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Archive for Fruits, Nuts & Seeds

TIP OF THE DAY: Drupes, a.k.a. Stone Fruits

Note: Before calling attention to the Prunus genus of delectable summer fruits, there’s a botany lesson. We love brief glimpses of botany in food writing!

In botany, a drupe—the botanical name for stone fruit—is a fruit in which an outer fleshy part (exocarp, or skin; and mesocarp, or flesh) surrounds a shell (called the pit, stone, or pyrene) of a hardened endocarp with a seed (kernel) inside.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so check out the third photo.

There are two main classes of fleshy fruits: drupes and berries.

  • Drupes are characterized by having a fleshy mesocarp but a tough-leathery or bony endocarp. They are said to have “stones” or “pits” rather than seeds (example: peaches). A drupe usually has a single seed.
  • Berries, to the contrary, are characterized by having a fleshy endocarp, as well as mesocarp, and may have more than one seed.
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    Yet, you can’t assume too much. Avocado is a berry: It does not have a stony endocarp (the pit or stone) covering the seed—as those who have tried growing a plant from the seed are well aware.

    Drupes are members of the Rosaceae family, also called the rose family. The family includes both ornamental shrubs and trees, and those with edible fruits.

    Drupes are members of the genus Prunus. Strawberries are cousins from another genus; apples, pears and quince from another; and loquats from yet another.

    DRUPES YOU’VE EATEN

    Drupes are popular fruits in the U.S. and Europe. The family includes:

  • Hand fruits: apricot, cherry, damson, nectarine, peach, plum and hybrids like apriums, plumcots and pluots
  • Tropical fruits: coconut, mango
  • Surprise drupes (typically not eaten raw): almonds*, coffee†, hickory nuts*, olives, pecans*, most palms (including date, sabal, coconut and oil palms), pistachios*, walnuts*
  • Exotic (in the U.S.): jujube, white sapote
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    Let’s move on, leaving drupes behind in favor of stone fruits, the genus’ common name.
     
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    *These tree nuts are the seeds of the fruits of the tree: With these species of drupes, we eat the seed inside the pit instead of the fruit surrounding it. They are not true nuts.

    †The cherries from the coffee tree enclosed the seeds, which are roasted to become coffee beans.

       

    Apricots

    Plums In Bowl

    Peach Anatomy

    [1] Apricots showing a pit, a.k.a. stone. All drupes have a hard stone-like pit at the center. [2] A bowl of plums (both photos courtesy Washington State Fruit Commission). [3] The anatomy of the peach and other drupes (illustration © Armstrong).

     

    Bowl Of Almonds

    Coconut Halves

    Surprise drupes: [1] Almonds (and pistachios) are stone fruits, not true nuts (photo courtesy Niedregger Marzipan | Facebook). [2]

      DIG IN NOW!

    Stone fruits are summer treats. You’ve got another month to enjoy them fresh off the tree.

    Beyond eating them as hand fruit, use them to make:

  • Drinks.
  • Ice creams and sorbets.
  • Pastries, pies, shortcakes and tarts.
  •  
    Or:

  • Grill, poach or stew them as sides or desserts (Alone? With ice cream? With pound cake?.
  • Pickle them. Poach and stew them to serve alone or with ice cream and or pound cake.
  •  
    In earlier times, fruits like these were “put away” in cans and jars and made into jams to enjoy until the next year’s crops came in.

    Now, when you see peaches and other stone fruits in the colder months, they most likely come from Chile or elsewhere below the equator, where the seasons are reversed.

     
    STONE FRUIT RECIPES

    You can fine droves of stone fruit recipes all over the web. Some specialty sites include:

  • California Cherries
  • California Fresh Fruit Association
  • Choose Cherries
  • Georgia Peach Growers
  • Northwest Cherries
  • Oregon Cherry Growers
  • Washington Cherry Growers
  • Washington State Fruit Commission
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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Remove Food Stains On Teeth, Hands & Fabric

    If you’ve ever drunk more than a few glasses of red wine; eaten lots of beets, berries or carrot purée; you know that food can stain teeth, as well as the hands used to prepare it and the clothes worn to make or eat it.

    Even white wine can stain: It has both acid and some tannins that make teeth susceptible to pigments in other foods.

    According to Web MD, tooth stains are caused by:

  • Acids, which make tooth enamel softer and rougher, so it’s easier for stains to set in.
  • Chromogens, compounds with strong pigments that cling to tooth enamel.
  • Tannins, plant-based compounds that make it easier for stains to stick to teeth.
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    Red wine is a triple threat, with all three.

    Tea stains teeth more than coffee: In addition to the acid they both share, tea also contains tannins.

