Archive for Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Unusual fruit jackpot

Spin your wheels and add exotic fruits to mealtime

September 20, 2006


Ever walk by a piece of fruit in the grocery store and wonder: What the heck is that?

It might be perfectly round, bulbous or pointy.

It might be prickly or smooth.

It might be green, orange, red or some iridescent combination of the three.

For those of you meat-and-potatoes types out there, it might surprise you to know there are fruits other than apples, oranges and bananas.

Here are 10 off-the-beaten-path fruits to get you started. The descriptions are taken from "Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit: An Illustrated Encyclopedia" by Matthew Biggs, Bob Flowerdew and Jakka McVicar; "Field Guide to Produce" by Aliza Green; and


Appearance: Some are round and others are oval. Range in color from orange to yellow.



Eating: Eaten raw with the edible skin. Closely related to citrus family.

Purchasing: Select kumquats that are firm and glossy, preferably with leaves still attached. Because of thin skin, they spoil quickly.

Uses: In addition to being eaten raw, Nagami kumquats can be used for preserves after they become ripe and start to lose their water content.

Carambola (star fruit)



Appearance: About 5 inches long, yellow, smooth and waxy, with five distinctive sections running the length of the fruit.

Eating: One variety, tart carambolas, taste similar to lemons and are used mainly for cooking. The sweet variety can be eaten on its own, after slicing off and discarding the ends. If the outer skin is brown, it also should be cut away because it will be tough and bitter.

Purchasing: Buy carambolas that are yellow, which means they likely ripened on the tree. If they're green-yellow, that means they definitely are ripening off the tree and won't ripen as well.

Uses: In addition to being eaten raw, they are used in curries and jams. They also go well sliced with shrimp or chicken. Or blend and strain, and add pineapple juice to taste and serve over ice.




Appearance: Thick-skinned, round and 2.5 to 5 inches in diameter. Inside has pods of ruby red seeds surrounded by fruit that is red-brown when ripe.

Eating: Cut off the crown and scoop out the center white core with a spoon. Then, score through the outer rind, marking the fruit into quarters, and pull apart the sections. Pop out the seeds and put remaining pith in a bowl of cold water, allowing the white fruit to float to the top.

Purchasing: Pomegranates should be large, brightly colored, shiny and firm. Avoid fruit that has cracks on its skin or bruised.

Uses: Grenadine, a syrup used in alcoholic beverages, is made from pomegranate juices. The juice also can be used in syrups, added to lemonade or made into preserves. The seeds can be sprinkled over Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus and rice pilaf.




Appearance: Pear-shaped fruit that, depending on the variety, is green or yellow when ripe. Inside has pink-orange flesh that surrounds edible black seeds.

Eating: Fruit has a delicate, sweet flavor. Seeds have a spicy flavor similar to black pepper.

Purchasing: Hawaiian papayas should be plump and warm yellow in color. Mexican papayas remain mostly green even when ripe, but choose the one that has the most burnt-orange skin.

Uses: Often diced and added to tropical salads. Tenderizes meats that it's cooked with. Seeds can be uses as a garnish on any papaya dish.




Appearance: Orange-red fruit that is about the size of a tomato.

Eating: Tastes something like an apricot. Entire fruit is edible except for the seed.

Purchasing: Persimmons should be purchased when smooth, brightly colored, plump and glossy.

Uses: In addition to being eaten like an apple, can be used in fruit salads, dried, candied or substituted for zucchini in quick breads.


Clementines, a member of the tangerine family, can sweeten desserts such as cheesecake or brownies.

Clementines, a member of the tangerine family, can sweeten desserts such as cheesecake or brownies.

Appearance: Small members of the tangerine family. Looks like a small orange.

Eating: Skin must be peeled, then fruit can be eaten like an orange. Usually seedless.

Purchasing: Choose clementines that fill the skin, and avoid hollow-feeling fruits.

Uses: In addition to eaten whole and raw, can be juiced. Also, peel can be substituted for lemon zest in custards or added to sweets such as cheesecakes or brownies.




Appearance: Look like green bananas.

Eating: Unlike bananas, usually cooked before eating. They start out starchy and hard and ripen to soft and sweet.

Purchasing: Buy plump, unshriveled plantains at any color from green to black. When it is ripe, its flesh will be transparent, not opaque.

Uses: Slice diagonally into thick sections and pan-fry until golden brown, seasoning with spices such as sugar and cinnamon, or curry and lime. Can be used in stews or added to bread pudding or muffin batter.




Appearance: Range in size from an egg to 5 pounds. Can be bright red-orange or green on the outside, and have yellow or orange flesh on the inside that surrounds a large, flat seed.

Eating: Slice off the top and bottom of the mango. Cut off flesh parallel to the pit and eat flesh but not skin.

Purchasing: Choose mangos that are heavy and plump around their stems, which means they are ripe.

Uses: Can be pureed with lime juice, ice and rum to make a daiquiri. Also frequently used for salsas, jams, pickles, chutneys and preserves.




Appearance: Looks like a papaya and is around 2 to 6 inches long, but is native to Kansas and other Midwestern states.

Taste: Blends the flavors of a banana and custard with an avocado-like texture.

Purchasing: Best used when yellow to bronze.

Uses: Can be cooked but also used fresh, in jams and served with crackers and chocolates.

