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How to Eat a Cherimoya (Chirimoya)

15 Apr

It’s really simple–cut it in half, and eat it with a spoon. That’s how my Bolivian grandmother (who adored this creamy Andean fruit) ate it–delicately scooping out the seeds she encountered, and then savoring small spoonfuls of the custard-like flesh. I also love cherimoyas (or as I grew up calling them: chirimoyas), though I only ever ate them in Bolivia as they were impossible to find in the United States. But that has been changing, to the point that last week, they appeared  in the “exotic” fruit section of my local grocery store. What a treat! I took some home, let them soften up a bit (they should be quite soft to the touch, but not completely mushy), and then dug in. Yum…. Mark Twain considered cherimoyas the most delicious fruit ever (having tasted them in Hawaii, after they were introduced there via Spain and Portugal)–and I’d have to agree. But don’t be tempted to bite into a seed; the insides are toxic.

This fruit is also known as a Custard Apple, and I get the “custard” part, but can’t figure out the “apple” part; perhaps it’s due to the shape? Because a cherimoya doesn’t taste anything like an apple. What it does taste like is an entire tropical fruit salad pureed into a silky, sweet, tangy custard. It’s a vitamin-rich (B6 and C) dessert in its own green cup. One day I may be tempted to make a cherimoya flan, or some cherimoya ice cream, or perhaps a cherimoya smoothie, but it’s hard to mess with perfection. Really, all you need is a spoon.

  

Recipe: Mousse de Mango

10 Sep

I love mangoes in any way, shape, or form–and so do my children, who used to line up for a chance to get the pit after I was done slicing the rest of the fruit. For years, I vowed to make mango mousse–but I always let myself be lured by the siren call of the chocolate version instead. Until recently, when I was making a Latin American dinner and wanted a Latin American dessert to go with it. And now I’ve been asking myself, why didn’t I try this sooner? This recipe, very slightly adapted from The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac, calls for fresh mangoes, and like many other mousses, includes raw egg whites (so use the freshest eggs possible). It serves 8 regular dessert lovers, or 6 serious mango lovers. Note: the original recipe suggests serving the mousse with a raspberry coulis, but I am a purist who prefers an unadulterated mango flavor.

Mango Mousse

Mousse de Mango

1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 large, ripe but firm mangoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (2 c.)
3/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. orange liqueur or rum
1 c. whipping cream
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Preparation
1. Place the orange juice in a small heat-proof bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over top, and let soften for 5 minutes. Set the bowl in a small saucepan with 1 inch of simmering water and heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove the bowl containing the gelatin mixture from the saucepan.
2. Place the mangoes in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the sugar, liqueur/rum, and dissolved gelatin, and process again until smooth. Place the mango puree into a large bowl.
3. Whip the cream in a medium-size mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar in another medium-sized bowl until soft peaks form.
4. Very gently fold half the whipped cream into the mango puree, followed by half the egg whites. Repeat, and mix gently until all the cream and egg whites have been incorporated.
5. Distribute the mousse among 6-8 dessert cups, cover, and refrigerate until thickened–about 30 minutes.
6. Enjoy!

Recipe: Papaya with Lime

14 Oct

The first time I had papaya was as a teenager while visiting South America, and I was blown away by the simple presentation: ripe papaya, a sprinkle of sugar, and a squeeze of lime. I’ve been eating it ever since. Soft, slightly sweet, and packed with Vitamin C, papaya is also known for its soothing digestive properties. So if you ever need a boost, papaya is your fruit. I serve this dish as an accompaniment to Latin American meals (or whenever the urge strikes). Ripe papaya is also very nice in fruit salads.

Papaya with Lime
1 papaya (look for papaya that gives a little when you press it–a mottled green/yellow coloration is normal)
1-1.5 tbsp. sugar
juice of 1 small lime

To prepare, cut fruit in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon:

Cut each half into strips with a sharp knife:

Peel each strip, cut into cubes, place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and lime juice. Toss gently and serve (or refrigerate until ready to serve).