October 17th, 2012 § § permalink
Rare fruits create their own occasion, the kind that warrants a splurge at Sur la Table following days of thought experiments, a whirlwind of mixing, rolling, and the attendant short lived joy of tart consumption. I’ve spent the past month in such delights but hardly had the time to commit such felicity to an audience… until I bit into my first kiwi berry. They are quite expensive – at three dollars for half a pint they rival the costliest of berries but are worth each penny. That’s why I sent my boyfriend back to the store to fetch me three containers of the fruit the very next day. Did I mention they look like miniature kiwis and taste like flowers?
Kiwi berries are actually not the same specie as the larger, more familiar fruit, but their flavor dwarfs their larger cousin. The berries typically grow in siberian climates but have a tropical overtone. It’s stunningly floral.
I’m so in love with these, I’ve considered buying my own vines. You need both a male and female vine to fruit and they cost about $20 each…
Thinking about the shape of things keeps my mind occupied. This habit is especially true when I am in the kitchen.
That’s why I purchased a rectangular tart pan. The architect in me likes its geometry, an elongated rectangle, like a prairie house sitting in the desert or nestling in the slopes of gentle, grassy hills. I have a thing for long and thin.
While I am not oft to think of my food forms as architectural elements, I do like to vary them because it makes serving the same types of dish more amusing: round tarts are usually cut into wedges and rectangular ones into smaller rectangles. Perhaps the difference is negigible, but pastries live such short lives.
Pate Sablee recipe adapted from Tartine
This is a more traditional crust for sweet tarts and are crumbly in texture, unlike the usual flakey crust.
1c. unsalted butter @room temperature
1/4 ts salt
2 large eggs @room temperature
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 Rosewater Custard Recipe (use only 1 ts. of rosewater!!!)
1 c. of kiwi berries, halved
+ In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, and salt until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth. Add flour and mix until well-combined, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.
+ Divide dough into four equal portions. Flatten each dough ball into a disk and allow to chill for at least two hours.
+ Remove one dough portion from the fridge, and on a floured surface, roll dough out into 1/8” thickness. Transfer the dough into the tart pan and press the dough onto the sides. Cut the excess dough with your rolling pin. Cover your tart pan and refrigerate until firm.
+ Preheat the oven to 325 °F.
+ Line your tart dough with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights – such as beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the shell(s) from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing pie weights.
+ Fill each shell about halfway with custard and bake until set. I place my kiwis into the custard about halfway through to get them to sit fully in the custard but in hindsight this was unnecessary – doing so made the kiwis soft.
+ Remove the custard from the oven and allow to cool. Top the tart with kiwi berries or other fruits.
+ If you want a glaze on raw kiwis, heat a few table spoons of apricot jam and brush it onto the berries.
October 3rd, 2012 § § permalink
There’s delight in finding something familiar where you’d least expect it – which is exactly what happened when I bit into these ‘Chinese dates’ called jujubes. I had eaten them before when I lived in Vietnam but had forgotten they existed until I saw them on nearly every farm stand carrying Asian veggies (it is prime jujube season in San Francisco). Jujubes look like a nut of sorts but they are actually more apple in flavor and texture than typical dates. Since apples originated from China… I think these must be a close relative.
Unlike the chewy candy of the same name, these fruits have a mild sweetness and a nearly spongy texture. I only had the Western candy once and I know they have nothing to do with these fruits. If you’ve ever eaten Vietnamese longans, dried jujubes are the dried, red date-like fruit. Otherwise, you can try finding jujube teas of dried jujubes. There’s a dried, candied box of jujubes I found on Amazon that I’ve seen in many asian stores.
There’s lots of information about the medicinal benefits of these fruits, but I think they should just be eaten for their wonderfully refreshing crunch. Just buy the larger varieties if you intend to eat fresh jujubes and save the smaller varieties to dry for tea and desserts.
* Store these in the fridge or they will dry out. They turn brown when ripe, but also start to color like this if you sit them outside… mine started to dry almost immediately.
September 26th, 2012 § § permalink
San Francisco is pretty fabulous, but fresh dragon fruits and dragons are the likes of tropical fairy tales. This fairy tale began with an exiting email about Phan Farms last month, and I have been stalking their farm stand since I got over the shock.
The last time I had fresh, local dragon fruits was in 2010 during a long trip to Mexico. I ate rare fruits by the bucket – enough to meet my daily water quota. Literally, it was so easy to find yourself by a fruit stand with a cup of freshly chopped fruit with chili or by a smoothie stand with a pureed blend of fruit and oatmeal. I miss this aspect of tropical living…
Dragon fruits are not particularly strange tasting, but their appearance is stunning. The edible part is white with black seeds and has a comparable taste and texture to very ripe kiwis. They are never sour but tend to be bland if it is not ripe enough, so pick a soft fruit with even, brightly colored skin. Color spots might mean over-ripened fruit, but I’ve never had one I disliked.
My favorite way to serve dragon fruit is in halves with spoons… they are soft and delicate so peeling/cutting is a waste of energy. For $20, I was able to procure five dragon fruits for a small celebration. We sat around with our own halves and talked about our dragon fruit experiences in Vietnam, while I brainstormed various alcohol pairings for a tropical cocktail. It’s bound to happen.
They are only available another week, so get to UN Plaza before I do!!!
September 12th, 2012 § § permalink
I have a new food mantra: eat fruit, rare ones. To an outsider my fruit hunt might appear to be wild compulsion, but I am restrained even when I do buy the occasional fruit treasure at the market – usually no more than one pound or a small sampling of three. More often than not, the Asian vendors are surprised when I flood them with typical American questions about their fruits, but I’m no longer embarrassed about my ignorance and just ask away… because it’s important to know if you can eat the skin or not!
These apple-looking melons were almost hidden when I saw an old Asian lady pawing at them last Sunday. When I asked the vendor whether the skin was edible, the old lady wildly gesticulated that one was not to eat the skin, perhaps doing so might upset the gods. I can’t even describe her motions because at the time I was trying to suppress laughter for fear of coming across disrespectful. Honestly though, it was just cute, funny, and definitely helpful. When I’m old I think I will be the cranky kind of old lady and not the helpful kind with the charitable hand motions.
Anyways, the vendor called these Taiwan Melons, but I’ve yet to find confirmation on the internet and no one I know have seen them before. They are shaped like apples but when you cut them open, they have the color and texture of round cucumbers, but very sweet in comparison. I remove the seeds and eat them in thin slices, leaving as little skin as possible. I think it might be easier to peel them first? When selecting, choose the more yellow melons as they are sweeter.