Passion fruit

Passion fruit

Passion fruit

Appearance: Ranges in size from a cherry to a coconut, and in color from yellow to black. Has juicy, acidic, fragrant, sweet pulp inside with black seeds.

Eating: Usually juiced. Slice in half, spoon out pulp and strain to extract the juice.

Purchasing: Select fruit that is heavy, large and plump. When ripe, passion fruit has a wrinkled shell that is rich in color.

Uses: In addition to juicing, you can cut the top off of passion fruit, pour cream and sugar into the cavity, mix it with the pulp and eat it with a spoon. The juice can be added to custard bases, and the pulp can be added to fruit salad.

Cooking with fruit

Mango and black bean salsa

2 mangoes, peeled and cut lengthwise around the pit into slices

1 1/2 cups cooked and drained black beans (or canned and drained)

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

2 scallions, green and white parts, sliced

1/2 jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and minced

1/2 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (1/2 large lime)

Salt to taste

Grill the mango slices over direct medium heat for 5 minutes. (Use a grilling basket or set the slices on a metal rack placed at 90 degrees to the grilling rack.) Remove, dice, and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the beans, bell pepper, scallions, chile, cilantro, and lime juice. Season with salt.


Passion fruit cooler

1/2 cup passion fruit syrup

1/2 cup peach nectar

1 liter orange flavored seltzer water

Ice cubes

1 cup light rum (optional)

In a large pitcher, combine all ingredients and stir. Serve chilled.


Baked sweet plantains

4 very ripe plantains (black)

1 cup (low fat) milk

1/2 cup sugar or brown sugar

4 tablespoons margarine

In a conventional oven: Peel plantains, place them in a baking dish and pour the milk and sugar over them. Spread one tablespoon of margarine over the top of each plantain. Bake at 400 for about 1/2 hour.

In the microwave: Cut off the ends of the unpeeled plantains and place them on a microwave-safe plate. Place a moist paper towel over them and microwave on high for about 8 minutes or until the skin opens up. Let cool and then peel. Place them in a microwave-safe baking dish and pour the milk and sugar over them. Spread one tablespoon of margarine over the top of each plantain. Microwave on high for about 12 minutes.


Papaya upside-down cake

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)

1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup pecan pieces

1 large papaya, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1-inch wedges

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs (at room temperature)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk (at room temperature)

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.

Melt the 6 tablespoons butter in an ovenproof 9-inch skillet over moderate heat. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring until it is dissolved and bubbling. Remove from the heat. If you are baking in a 9-inch cake pan instead of the skillet, pour the mixture into the pan and swirl it around to coat the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the pecan pieces over the bottom of the skillet or cake pan or skillet. Arrange papaya wedges in a tight pinwheel around the outside of the pan, filling in the center with any broken or odd-shaped pieces.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of wax paper. Sift 2 more times to mix and aerate.

Put remaining 8 tablespoons butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high speed for 2 minutes, or until well combined and smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Continue beating 5 more minutes. With the mixer on the lowest setting, or using a rubber spatula, beat or fold in one-third of the flour mixture. Beat or fold in vanilla extract and half of the buttermilk, then another one-third of the flour mixture. Beat or fold in the remaining buttermilk and then the remaining flour mixture.

Spread batter evenly over the papaya wedges. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and the center springs back when lightly pressed. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan and place a serving platter on top of the pan. Carefully flip the entire thing over. If any papaya is stuck to the pan, scrape it off with a knife and rearrange on top of the cake. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.


Kumquat refrigerator pie

1 baked, 9-inch pie crust

1 (8 ounces) whipped topping

2/3 cup pureed kumquats

1 can condensed milk

1/2 cup lemon juice

Beat condensed milk and whipped topping. Add lemon juice and beat until thickened. Add pureed kumquats, pour in pie shell and chill in refrigerator for several hours.


Persimmon cookies

1 teaspoon Baking soda

1 cup sieved persimmon pulp

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 cup Sugar

1 egg

2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup raisins and/or nuts.

Stir soda into persimmon pulp and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in egg, then persimmon mixture. Sift flour with baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Add to creamed mixture along with raisins or nuts. Mix thoroughly.

Drop by teaspoons onto greased baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees 8 to 10 minutes.


Sesame seared tuna on star fruit

2 pounds sashimi grade tuna loin

1 cup sesame seed oil

1 cup black sesame seeds

1 cup white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper

2 tablespoons coarse ground kosher salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

Wasabi Citrus Aioli:

4 egg yolks

2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

2 lemons, zest finely grated

2 limes, zest finely grated

3 tablespoons lime juice (recommended: Rose's)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

6 heaping tablespoons dried wasabi

4 star fruits

Cut tuna loin into quarters lengthwise. Marinate tuna loin in sesame oil for approximately 30 minutes. Mix together all dry ingredients, roll and coat tuna strips in dry ingredients, pressing firmly so they adhere to the tuna. In a large saute pan heat olive oil, sear tuna for approximately 2 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside.

To make wasabi citrus aioli: In a food processor, beat yolks until pale yellow. Drizzle in olive oil to thicken mixture also adding garlic cloves. Add citrus zest, lime juice, salt, pepper, and wasabi and continue beating. Add more olive oil, if necessary, for desired consistency.

Slice star fruit into thin slices. Slice cooled tuna into 1/8-inch thick slices and top on star fruit. Top with a dollop of wasabi citrus aioli.



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