A Couple of Tarts

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf. ~ Epicurus

Friday, September 01, 2006

Mangosteens & Prickly Pears

It's exotic fruit day here at A Couple of Tarts!

I've been hearing so much about mangosteens lately, I just had to jump on the bandwagon. What are mangosteens, you ask? If you haven't heard of them, I'm not surprised. Currently, there is a ban on importing fresh mangosteens into the continental United States because of the pests they might carry. They are indigenous to Southeast Asia and are grown commercially mainly in Thailand. Which is where I came across them about two years ago when backpacking around the country. It was my second day in Bangkok and I was wandering around a market when I passed by this woman selling a fruit I had never seen before.

As I stood in front of the stand trying to figure out what they were, she grabbed one, cracked it open and gave me some. I was sold! I bought a few and found a place to sit and enjoy my new treasure. The thick skin is a deep purple. To open it, all you need to do is kind of squeeze it and it cracks revealing translucent white segments. The mangosteen is sweet and I thought it tasted a little like a lychee. There was an article in the NY Times recently about them and they were also featured on Good Food on KCRW. Apparently, they may be available in the future from a grower in Puerto Rico. But not that soon...the trees have been planted, but take 8-10 years to bear fruit. Sounds like an excuse to go to Thailand, if you ask me!


Have you noticed all the prickly pears (or cactus pears, as they are sometimes called) at the produce markets lately? On a whim, I bought three. And then had no idea what to do with them. I did a little internet research for recipes and did not come up with too much. I learned how to peel them: cut off the ends, make a slit down the side and then peel. But the recipes I found were limited to margaritas, dessert sauces, and fruit smoothies. I had a yoghurt and soy milk in the fridge and little else for breakfast, so a smoothie it was. The insides of the prickly pear were a fuscia red. I cut off a slice to try and realized it was full of seeds. Hard black seeds which looked like small lentils. It tasted a little like watermelon. Not having a food mill to get the seeds out, I chopped up the fruit and heated it in a sauce pan in an attempt to make it mushy and easy to press through a sieve. This worked well enough and I added the juice to plain yoghurt, soy milk, and honey in a blender. Well, I think I know why the recipes were limited. The prickly pear juice gave my smoothie a pink color, but absolutely no flavor. I ended up adding a banana to give it some body. All in all, a learning experience, but a bit of a disappointment in the taste department.

If anyone has any other suggestions for prickly pear, I would love to hear them. I feel like I am doing it an injustice. There must be more for it to do than make a cool sounding drink!

K. (NYC Tart)


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