Back to the Kitchen: Cooking with Exotic Fruits

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gwen-upper110x110BY GWEN KENNEALLY

When I first came to L.A. the most exotic fruits I knew about were passion fruit and mangos. It is always a joy for me to wander around the market with a produce expert and learn of new fruits to play with. Some new things can be rather intimidating like the cactus pear. I picked it up in puzzlement and the produce man took it from me and showed me how to cut it and gave me a taste right there. Just cut the top and bottom off and then make a single slice from top to bottom and peel back the thick purple or pale green skin to reveal the luscious fuchsia or yellow fruit. Star fruit gets its name because when it is sliced it looks like a star. Gaining popularity this sweet fruit is both a pleasure to eat as well as adding beauty to a presentation. Quince is a fruit that has been in favor for many centuries. The fruit, being dedicated to Venus, was regarded as the symbol of Love and Happiness. Quinces sent as presents, or shared by a newly married couple, were tokens of love. They can be used in any recipes as pears or apples. They are inedible in their raw form and  must be cooked to bring out the sweet aromatic flavor. So play with these slightly odd fruits in salads, salsas, and  with meats and fish to bring some innovation to your meals.

Pomegranate and Quince Chicken Salad

pomegranate2504 Poached or Grilled Chicken Breasts

1-cup pomegranate juice

1/2-cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

3/4-cup olive oil

6 cups mixed baby greens

1/2 cup pomegranate, seeds

1/2-cup poached quince* see pound cake recipe to poach quince*

In a small saucepot reduce pomegranate juice by 1/2 until syrupy. Allow pomegranate juice to cool and place in a stainless steel bowl. Whisk in rice vinegar, lemon juice Slowly add in olive oil. Adjust seasoning. In a bowl mix greens, pomegranate seeds and vanilla poached quince.            Toss with a little vinaigrette. Place salad in the center of a large plate. Slice chicken breasts and arrange on top. Drizzle a little vinaigrette around and serve.

Grilled Salmon and Star Fruit Salad

sstarfruit2501 1/2 pounds Salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces

2 star fruit, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices

8 cups torn mixed baby greens

1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

3 green onions, sliced

1/2-cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-teaspoon thyme

1 1/2 cups olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

In a small jar mix together balsamic, Dijon, garlic, thyme and oil. Shake well. Arrange the salmon on a lightly oiled grilling tray or broiler pan. Place 1/4 cup of the dressing in a small bowl. Brush some dressing over the fish. Grill or broil, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Turn the fish and arrange the star fruit alongside it on the grilling tray. Brush the fish and star fruit lightly with the dressing. Return to the grill. Cook for 3 to 6 minutes longer, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Combine the lettuce and cucumber in a large salad bowl. Add the remaining dressing and toss to coat well. Divide the salad evenly among 4 dinner plates. Place 1 piece of salmon on the center of each salad. Arrange the star fruit slices around each salad plate. Sprinkle with green onions.

Shrimp and Cactus Pear Cocktail

CactusPears2502 lbs. Shrimp, steamed

3 cactus pears, chopped

1 large red onion, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 cucumber

1 small jalapeno pepper, minced

1 sprig parsley, chopped

Pinch salt and pepper

Juice of 3 limes

4 tablespoons canola oil

Ever so gently toss all ingredients. Chill overnight. Great served in an over sized martini or margarita glass.

Quince Pound Cake

quince2502 medium quinces

2 cups water

3/4-cup sugar

1/2-cup honey

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2-teaspoon cinnamon

1 3/4 cups flour

1/4-teaspoon cinnamon

1/4-teaspoon salt

1 stick butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1/2-cup heavy cream

1-teaspoon vanilla

To poach the Quince:

Peel, quarter, and core quinces. Cut quarters crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan bring quince, water, sugar, honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, 2 1/2 hours (quince will be deep pinkish orange). Drain quince in a large sieve and transfer to paper towels. Pat quince dry and cool. Chill quince, covered, at least 1 hour.

For the pound cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a loaf pan with bakers joy. In a bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugar until combined well. Add yolk and whole eggs, 1 at a time, to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Beat in half of flour mixture and all of cream until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and vanilla, beating until just combined. Fold quince slices into batter until combined well and spread batter evenly in pan. Bake cake in middle of oven 1 1/4 hours, or until a tester comes out clean, and cool in pan on a rack 20 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. Check out her website and blog and She wrote for the Sun Community Newspapers.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.