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Archive for Fruits, Nuts & Seeds

TIP OF THE DAY: Make Fancy Lemonade

Lemon Grove

Lemon Tree

Meyer Lemons

[1] A lemon grove (photo courtesy Condé Nast Traveler.[2] Ornamental lemon trees can be grown indoors (photo courtesy BrighterBlooms.com. [3] Meyer lemons, less tart than the conventional supermarket lemon (photo courtesy GoodEggs.com).

 

It took a while for man to turn lemons into lemonade, the quintessential American summer drink.

THE HISTORY OF LEMONADE

The origin of the lemon is still not certain, although food historians believe it may be Assam in northwestern India, where lemons have been cultivated for more than 2,500 years.

It was brought to northern Burma and to China, across Persia and the Arab world to the Mediterranean.

  • Arab traders brought the lemons to the Middle East and Africa sometime after 100 C.E.
  • They are believed to have been introduced into southern Italy around 200 C.E.; and was being cultivated in Egypt and in Sumer, the southern portion of Mesopotamia, a few centuries later.
  • Citron, a different citrus, looking like a larger lemon with a very thick rind and very little pulp or juice, seems to have been known by Jews before the time of Christ. References to the round, yellow fruit grown by the Romans were to citron. The lemon does not appear to have been grown in the Middle East in pre-Islamic times.
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    But for many centuries in the Middle East, lemons were not widely cultivated as food.

  • They were largely an ornamental plant in Middle Eastern gardens until about the 10th century. Arabs introduced the lemon to Spain in the 11th century, and by 1150, the lemon was widely cultivated in the Mediterranean.
  • The first clear written reference to the lemon tree dates from the early 10th century, in an Arabic work on farming.
  • Crusaders returning from Palestine brought lemons to the rest of Europe. The lemon came into full culinary use in Europe in the 15th century; the first major cultivation in Europe began in Genoa.
  • The name “lemon” first appeared around 1350–1400, and derives from the Middle English word limon. Limon is an Old French word, indicating that the lemon entered England via France. The Old French derives from the Italian limone, which dates back to the Arabic laymun or limun, from the Persian word limun.
  • Lemons came to the New World in 1493, when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola. Spanish conquest spread the lemon throughout the New World, where it was still used mainly used as an ornamental plant, and for medicine.
  • Lemons were grown in California by 1751; and in the 1800s in Florida, they began to be used in cooking and flavoring. Commercial cultivation of lemons took hold in California and Florida in the 1800s.
  • Around 200 cultivars (distinct varieties) of lemon can be found in the U.S. alone. Some are best for lemon juice, some for lemon oil, and some are all-around. Some are more disease-resistant, some bear more fruit.
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    Over the millennia, many different types of lemons evolved.

    One of the reasons it is difficult to trace lemon’s origin is adaptability to hybridization, as well as the vagueness of descriptions and awareness levels. A “round citron” reference may actually be a lemon, or vice versa.

    Depictions of citrus fruits in Roman mosaics such as found in Carthage in Tunisia, and frescoes preserved in Pompeii, may look like lemons but are not supported by any botanical or literary evidence (source).

    What we do know is that many varieties proliferated in semi-tropical climates around the world. Here’s a pictorial glossary of the different types of lemons.
     
    And the history of lemonade?

  • The earliest written evidence of lemonade comes from medieval Egypt in the writings of the Persian poet and traveler Nasir-i-Khusraw (1003-ca. 1061).
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  • Records from the medieval Jewish community in Cairo (10th-13th centuries) show that bottles of lemon juice, called qatarmizat, were heavily sweetened with sugar. An 1104 reference shows a considerable trade in exporting lemon juice.
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    Over the centuries, lemonade has been enhanced with fruits, herbs, spices and yes, alcohol.

    National Lemonade Day is August 20th, but why wait until then to enjoy these recipes?

    This recipe is adapted from Leanne Vogel of HealthfulPursuit.com, for Strawberry Basil Italian Lemonade.

    Italian lemonade uses mineral water; you can use whatever water you like.

