Saturday, March 24, 2007

The unusal

Have you ever wondered who eat the first pineapple or pumpkin? Did ancient man originally use these fruits and vegetables as weapons? Was someone being sacrificed during a pagan ritual, and made to eat the first pineapple? Afterall, they are not particularly inviting from their external presentation. Rather, they are frightening and would seem more apt as a tool for splitting bones or threatening others. Yet, all around the world man has overcome nature's defensive armor to discover the luscious, intoxicating taste of some seemingly impenetrable foods.

Take for example the range of fruits eaten throughout Asia; Durian a spiked football size fruit with the smell (when ripe) of overripe cheese. This fruit is loved throughout the warmer climes of Asia eaten fresh; made into ice cream; canned for out of season enjoyment. I was lucky enough, so all food guides said, to be in Southeast Asia during Durian season. I fought with myself trying desperately to convince myself to try this Asian specialty. The cards were stacked against a possible indulgence with this fruit: a subway sign in Singapore warning no "Durian" or else suffer penalty of a hefty fine; or, a boat trip I took that was shipping fresh durian from the Malay mainland to an outer island. During the entire trip I was wondering what was rotting on board. No, it seemed I was going to fail in expanding my culinary horizon this one time...maybe next time I can muster the strength to confront this Southeastern native.

Then there are rambutans a red and black golf ball size member of the lychee with willowy hairs; mangosteens with its purplish, leathery shell, and that oversized bald kiwi fruit from Vietnam dragon fruit all that did make onto my tongue. One would have thought with the pleasure I experienced from these less noxious fruits I would have built up the courage to take the plunge with durian...I failed I'm sorry to report, but then again, some things are for the more fearless.

Kiwi and Papaya Salsa - yields approx. 4 cups

1/2 grapefruit - juiced
1 small red onion - diced
2” piece ginger - peeled and finely diced
4 Kiwi fruit - under ripe, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 papaya - under ripe, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 lime - juiced
1/4 cup raspberry or red wine vinegar
4 scallions - diced
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoon of dry Mustard
salt and white pepper to taste

Set the red onion in the lime and grapefruit juices for 15 minutes along with the ginger. Gently combine all the ingredients together, and let sit a half hour before serving.

Margin Note: This salsa is particularly perishable, and it is recommended that it be used within 24 hour of its preparation. Try it with your favorite smoked fish or fowl.

Vietnamese –style Shrimp on Sugar Cane – yields 4 to 6 servings

1 pound shrimp – shelled and de-veined
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
1 to 2 Thai chilies – seeds removed to lessen the heat
1/8 cup cilantro
6 scallions – roots trimmed
1 shallot – minced
1 tablespoon palm sugar
2 stalk lemon grass – green portion discarded
1 inch piece ginger – peeled
24 ounce can of whole sugar cane

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roughly chopped all the ingredients, and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Blend the shrimp mixture to a smooth paste – making sure the lemon grass and shallots in particular are well broken down.

With moisten hands mold the shrimp mixture onto the sugar cane. Leaving an inch or so on the end in order to pick-up the sugar cane. Place the shrimp on an oiled baking tray and cook in the oven for 12 minutes.

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