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Archive for November, 2010

TIP OF THE DAY: Starfruit (Carambola)

Don’t pass up the opportunity to decorate your food with starfruit this season. These “edible stars” can be used just about everywhere:

  • A garnish on anything from drinks to desserts
  • As a “star” ingredient in fruit salad
  • On fruit or cheese skewers
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    They pair with savory as well as sweet foods, and are a lovely decoration on platters and plates.

    Starfruit or carambola (star fruit is an alternate spelling) is the fruit of a species of tree (Averrhoa carambola) native to southeast Asia. The tree is also cultivated throughout the subtropical belt, including Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These are the fruits that are sold in the U.S., as a result of import restrictions due to potential pests that often accompany the fruit.

    Named for the five-pointed star shaped slices it yields when cut horizontally, the pale yellow, juicy flesh with a distinctly tropical orange-pineapple flavor contains a few small, flat seeds. The fruit is nicely crunchy like an apple. The thin, edible skin, is lime green on the tree and ripens to a bright yellow, shiny/waxy sheen.

     

    Make every drink and dish a “star” with
    starfruit. Photo by Beatriz Chaim | SXC.

     

    The flesh retains a firmness when ripe, and therein lies a challenge: Starfruit has so much more flavor and sweetness when it is allowed to ripen on the tree. Much of what is available outside Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico has been picked green. It just isn’t the same.

    There are two main types of starfruit—sweet and tart—so you may have to ask the produce manager to clarify which type you’re looking at.

  • While both varieties are fine for garnish, most people prefer to eat the sweet variety.
  • Sweet varieties will be golden yellow and have a fragrant aroma.
  • Tart varieties tend to have thinner ribs and are often a more pale yellow color. You may also come across a rare white variety, which is sweet.
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    Not only is starfruit attractive; it’s healthful, too. Starfruit is rich in vitamin C antioxidants and low in sugar and acid (though it should not be consumed by people with kidney problems).

    HISTORICAL NOTE

    Native to Southeast Asia and India, starfruit was brought back home by sailors and traders in the late 1700s, and became popular with wealthy Europeans. It was brought to Hawaii by Chinese traders in the late 1800s. Yet, it was introduced to mainland America—Florida—only about 75 years ago. Today the state is the largest producer of American-consumed starfruit.

    Find more of our favorite fruits and recipes in our Gourmet Fruit Section.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Deluxe Peppermint Sticks

    Soft peppermint sticks won’t hurt
    teeth. Photo courtesy King Leo.

     

    Here’s an inexpensive gift that every peppermint candy lover will cherish.

    King Leo Candy makes succulent chocolate-dipped soft peppermint sticks just once a year, for the holidays.

    Made with 100% pure peppermint oil, they’re very flavorful and melt in your mouth. There’s no hard candy cane to crunch at the risk of your dentistry.

    Hand-dipped in luscious dark chocolate, the peppermint sticks are great for snacking, to garnish desserts or to serve with coffee or hot chocolate.

    A 6-ounce box is $5.99; a case of 12 boxes is $70.00, at KingLeoCandy.com. The minimum order is $25, or 6 boxes.

  • Find more of our favorite candy and chocolate gifts for Holiday 2010.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Seasonal Milkshake Dessert

    ‘Tis the season to take advantage of limited-edition ice cream flavors: candy cane/peppermint, cinnamon, eggnog and pumpkin.

    For a crowd-pleasing dessert, serve a small piece of pumpkin/apple/other seasonal favorite pie or cake with a small “side” milkshake (4-6 ounces) in a holiday flavor. If you’d like something lighter, substitute biscotti or cookies. Think of it as the “bake and shake” equivalent of “surf and turf.”

    To make the shake, just blend 1 cup of ice cream with 1/2 cup milk (or 1 pint of ice cream and 1 cup of milk).

    Depending on the flavor, you can add chocolate or caramel syrup; and can garnish the milkshake with chocolate shavings (candy cane milkshake), ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg (for cinnamon, eggnog and pumpkin milkshakes).

    To get chocolate or caramel markings as shown in the photo, use a bristle paint brush or a thin squeeze bottle.

    Find more of our favorite recipes and products:

    Have your cake and eat it too—with a
    mini-milkshake. Photo by Rafael Fragoso | SXC.

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    PRODUCT: Minute Maid Light

    A satisying O.J. Lite. Photo by Erika Meller |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    If you’re still stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner, it’s a good time to read about Minute Maid Light fruit drink, instead of some rich, heavy food.

    At only 15 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate per 8-ounce glass, it’s an orangey way to start your day or quench your thirst throughout it. Each 8-ounce serving contains 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

    We tried Orange Tangerine and Lemonade fruit drinks. The products are made with real juice from concentrate, sweetened with sucralose and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and are certified kosher by Triangle K. Both can also be used as low-calorie cocktail mixers.

  • Orange Tangerine scored well with us; we’ll buy it again. For very few calories, we’ll trade the natural O.J. at 110 calories a glass for 15 calories per glass. You know you’re drinking a light version, but for those who can quickly drain an eight-ounce glass, it’s a good substitute (and makes a nice reduced-calorie Screwdriver).
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  • The Lemonade didn’t fare as well with us. Even though we added a two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, it didn’t perk up as we’d hoped. We could taste the artificial sweetener and the drink reminded us of Crystal Light. It’s easy to squeeze a lemon and make a glass of fresh lemonade sweetened with low-glycemic agave nectar or a packet of sucralose (e.g., Splenda).
  • The line also includes Limonada-Limeade and Raspberry Passion, which we couldn’t track down at our local markets. A colleague tells us that Limonada-Limeade, some Orange Tangerine (substituting for the Cointreau) plus tequila makes a lower-calorie, No Sugar Added Margarita.

    Minute Maid, the world’s largest marketer of fruit juices and fruit drinks, is a brand owned by The Coca-Cola Company.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Champagne Truffles, Rum Truffles

    These melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffle logs, made in Argentina for Harry & David by LW Chocolatier, are truly delectable.

    They’re perfect to serve with espresso or after-dinner drinks; and for a luscious snack any time you need a chocolate fix. Fill the candy bowl and guests will be in heaven.

    Choose from cocoa-powder-coated Rum Truffles or powder-sugar-coated Champagne truffles—or don’t choose and get some of each.

    Packaged in an elegant bronzed gift box, these are a sophisticated, grown-up treat that kids will love as well. Twelve individually-wrapped truffles (13.5 ounces) are $39.95 at HarryAndDavid.com.

    Melt-in-your-mouth happiness. Photo
    courtesy Harry & David.

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