    You may want to soak the basil overnight, or first thing in the morning.

     

    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY BASIL LEMOMADE

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 24 organic strawberries, hulled
  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • Ultrafine sugar*, simple syrup or other sweetener to taste
  • 2 quarts mineral water
  • 48 basil leaves, washed and stems removed and divided
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • Optional garnish:
  • Straws
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    *Ultrafine sugar dissolves more easily because the grains are much smaller. You can turn table sugar into ultrafine by pulsing it in a food processor.
     
    Preparation

    1. SOAK half of the basil in the mineral water for 6-8 hour and refrigerates.

    2. CRUSH the strawberries in a large bowl with a muddler or a potato masher, until they can be sipped through a straw. Add the lemon juice and sweetener, stir and refrigerate. When ready to serve…

    3. Add 2 spoonfuls of strawberry purée to the bottom of 8 glasses. Add 2 fresh basil leaves (not soaked) and a couple of ice cubes. Pour mineral water over the top and serve with straws.
     
    MORE EXCITING LEMOMADE RECIPES

  • Jalapeño Lemonade Recipe
  • Lavender Lemonade Recipe
  • Mint Lemonade Recipe
  • Peach Lemonade Recipe
  • Sparkling Melon Lemonade Recipe
  • Spicy Lemonade Recipe
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    LEMONADE COCKTAIL RECIPES

  • Blueberry Lemonade Cocktail Recipe
  • Lemonade 485 Cocktail Recipe
  • Limoncello Lemonade Recipe
  • Tequila Lemonade Recipe
  • Saké Lemonade Recipe
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    HAVE OTHER IDEAS FOR FANCY LEMONADE?

    Let us know!

     

    Strawberry Basil Lemonade

    Lavender Lemonade

    Jalapeno Lemonade

    [1] Strawberry Basil Lemonade, the recipe at left (photo courtesy HealthfulPursuit.com). [2] Lavender lemonade (recipe, photo © Edith Frincu | Dreamstime). [3] Jalapeño Lemonade (recipe, photo courtesy Melissas.com).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Watermelon Steaks

    Grilled Watermelon Recipe

    Seedless Watermelon

    [1] Grilled watermelon steaks with walnut gremolata (photo courtesy McCormick). [2] Use seedless watermelon (photo courtesy Bridges Produce).

     

    We’ve previously recommended cauliflower steaks and grilled cabbage steaks. Today’s “field meat” steaks are made with watermelon. The sweet fruit is grilled with savory seasonings to create a special first course.

    Seedless watermelon is cut into thick “steaks”; marinated in a mixture of white balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and rosemary; and topped with a walnut gremolata.

    What’s gremolata? It’s a lively, fresh-chopped condiment that typically includes parsley and/or other green herbs, plus lemon zest and garlic. It’s the traditional accompaniment to osso bucco, braised veal shank; but it’s a tasty accent to many dishes. Bonus: Because it’s so flavorful, you can cut back on salt.

    Here’s more about gremolata, including the classic gremolata recipe.
     
    RECIPE: GRILLED WATERMELON STEAKS WITH WALNUT GREMOLATA

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 8 minutes. Some people like to cut the watermelon into rectangles, in line with the steak theme. You also can cut the grilled watermelon into bite-size squares and serve them as hors d’oeuvres.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1/2 small seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt (substitute kosher salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
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    For The Gremolata

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
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    Preparation

    1. CUT four 1-inch-thick, half-moon slices of watermelon. Reserve any remaining watermelon for another use.

    2. MIX the vinegar, oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper in small bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons for drizzling over the grilled watermelon. Place the watermelon steaks in glass dish and add the rest of the marinade. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, turning the watermelon halfway through. Meanwhile…

    3. MAKE the walnut gremolata: Mix the walnuts, parsley and lemon peel in a small bowl and set aside. Remove the steaks from the marinade, reserving the leftover marinade for basting the watermelon during grilling.

