Bring Exotic Flavors into your Mid-Winter Meals
Until the 1980s, kiwi was an exotic fruit to most of the U.S. Housewives were terrified to try this strange furry fruit with its vibrant green flesh. But now kiwis are as commonplace as apples and bananas. Supermarket produce stands are full of new strange fruits with unfamiliar shapes and flavors — fruits like star fruit, chirimoya, and ugli fruit. Have you ever trolled the fruit aisle in the supermarket and come across one of these exotic finds? Were you tempted to take a walk on the wild side and put one in your basket?
The long winter months are the perfect time to experiment with unfamiliar exotic fruits because the fruits we normally eat are out of season, and even if you do find them, they’re virtually tasteless. Why settle for a bland strawberry when you can stimulate your tastebuds with something completely new?
Introducing Exotic Flavors
Begin with the ugli fruit, the homely cousin of the grapefruit primarily grown in Jamaica. Its bumpy yellowish-brown skin hides a fresh citrus flavor that can bring new life to a lemon meringue pie. Then move on to more daring tastes by creating a dazzling exotic fruit pie with the pretty star fruit with its zesty flesh, the gorgeous beads in pomegranates, and the creamy chirimoya.
Using New Flavors in Savory Dishes with Gastriques
Another easy way to experiment with exotic produce is to use them in a gastrique, a sweet and sour sauce made from caramel and vinegar that can be combined with fruit juice. Gastriques make a striking sauce for both fish and meat, and are an exciting way to introduce new flavors.
Roast Chicken with Meyer Lemon Gastrique
The other night, I used meyer lemons in a gastrique for roast chicken. I had never cooked with meyer lemons before, and I wanted an excuse to taste and handle these sweet lemons without committing to a full dessert with an unfamiliar ingredient. My roast chicken was really something special.
Recipe: Roast Chicken with Meyer Lemon Gastrique
1 Tablespoon of Butter
Penzey’s Old World Seasoning
For the gastrique:
4 tablespoons of brown sugar
juice of 2 meyer lemons
4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
• Roast the chicken according to your favorite recipe.
• During the last 20 minutes of cooking, pour the brown sugar into a heavy bottom medium saucepan. Heat on medium flame until the sugar melts, about 5 minutes.
• As soon as the sugar has melted into a caramel, reduce the flame to low, and add the vinegar, stirring vigorously until blended. There will be lots of frothing and hissing, stir until you have a brown, viscous substance.
• Now add the meyer lemon juice, stirring again until all blended. Heat on low, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes to reduce the sauce.
• Combine the gastrique with the chicken pan juices, or just add a tablespoon of butter to finish it off and serve on top of the chicken.
What exotic fruits and vegetables have intrigued you?
Vanessa Druckman is a French Foodie Mom living in Chicago. Blogger. Freelance Writer. Book lover. Editor of the Technorati Women’s Channel and the Chicago Moms Blog. Take a bite out of her life at www.chefdruck.com.
Photo credits: Vanessa Druckman
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