    Fortunately, there are remedies.
     
    TO REMOVE FOOD STAINS ON TEETH

  • Brush right away; use a paste with a bit of whitening agent. Keep a toothbrush at work.
  • Swish water around in your mouth if you can’t brush. It’s not as effective as brushing, but better than nothing.
  • Use a straw. The liquids are sucked to the roof of your mouth, so bypass your front teeth.
  • Get your teeth cleaned professionally. A professional cleaning and polishing helps to smooth the fine cracks in tooth enamel where color gets trapped. Regular polishing also helps to reduce the amount of staining.
  •  

    Baby Beets

    Orange Beets

    Except for the uncommon white beets, beets stain (photo #1 courtesy Burpee, photo #2 courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     
    TO REMOVE STAINS ON HANDS

  • Use a salt or sugar scrub. Some people buy them for skin exfoliation, but you can sprinkle coarse salt or sugar on wet hands and rub to exfoliate. You can also use olive oil instead of water. After rubbing, rinse off the scrub off and wash your hands with liquid dish soap. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
  • Clean fingernails with baking soda. Make a rub by adding some lemon juice to the baking soda. Scrub with a nail brush.
  • Prevent them in the first place. Get a box of plastic food-prep gloves for a song: 500 gloves for $9.
  •  
    TO REMOVE STAINS ON FABRIC

  • Immediately blot, not rub, with a paper towel. Then use a laundry pre-stain stick or liquid detergent. Wash ASAP in cold water (the sink is fine).
  • Soak in cold water with chlorine or oxygen bleach if the stain persists.
  • Launder in cold water if needed.
  • Use a fabric-appropriate bleach: Chlorine bleach is preferable if it is safe for the fabric.

  • Get an adult bib from Dress Tiez. We have two and love them: They’re waterproof and easy to clean.
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    MORE HELP

  • For red wine and other stains, we’ve had great success with Wine Away spray. It aso removes coffee, blood, ink, fruit punch, sauces, red medicine stains, even pet stains. Try it on anything.
  • There’s also a pocket size for dining out.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Watermelon Salad

    Watermelon is one of the edible geniuses in the Cucurbitaceae family, also called the gourd family. The most important family members comprise five genuses:

  • Citrullus: watermelon and some other melons.
  • Cucurbita: squash (including pumpkin), summer squash (yellow squash, zucchini), some gourds.
  • Cucumis: cucumber, some melons.
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    Non-edible members include:

  • Lagenaria: inedible (decorative) gourds
  • Luffa/loofah: a fibrous fruit that provides the loofah scrubbing sponge
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    Sweet melons have long been an anticipated summer treat. Pperhaps the most beloved is watermelon: sliced and eaten as hand fruit; sipped as juice, in cocktails, fruit soup and smoothies; made into dessert as fruit salads, popsicles and sorbets; grilled as a side; added to salsa; and so much more.

    Today’s tip: Consider adding watermelon to your salads. It fits as easily into savory salads as sweet fruit salads.
     
    WATERMELON SALAD INGREDIENTS

    Mix and match watermelon with these ingredients:

  • Cucumber (check out the different types of cucumber)
  • Cheese: bocconcini (mozzarella balls), feta, goat cheese, ricotta salata, other cheese
  • Fruit: berries, citrus, cherries, dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc.), heirloom tomatoes, mango, other melons
  • Greens of choice: bell peppers, endive, mesclun, romaine, radicchio
  • Onion: chive, red onion, scallion, sweet onions (consider pickling the onions)
  • Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, mint, parsley
  • Protein: grilled chicken or seafood
  • Spicy: baby arugula, jalapeño, radishes
  • Also: pistachios, roasted beets, water chestnuts, whole grains for grain bowl, summer squash
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    Dressings

  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Blue cheese dressing (light!)
  • Honey-lime vinaigrette
  • Infused olive oil (citrus, herb)
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    RECIPE: WATERMELON CAPRESE SALAD

    This festive salad [photo #2] can be the appetizer or the fruit and cheese course. It was created by Gina Homolka of SkinnyTaste.com.

  • You can combine the ingredients below into a standard watermelon salad with a balsamic dressing (cube the watermelon and cheese)
  • If you don’t have a large star-shaped cookie cutter, use another shape.
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    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • Half seedless watermelon, in 16 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 thin slices fresh mozzarella
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze (buy or make your own)
  •  
    Plus

  • 4-inch star-shaped cookie cutter
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    Preparation

    1. CUT 16 from the watermelon. Save the trimmed watermelon for another use.

     

    Watermelon Salad

    Watermelon Caprese

    Balsamic Syrup

    Watermelon On Vine

    [1] Watermelon and cucumber: cousins in a simple salad with red onion (photo courtesy WinesOfSicily.com). [2] An artistic version from Gina Homolka. See more of her inspired recipes and photos at SkinnyTaste.com. [3] Homemade balsamic glaze (photo courtesy EatBoutique.com). [4] Watermelon on the vine (photo by Fred Hsu | Wikipedia).