    4. GRILL the steaks over high heat for 2 to 4 minutes per side or until grill marks appear, brushing with the leftover marinade after the 2-minute mark.

    5. SERVE: Cut the watermelon steaks in half. Drizzle with the reserved marinade. Sprinkle with the gremolata.
     
    WHICH IS BETTER: SEEDLESS OR SEEDED WATERMELON?

    We turned to the National Watermelon Board to learn that:

  • There’s really no difference between seedless and seeded watermelon when it comes to taste. Most people prefer not having to deal with seeds, as opposed to those who enjoy seed-spitting contests.
  • A watermelon’s flavor is impacted by different factors, and seeds aren’t really one of them. Flavor can be greatly influenced by seed variety, the time of year the fruit was harvested, the amount of rain the crop received, the general climate it was grown in, how much direct sunlight it got, the type of soil, and other variables.
  • All watermelon grown for retail sale must meet a minimum brix level, a measurement of sweetness. Most watermelons exceed that level.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Starfruit For July 4th

    Native to Southeast Asia and India, starfruit was brought back to Europe by sailors and traders in the late 1700s. Rare and costly, it became popular among wealthy Europeans.

    Starfruit 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. Puerto Rico and Hawaii are the other major producers. These domestic fruits are sold in the U.S., because of import restrictions due to potential pests that often accompany the fruit.

    The closer you are to the orchard, the better. Like most fruits, starfruit has much more flavor and sweetness when it is allowed to ripen on the tree or vine.
     
    WHAT ARE STARFRUIT?

    Starfruit or carambola (star fruit is an alternate spelling) is the fruit of a species of tree (Averrhoa carambola) that is native to Southeast Asia. The tree is now cultivated throughout the subtropical belt.

    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. If the fruit is greenish, it isn’t fully ripe but will have white flesh and a tart apple flavor and texture.

  • The thin, edible skin is lime green on the tree and ripens to a bright yellow with a shiny/waxy sheen and a fragrant aroma.
  • You will often find the fruit in a greenish-yellow state. Although it will ripen further, it is fine to use.
  • Not only is starfruit attractive; it’s healthful, too: rich in vitamin C antioxidants and low in sugar and acidity.
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    HOW TO USE STARFRUIT

    For July 4th, Christmas or any other starry occasion, these “edible stars” can be used just about everywhere, with savory as well as sweet foods.

  • With any breakfast food.
  • A garnish on anything, from drinks to cupcakes and other desserts.
  • As a “star” ingredient in fruit salad, on fruit and cheese skewers, or served with a sweet yogurt dip.
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    BUYING TIPS

  • At the market, pick yellow or yellow-orange fruits that are firm, not soft to the touch.
  • Avoid buying fruit that is turning brown.
  • If you are ripening greenish fruit on the counter, be sure to turn it at least once a day.
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    NEED RECIPES FOR JULY 4TH?

    Here are “patriotic” recipes for everything from breakfast to after-dinner drinks.

     

    Ripe Carambola

    Sliced Carambola Starfruit

    Starfruit Cake

    July 4th Drinks

    [1] A ripe starfruit (photo S. Masters | Wikipedia). [2] Greenish, but still fine to eat (photo courtesy Melissas.com). [3] A starfruit upside-down cake (here’s the recipe from Noshon.it). [4] Starfruit drink garnish (photo courtesy HWTM.com).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Fruit Compote

    Berry Compote

    Apple Compote

    Compote Dish

    Top: Mixed berry compote atop ice cream (photo courtesy Good Eggs). Center: Compote as the main event, topped with mascarpone (photo courtesy Recipes101.com). Bottom: A modern variation of the fancy stemmed compote dishes of centuries past (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma).

     

    With summer fruits proliferating, here’s an alternative to berry, cherry or peach pie: compote. It’s like eating homemade pie filling—hold the crust.

    You can also use it as pancake or oatmeal topping; with plain yogurt, cottage cheese or ricotta; as a toast spread, on cheesecake or angel cake, and so on.
     
    WHAT’S A COMPOTE?

