Home October 2016 The Fruits of Wisdom

The Fruits of Wisdom

1016cooking

We have a wonderful tradition at Rosh Hashanah of eating new fruits of the season. What’s on your menu? Apple? Pomegranate? And what will be suspended from the roof of your sukkah? Same old, same old?

Sukkot or “Feast of Ingathering” was agricultural in origin. Why not celebrate this thanksgiving of the fruit harvest with a truly rich bounty of all those curious, oddly shaped, colorful varieties you’ve never yet purchased because they’re just so strange.

And with more and more exotic varieties offered at Farmers’ Markets and even supermarkets, I’m thinking, eating new fruits should be a weekly habit, not just an annual tradition. But what do you do with them if you don’t even know what they are?

You’re shopping for produce, and you spot this spiny magenta…what? You’re curious, but what on earth is it? For a moment your hand hovers as you gauge your own adventurous spirit. But do you buy it soft or firm? Peel it? Cook it? Eat it raw? So instead you buy plums. Again.

“The appearance of dragon fruit is downright surreal,” writes Cathy Thomas, food editor of The Orange County Register and award-winning author of “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce: Everything you need to know about fresh fruits and vegetables” (Wiley, $29.95), my go-to comprehensive guide down the produce aisles. With Thomas at the helm, each fruit, from Asian pear to yuzu, and each vegetable, from artichoke to yu choy sum, begs to be discovered, its perfume inhaled and, yes, tasted.

“Dragon fruit has eye-popping magenta skin, dotted with bright lime-green spines and tastes like a marriage between kiwi and pineapple,” she promises. Indeed it does, as I discovered at a recent book signing. Robert Schueller, marketing guru for Melissa’s World Variety Produce, Inc., the largest distributor of specialty produce and foods in the U.S., selected a dragon fruit from the exotic fruit buffet—a riot of color like an artist’s palette—and cut into it to reveal its purplish-pink flesh.

So what do you do with it? Dice the flesh, says Thomas, and combine it with diced pineapple or mango, toss with mint or liqueur and serve it in the spiny shells. Or cut it into wedges and splash with fresh lime. Use dragon fruit purée in cakes or quick breads or fold it into sweetened whipped cream.

“Spiny rambutan looks like Dr. Frankenstein,” Thomas quipped, pulling one from the buffet. “It’s fun to scare little kids with.” And why not add gai lan, also known as Chinese broccoli, to your repertoire. “The stems are crunchy, and there’s a creaminess in the leaves that is just delicious,” she said.

Each fruit and vegetable fairly leaps off the page. “Produce porn, my editor at Wiley called it. I want people to be able to smell each one and taste it. Should it give a little when you press your thumb or snap when you break it?

“Everybody knows common celery,” she said, “but what about Chinese celery? The leaves and stalk are limp. They’re supposed to be. They’re so aromatic and delicious. I love to see people use them in stir-fries and soup.”

As fall days turn crisp and the soup kettle beckons, try the sunflower choke, also called Jerusalem artichoke or sunchoke. (No, this vegetable has nothing to do with Jerusalem. The name derives from the Italian word for sunflower, girasole.) With its knobby appearance, you might mistake it for ginger, but its nutty flavor tells you, that is where the similarity ends. You can also cut them into sticks to serve with dip or roast, steam or boil them.

I love roasted vegetables and the sunchoke, almost potato-like prepared this way, is my favorite. Combine it with broccoli rabe in the pasta dish below for a “bitter, earthy, sweet, garlicky, buttery dish with a touch of heat,” notes Cara Mangini, author of “The Vegetable Butcher” (Workman, $29.95). Wait! Vegetable Butcher? “My Italian grandfather and great-grandfather were butchers,” she explained, “the traditional kind who could gracefully carve out a tenderloin and butterfly a chicken. I can wield a knife as well, but I use mine against the curves of a stubborn butternut squash and to cut thin ribbons out of crinkly kale.”

 

Cream of Sunflower Choke Soup

Yield: 4 servings

 

1 1/2 pounds sunflower chokes, peeled, cut in 1-inch-thick slices

1 cup milk

1 1/2 cups chicken broth, sodium-reduced preferred, or vegetable broth

Salt and white pepper to taste

3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

Optional: croutons

 

  1. Place sunflower chokes, milk, and broth in nonreactive, large saucepan. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat; reduce to medium-low heat and simmer, partially covered, about 12-14 minutes. Remove 1/2 cup liquid.
  2. Puree in batches in food processor fitted with metal blade or blender, using caution because ingredients are hot. Add reserved liquid if soup is too thick. Taste and add salt and generous amount of pepper. Ladle into four soup bowls. Top with parsley and croutons, if desired.