     
    2. ARRANGE the watermelon on a platter or individual plates. Top each with the mozzarella, arugula, 1/4 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Top with a watermelon star, drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve.
     
    CHECK OUT THE HISTORY OF WATERMELON
     
    WHAT IS BALSAMIC GLAZE?

    Balsamic glaze is balsamic vinegar reduced into a syrup.

    It can be used on savory and sweet foods.

  • No added sweetener is needed for savory uses: aged hard cheeses*, eggs, grilled meats).
  • Consider adding sweetener only if you plan to use the glaze on sweet dishes: berries, cooked fruit dishes, fruit salad, ice cream, pudding).
  •  
    The better the balsamic vinegar, the better the glaze.
     
    Ingredients

  • 16 ounces balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon honey or sugar
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    Preparation

    1. BRING the vinegar to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes. (The glaze will further thicken when it cools.)

    2. REMOVE from the heat; taste and stir in the optional sweetener and salt. Let cool completely.

    3. STORE in the fridge in an airtight jar.

     
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    *Hard aged cheeses include Cheddar, Cheshire, Emmental, Gouda, Gruyère, Mimolette and Parmesan/Parimigiano Reggiano, among others. It is also delicious with Roquefort and other strong blues, and with over-ripe bloomy-rinded cheeses like Brie and Camembert.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Combine Summer Fruits & Vegetables

    Corn & Peach Salad

    Removing Corn Kernels From The Cob

    [1] Mix summer fruits and vegetables into a salad or a grain bowl (recipe below; photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers). [2] Use the “bundt technique” to neatly remove the corn kernels (photo courtesy SimplyRecipes.com).

     

    Mix it up this summer. Beyond fruit salads and mixed grilled vegetables, combine the two produce groups into new concepts.

    Almost everyone has made a mixed fruit or vegetable recipe, but how about mixed fruit and vegetables?

    Think grilled pizza with figs and yellow squash or arugula and nectarines; raw or grilled skewers (bell peppers, cucumbers, melon, stone fruit, summer squash), or the corn and peach salad recipe below. Here’s a reference list for your combinations:
     
    SUMMER VEGETABLES

  • Berries: blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, loganberry, raspberries, strawberries
  • Melon: cantaloupe, casaba, crenshaw, honeydew, persian, watermelon
  • Stone fruits: apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums
  • Miscellaneous: avocado, grapes, fig, loquats, longan, lychees, mango, passionfruit
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    SUMMER VEGETABLES

  • Colorful: beets, bell pepper, corn, red jalapeño, radishes, red endive, red onion, tomatoes
  • Green: arugula, baby spinach, butter lettuce, Chinese long beans, edamame, French beans, green beans, sugar snap peas, tomatillos, watercress
  • Pale: bok choy, cucumber, chanterelles, endive, sweet onions, Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Summer squash: crookneck, yellow squash, zucchini
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    Plus

  • Whole grains for a grain bowl
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    RECIPE: FRESH CORN & PEACH SALAD

    This refreshing summer salad is delicious with grilled proteins, roast chicken, or on a salad buffet.

    You can prepare steps 1 and 2 a day in advance.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4-6 ears fresh yellow corn (2 to 2-1/2 cups kernels)
  • 2 cups sliced fresh peaches
  • 2-3 cups greens, washed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup shredded/julienned fresh mint or basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or flavored vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (1/2 lime)
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • Optional: red chili flakes
  • Optional: whole grains, cooked
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    Preparation

    1. CLEAN the corn and cut the kernels from cob. It’s neater if you use the bundt pan technique: Steady the ear of corn in the hole at the top of the funnel of a bundt pan (see photo 2 above). When you cut the kernels, they fall into the pan for neater gathering. If you have a silicon pad or other nonslip surface, put it under the bundt pan before you begin,

    2. COMBINE the corn, peaches and seasonings to taste in a medium bowl. Add the oil, vinegar and lime juice; toss to coat. Add the seasonings to taste. When ready to serve…

    3. PLACE the greens at the bottom of a serving bowl or individual plates (if using grains, add them first). Top with the corn and peaches, then the mint or basil. If using a serving bowl, toss before serving.
     
    Grilled Variation

    You can grill the corn and peaches before making the salad.