    Compote is a cooked fruit dish that was very popular in medieval European. It faded out of style in the mid-20th century. People of means served it from special stemmed compote dishes.

    A compote is a mix of fruits cooked in a syrup. In fact, the name derives from the Latin compositus, mixture. It is also referred to as poached or stewed fruit.

    Compote denotes a mixed fruit recipe, but if you have a bumper crop of one particular fruit, you can bend the rules. One of our favorite combinations is blueberries with peaches and/or nectarines and cherries.
     
    RECIPE: SUMMER RUIT COMPOTE

    This recipe takes just 20 minutes on the stove top and is equally delicious warm or chilled. Enjoy it plain or garnished with:

  • Cream: heavy cream, ice cream, whipped cream
  • Cheese: mascarpone or ricotta or cannoli cream (recipe below)
  • A fresh strawberry or stemmed cherry
  • Dried fruit: apple or other fruit chip, whole apricot or prune
  • A wafer cookieor gaufrette
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    Ingredients For 4 Cups

  • 4 pints fruit, washed and patted dry, non-berry fruit cut into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ to ½ cup sugar to taste (less is better and lets the fruit flavor shine through)
  • 1 lemon or small orange, zested
  • ½ cup water
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon spice—allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger or a combination
  • Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 cup pecan or walnut halves
  • Garnish of choice
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the fruit, sugar, zest, water and optional nuts and spices in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The fruit should be soft but not mushy.

    2. COOL slightly and serve, or refrigerate. Compote will keep in the fridge for a week, in a sealed container.
     
    3. TO SERVE: Beyond a conventional dessert bowl, you can show off your compote in a glass dish, a goblet, or a pretty porcelain tea cup. In earlier times, special compote dishes were used.
     
    Variation: Add a tablespoon or two or orange juice along with the water.

     
    RECIPE: CANNOLI CREAM AS A TOPPING

    You can slightly sweeten plain ricotta to garnish a compote (spice optional), or can make a smooth cannoli cream with more layers of flavor. This recipe has been modified to use as a dessert topping instead of cannoli filling.

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lemon or small orange, zested
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    Preparation

    1. WHISK the ricotta until smooth in a medium bowl. Add the powdered sugar, cinnamon and allspice and mix to thoroughly combine.

    2. BEAT the heavy cream in a separate bowl until almost stiff. Gently fold it into the ricotta mixture, using a rubber spatula. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

    3. STIR in the lemon zest, or sprinkle it on the top of the compote.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Jackfruit, Or, You Don’t Know Jack!

    Jackfruit

    Jackfruit On The Tree

    Top: Jackfruit sold online from Melissas.com in California. Bottom: Growing on the tree at the Regional Agricultural Research Center, Ambalavayal, India. The fruit grows directly out of the trunk or branches. The exterior is covered with spiny, knobby bumps and ripens to greenish yellow (photo Wikipedia).

     

    The jackfruit, (Artocarpus heterophyllus), is a member of the Moraceae botanical family, also referred to as the fig family or the mulberry family. This family of flowering plants grows in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, where jackfruit is widely cultivated.

    The jackfruit tree is believed to have originated in the southwestern rain forests of the Indian Subcontinent, around present-day Kerala. The fruit is the largest tree-borne fruit: The largest reaching 80 pounds in weight, 35 inches in length and 20 inches in diameter.

    Jackfruit is nutritious: rich in carbohydrates, proteins, potassium, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B, and C.

  • Due to high levels of carbohydrates, in some regions jackfruit is a welcome supplement to other staple foods in times of scarcity.
  • The flesh of the jackfruit is starchy and fibrous: a source of dietary fiber.
  • The presence of antioxidants (isoflavones, phytonutrients) suggest that jackfruit has cancer-fighting properties.
  • Jackfruit is also known to help cure ulcers and indigestion.
     
    In Southeast Asia, jackfruits average between 15 and 33 pounds. Our local Asian markets tend to carry smaller ones; otherwise, it would take the whole family to carry one into the kitchen. They are available year-sound and can be imported from Asia or Mexico. California has a nascent jackfruit industry.
     
