foods is a new phenomenon. I have to learn that the relentless search for gluten-free starch is partly responsible for the increasing popularity of these products.

Well, finally the rest of the world has caught up with what we Caribbean people have been doing since “Tom was a Bwoy,” as my mother used to say.

With this realization in the supermarket, I decided to take a vegetable that I am familiar with in Jamaica, but to use it as it is traditionally prepared here in the good old USA.

I discovered a beautiful, healthy, light green hill of Cho Cho (chayote for the uninitiated) in the supermarket, which called my name in passing.

Now, I’m actually not a huge fan of this oddly named vegetable from the pumpkin family. Aside from carefully selecting the pieces of soup I made as a child and cleverly hiding them and throwing them in the trash when the food police weren’t looking at our table, I never really had any reason to eat these unloved vegetables which seems to be ubiquitous in Jamaican soup preparation.

The grown up in me and the relentless search for new and interesting vegan dishes left me loading the shopping cart and working out the finished dish in my head all the way home.

Since it comes from the pumpkin family and Americans tend to either roast or sauté pumpkin, I decided to give this exotic cho cho some dry heat and see how it works. I remembered that it had a mild, almost bland taste, so I was hoping that by pumping it up with a bit of high heat, it would start caramelizing and developing an extra flavor. Adding some supportive players for color and texture would add to the mouthfeel and visuals, and a strong sauce would round out the dish and add some lubrication to the strength at which it would be served, if any.

My little experiment paid off well. The roasted cho cho caramelized wonderfully and changed the taste and texture of these vegetables that I used to think were as boring as they get.

To finish off with sautéed vegetables in a saffron coconut broth, the dish brought the dish to the moon. The whole package was much bigger than the sum of its parts, and that’s what makes any good recipe. Enjoy!

PS I’ve recently become a huge fan of Fonio, a grain from West Africa that is taking the world by storm thanks to the relentless efforts of a Senegalese chef named Pierre Thiam in NYC. I decided to serve the chayote with this cereal and it was just amazing! You can certainly use your current favorite starch like rice, couscous, quinoa, etc.


2 large cho cho, peeled and halved lengthways

½ cup red peppers, julienned

½ cup yellow pepper, julienned

½ cup red onions, thinly sliced

¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced

½ cup of coconut milk

Saffron, pinch

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub the Cho Cho with ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and place the cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes until the tops are caramelized to light brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Put ½ teaspoon coconut oil in a medium saucepan and add onions over medium heat and sauté for 30 seconds, then add paprika and cook for another 1 minute. Take everything out of the pan and set aside. Pour coconut milk into the saucepan and add the saffron. Stir to incorporate the saffron and bring to a boil, then reduce slightly so the sauce thickens to the point where it covers the back of a spoon. Add the vegetables back and stir. Season with salt and pepper

Put your favorite starch in a bowl, then place the toasted chayote on top as the star of the plate and pour the vegetable stew on top and all around. Garnish with the sliced ​​spring onions. ENJOY!


1 cup of uncooked fonio

½ cup of coconut milk

½ cup of water

1 tablespoon of butter

1 teaspoon of salt


Bring the water and coconut milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the fonio and salt, close the lid tightly, reduce the heat. Cook for 2 minutes until the water is just soaked up. Turn off the heat and gently fluff it with a fork. Make sure you loosen the soil where it is more humid. Cover again for 5 to 10 minutes until tender. Loosen up and serve

Yield: 4 cups

Nigel Spence, an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced for three years with the Television Food Network, where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, where he won Cook Open Against Food Network Star and appeared on CBS performing on Tony’s table, as well as on ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s The Today Show, Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and Chopped from TVFN. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr. Spence’s first entrepreneurial venture.