    1. BRUSH the shucked ears of corn and halved peaches with olive oil and grill on a covered grill over medium heat for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Turn occasionally for even browning.

    2. REMOVE from the grill and let cool to the touch. Then cut the kernels and slice the peaches.
     
    Caprese Variation

    Make a Caprese Salad of peaches and tomatoes, with the corn substituting for, or in addition to, the mozzarella cheese. Garnish with basil and olive oil.

    Here’s a recipe.

     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Rubik’s Cube Fruit & Cheese

    For a fun dessert, salad course or snack, make an edible Rubik’s Cube.

    Erno Rubik, born July 13, 1944, is a Hungarian architect and inventor. His immortality lies in his 1974 invention, the Rubik’s Cube, just one of the mechanical puzzles he’s created.

    Crafty cooks have reinterpreted the Rubik’s Cube with cubes of cake, cheese, fruit and vegetables.
     
    RUBIK’S CUBE DESSERT TIPS

    A Rubik’s Cube of fruit and cheese is a summery dessert (photos 1 and 4).

  • Start by choosing two fruits and a cheese, or three fruits. With the latter, you can still serve cheese, on a skewer on the side.
  • You need fruits that are firm and won’t brown, and semi-hard cheeses.
  • Aim for different colors (our favorite combination is watermelon, cantaloupe and good feta—not overly salty).
  • If you use kiwi, which is softer, you can peel and firm them in the freezer before slicing. It can help to slightly freeze feta, too.
  • We put out all the garnishes and sauces and let guests dress their own cubes.
  •  
    While you can make a single large cube to share, it will quickly be disasembled to serve. It’s much nicer to keep the visual for a longer time by serving individual ones with one-inch cubes.

    The key to a good-looking cube is having the patience to cut every ingredient the same size. Unless you’re a pro with a knife, you might want to get a square cookie/vegetable cutter.

    RECIPE: RUBIK’S FRUIT & CHEESE CUBE

    Ingredients

  • Melon: cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Exotics: dragonfruit, jicama
  • Cheese: cheddar, feta, jack
  • Optional garnishes: chili flakes, chopped cilantro or parsley, chopped pistachios, Tajin seasoning (see below), watercress sprigs
  • Optional sauces: basil- or rosemary-infused olive oil, fruit vinaigrette (honey-lime or honey-orange juice with olive oil), fruit or vanilla yogurt sauce (thin the yogurt with kefir)/li>
     
    Plus
  • Sharp chef’s knife
  • Ruler
  • One-inch-square cutter
  • Patience and precision
  •    

    Watermelon Rubik's Cube

    Vegetable Rubik's Cube

    Rubik's Cube Cake

    [1] Fruit & Cheese Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs). [2] Vegetable Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy VladPiskunov.LiveJournal.com). [3] Rubik’s cake from Cookies, Cupcakes And Cardio.

     

    Fruit Cube

    [4] An all-fruit Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy Laurentiu Iordache | 500px.com).

     

    Preparation

    1. CHOOSE the fruit and cheese combination.

    2. USE a cleaned ruler to measure; then cut the fruit and cheese into one-inch-high slabs. Next, cut the slabs into one-inch cubes, ideally with a one-inch-square cutter. Reserve the scraps for another purpose (salads, salsas, smoothies for fruit; omelets, salads, salsas for cheeses, meats and vegetables).

    3. ASSEMBLE the cube(s) on the serving plate(s). First create the base: four sides with three cubes on each side. Build the second and third layers, alternating so that no adjacent cubes are the same.

    4. GARNISH as desired. We set out different garnishes and sauces and let guests dress their own cubes.

    If you want to watch the process, check out this YouTube video. You don’t need to use sugar syrup to bind the cubes together, as is done in the video recipe.
     
    MORE RUBIK’S CUBE RECIPES

    Veggie: For a first course, here’s an all-vegetable Rubik’s cube salad made with beets, carrots, cucumbers and potatoes (photo 2 above). You can substitute cubed ham, salami or turkey for one of the veggies.

    Cake: Here’s how to make the Rubik’s Cube Cake in photo 3.

     
    WHAT IS TAJIN SEASONING?

    Made by Tajin Products, a Mexican company, this mildly spicy seasoning combines chili, lime and salt. It is delicious on fruits: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.).

    A Mexican staple, you can find it in the Mexican foods aisle in supermarkets, in Latin American food stores, and online.

    It’s a versatile seasoning. You can use it on:

  • Cooked and raw fruit and vegetables
  • Fries, mozzarella sticks
  • Glass rimmer for cocktails or juice drinks
  • Sorbet and ice pops
  • Popcorn, eggs, etc.
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