    SO POPULAR, IT’S A NATIONAL FRUIT

    Jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh. Alas, the U.S. has not selected a national fruit; only 16 nations have. Austria and Germany both chose the apple: Here’s the full list.

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    SHOULD YOU BUY A JACKFRUIT?

    Fresh jackfruit flesh is pink or yellow. When eaten fresh, it has hints of mango and melon. The flesh is soft, flaky (the petals) and sweet.

    Jackfruit may be a tropical delight, but it’s also a labor of love to carve out the edible fruit.

    The jackfruit is composed of hundreds to thousands of individual flowers, and it is the fleshy petals that are eaten. And they must be dug out of the flesh. (Don’t worry, you only have to remove a score or two of bracts*.)

    Our first jackfruit experience was exasperating: We didn’t see this YouTube video. Instead, we winged it, anticipating slicing it like a melon. Wrong!

    Our blundering effort to dig out the bract and perianth* “nuggets” shouldn’t stop anyone with patience (and the video) from carving one up for family an friends. But first, look at these photos of removing the edible fruit from the flesh. It’s like getting the arils out of a pomegranate, but not as easy.

    You can also buy canned jackfruit in brine, syrup or water; and dried jackfruit for snacking or cooking.

     

    IDEAS FOR JACKFRUIT DISHES

    Beyond a fresh fruit or fruit salad dessert or shack, you can use jackfruit to make mousse, pie, pudding, smoothies, sorbet and so on. You can purée it into a sauce for sweet or savory dishes.

  • Unripe jackfruit is similar in texture to chicken, and an excellent vegetarian substitute for meat. It is sometimes referred to as “vegetable meat.”
  • Jackfruit seeds can be roasted and boiled.
  • The fruit pulp is sweet and used to make bubble tea, candies, chips, dessert, jelly, ice cream, pickles, preserved fruit and wine.
  • In Mexico, jackfruit is cooked down past the compote stage, effectively candied (an ancient way of preserving fruits there).
  • In Thailand, jackfruit snacks are made by stuffing sticky rice into the empty seed holes.
  • In the Philippines, you can find jackfruit ice cream, or a dessert of coconut cream with the raw jackfruit.
  • In the U.S., jackfruit is often a meat substitute: in “crab” cakes, curries, lettuce wraps, salads and sandwiches.
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    You’ll have no trouble finding jackfruit recipes on line. For starters, check out these jackfruit recipes.
     
    HOW SHOULD YOU PREPARE JACKFRUIT?

    Jackfruit can also be enjoyed unripened and cooked. The flesh of the Jackfruit can be used in desserts, as well.

  • While you can buy a green fruit and let it ripen on the counter (or cook it), we prefer to buy a ripe fruit for dessert. Ripe jackfruits have a yellowish skin and spikes that have softened. The fruit should yield under gentle pressure.
  • A ripe jackfruit has a distinctive, musky fragrance.
  • A green jackfruit can be boiled, or used as a meat substitute.
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    BEYOND FOOD

     

    BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich

    BBQ Jackfruit

    BBQ jackfruit has become popular among vegetarians and vegans. Top: A pulled BBQ Jackfruit sandwich. Here’s the recipe from MoreVeganBlog.com. Bottom: No prep work required: Just look for ready-to-heat-and-eat BBQ jackfruit from Upton’s Naturals, a producer of prepared vegan foods. They suggest using it on a sandwich topped with coleslaw, in salads, wraps or over rice.

     
    Jackfruit tree bark and wood are used for fuel, industrial products and timber. Jackfruit leaves, bark, flowers (bracts, flowers, stalks, stems), latex and seeds and are used in traditional medicines.

    Ready to add jackfruit to your culinary experience? The best way to start is to read up about buying and preparing it. Here are instructions with beautiful photography from SheSimmers.com.
     
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    *A perianth is the outer part of a flower, consisting of the calyx (sepals) and corolla (petals). A bract is a specialized leaf.
      

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