Source: “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce” by Cathy Thomas

 

Broccoli Rabe and Sunchoke Chips with Orecchiette and Garlic Breadcrumbs

 

Broccoli rabe, also called rapini, does not belong to the broccoli family. The earthy, bitter greens closely resemble turnip greens.

 

Serves 4 to 6

 

Fine sea salt 1/2 pound sunchokes, scrubbed, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds on a mandoline5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs 4 large garlic cloves, minced 1 pound broccoli rabe, thick stems removed, remaining stems and leaves cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch lengths, 12 ounces orecchiette, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. Freshly ground black pepper. Flaked or coarse sea salt, for finishing. 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or ricotta salata cheese Your best extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

 

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Line plate with paper towels.
  2. Roast sunchoke slices and toast breadcrumbs, using 1 tablespoon of the oil for each. (For full instructions go to www.jlifeoc.com.)
  3. Prepare ice-water bath. Drop broccoli rabe into boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until nearly tender, about 2 minutes. Use spider or tongs to transfer broccoli rabe to ice bath; drain in colander when cool. (Keep water boiling.) Gently press out excess water.
  4. Add pasta to the boiling water; cook, stirring occasionally, according to package directions until al dente.
  5. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in large, deep sauté pan or heavy pot over medium heat. Add remaining minced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, watching carefully so garlic doesn’t burn, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add broccoli rabe; use tongs to stir and coat pieces evenly. Season with salt and black pepper. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and simmer, stirring often, until broccoli rabe is more tender and well combined with other ingredients, 2 minutes.
  6. Use spider to transfer pasta to broccoli rabe mixture. Stir in 1 cup of the pasta water. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and cook, stirring to coat, until pasta water reduces by half and thickens, about 2 minutes.
  7. Turn off heat; add half the reserved sunchokes, half the breadcrumbs, and half the parmesan, stirring to combine well. Transfer pasta to individual bowls or large serving bowl. Top with remaining breadcrumbs, remaining sunchokes, pinch of flaked or coarse sea salt, remaining parmesan, and drizzle olive oil. Serve immediately.

Source: “The Vegetable Butcher” by Cara Mangini

 

 

Broccoli Rabe and Sunchoke Chips with Orecchiette and Garlic Breadcrumbs

 

Broccoli rabe, also called rapini, does not belong to the broccoli family. The earthy, bitter greens closely resemble turnip greens.

 

Serves 4 to 6

 

Fine sea salt, 1/2 pound sunchokes, scrubbed, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds on a mandoline 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs 4 large garlic cloves, minced 1 pound broccoli rabe, thick stems removed, remaining stems and leaves cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch lengths12 ounces orecchiette3 tablespoons unsalted butter1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. Freshly ground black pepper. Flaked or coarse sea salt, for finishing3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or ricotta salata cheese. Your best extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

 

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Line plate with paper towels.
  2. Place sunchokes in medium-size bowl, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and toss well, making sure to separate and evenly coat the slices (they tend to stick together). Spread sunchokes out in single layer on two unlined rimmed baking sheets, leaving room between slices so they do not overlap. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast, rotating pans halfway through cooking, until golden all over and crispy, 12 to 15 minutes (keep an eye on them and pull them from oven as soon as they reach this point). Set aside to cool completely.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in medium-size nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring almost constantly, just until they begin to turn golden, about 3 minutes. (Turn the heat down at any time if they start to burn.) Stir in generous pinch minced garlic and cook until breadcrumbs are golden all over and toasted and garlic becomes fragrant, another 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt and transfer them to the towel-lined plate. Let cool completely.
  4. Prepare ice-water bath. Drop broccoli rabe into boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until nearly tender, about 2 minutes. Use spider or tongs to transfer broccoli rabe to ice bath; drain in colander when cool. (Keep water boiling.) Gently press out excess water.
  5. Add pasta to the boiling water; cook, stirring occasionally, according to package directions until al dente.
  6. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in large, deep sauté pan or heavy pot over medium heat. Add remaining minced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, watching carefully so garlic doesn’t burn, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add broccoli rabe; use tongs to stir and coat pieces evenly. Season with salt and black pepper. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and simmer, stirring often, until broccoli rabe is more tender and well combined with other ingredients, 2 minutes.
  7. Use spider to transfer pasta to broccoli rabe mixture. Stir in 1 cup of the pasta water. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and cook, stirring to coat, until pasta water reduces by half and thickens, about 2 minutes.
  8. Turn off heat; add half the reserved sunchokes, half the breadcrumbs, and half the parmesan, stirring to combine well. Transfer pasta to individual bowls or large serving bowl. Top with remaining breadcrumbs, remaining sunchokes, pinch of flaked or coarse sea salt, remaining parmesan, and drizzle olive oil. Serve immediately.

Source: “The Vegetable Butcher” by Cara Mangini

 

Jlife food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at www.cookingjewish.com.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here