Category Archives: Fruit

When Life Hands You Pummelos

Now that we’re in the midst of citrus season, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the bounty. Don’t get me wrong, I love every last one of those tart and juicy treats, but sometimes I run out of things to make with them. So far this winter, I’ve made marmalade, candied peel, cakes, cookies, sorbets – I don’t even know what else – from the lemons, limes, tangerines, oranges and grapefruit that pop up at every turn.

I thought I was tired of citrus season, but when I saw pummelos in my local grocery store, I couldn’t pass them up. Pummelos should be golden and these were a little under-ripe, but I brought home one of the giant green orbs and devised a use for it.

It smelled lovely – floral and bright – so I put its zest into a quick batch of shortbread.  And though it dwarfed my zester and strained my wrist, the gentle giant proved just the right match for these delicate shortbread coins.

So now that my love for citrus is rekindled, I’m starting to remember all the favorite foods I can only make this time of year. Berries can wait, I still have to make blood orange sorbet, meyer lemon curd, and grapefruit pound cake before the season ends.


Pummelo Shortbread – makes 36 1 1/2-inch cookies

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbs pummelo zest

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a sturdy wooden spoon), combine all ingredients. Mix on low speed until everything comes together in a smooth dough. Do not overmix.

Form dough into a flat block and refrigerate 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 and line 2 baking sheets with parchement paper. Roll out dough 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. I couldn’t find my cookie cutters, so I used a shot glass to make little circles.

Arrange cookies on sheets and pop into the freezer for about 10 minutes. This helps them hold their shape in the oven. Bake straight from the freezer 8-10 minutes, or until just golden at the edges.

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Deskmates 4: Winter Bounty

Winter fruit is like a secret treasure. Of course, in September the locavore in me is all set to eat nothing but storage apples and berry preserves through the colder months. But by December, I give in and buy the glowing clementines and persimmons that have traveled from warmer latitudes just to brighten my winter. I love walking through Chinatown and looking at all the streetside fruit vendors, and I can never resist taking home a few fat persimmons. Usually I buy the fuyu variety since they can be eaten when firm, and I don’t want to wait for their taller cousins the hachiyas to ripen. To remember which is which, I just repeat to myself “short and sweet” as I choose my fruit.

I count myself among the lucky since I have convenient access to the best greenmarket in the city. Even when the farmers are down to the same sturdy storage apples, greens, roots, and squash, I still walk through knowing I’m in the presence of greatness. I roasted a kabocha and sauteed some kale with garlic, and ate them together for days. Can you believe such delicious things are just out there, growing from the ground?

Another of my new favorite apple varities is the Winter Banana. I first read of it in Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts book, and I was intrigued by the name and description. It’s a lovely pale yellow with a slight blush, and tastes warm and fruity like a golden delicious (one of my least-liked apples), but has a saving tartness that keeps me coming back.

And just to give the reins fully to my apple obsession, here’s a picture of another very special winter banana. I’m a sucker for fruit with leaves attached, especially when said leaf has left a rub mark on the fruit under it. I’m all out of apples at the moment, but it’s Wednesday and I know Union Square has bushels of them, so I’ll have to make time to adopt a few more.

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Deskmates 3: Early Harvest

Every fall, Angel and I await the return of The Grapes. Their name is always capitalized because they’re good enough to merit it. Officially, they’re a variety called Reliance, but that doesn’t quite cover how great they are. They’re not just any juicy red grapes, they’re bursting with the tangy grape-y flavor of Concords, though seedless and not quite as tannic. (I also love Concords, both the seedless and seeded varieties.) We first came across The Grapes at farm stands in upstate New York a few years ago, and ever since, we’ve hunted them down in the city greenmarkets.

One of my new favorite apple varieties is the Spitzenburg, and I’m in good company because apparently it was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple. I’m not quite sure where that bit of trivia comes from, unless there’s a piece of vellum somewhere listing Teenbeat-style likes and dislikes of the hunky 3rd president. Anyway, the Spitzenburg is firm and juicy, with light cider and lemon notes. I always choose apples that still have leaves attached. It gives them so much more character, don’t you think? This particular apple was doubly attractive because in addition to its two perky leaves, it also has three dried flower buds. It was the only blossom among its four branchmates to survive into applehood.

It’s a well-known fact that I am partial to purple vegetables. But really, I could take or leave any of the other purple vegetables (potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, kale) – as long as I could still have their paler siblings, of course. These purple carrots are the ones I really love. It just makes me so happy to slice one open and see its bright orange heart and little orange veins poking through the purple layer. One of my long-held food theories is that colors affect taste (really, if you ate a spinach leaf or a raspberry blindfolded, you’d know what color it was). I think these have a slight bittersweet edge and a hint of fruit flavor. They can keep their color if cooked carefully, but more often than not, they just dye the rest of the food they touch.

The dusky apple in the foreground is an experimental hybrid called NY 428. (Behind it is a Honeycrisp, the indie darling of the apple world). According to its label at the greenmarket, the NY 428 has excellent flavor but does not last long in storage, so it never got a real name. It does indeed have good flavor; it’s fruity, tart, and slightly vinuous. I don’t remember its parentage, but it has some of the qualities of Winesap and Macoun apples. It would make a killer pie, I think, and I’m hoping to test it soon.

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Nectarine Clafoutis

After emerging from a 3 hour meeting on Thursday, I wanted to relax with some baking, but still had lots of work to do. I just needed to do something that made me feel comfortable and competent, and had immediately visible results. Preferably delicious results to buoy the spirits and blood sugar of my exhausted coworkers.

So I tossed together a quick clafoutis with a few things likely to be in the office fridge at any given time: eggs, milk, fancy product samples, and my latest cache of greenmarket fruit. Of course, since there are no measuring cups or spoons in the office kitchen I had to estimate amounts and bake my clafoutis in a skillet instead of a pie plate or souffle dish, but that just attests to the flexibility and forgiving nature of this dessert. And it’s very quick to mix and bake, so I was able to get it in and out of the oven in well under an hour.

Now that I’m sure I can make it at work whenever need be, I feel a little better about all the late nights we’re about to pull in preparation for our biggest event of the year. After that, I’m going to take my nectarines home and bake them into coffee cakes and pies at a leisurely pace.


Nectarine Clafoutis (loosely adapted from a memory of Julia Child’s recipe)

  • 3 nectarines, sliced thinly
  • 1/3 c flour
  • 1/3 c sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • faint grating of nutmeg, about 1/8 tsp
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs hazlenut oil
  • 1 c milk
  • 2 Tbs Saint-Germain elderflower liqueur

Preheat the oven to 375. Put the butter in a 10-inch skillet in the warming oven. Whisk 1/2 c sugar, flour, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Then whisk in the eggs. Take the skillet out of the oven and pour the butter into the egg mixture and whisk in along with the oil. Use a paper towel to rub the remaining melted butter over the bottom and sides of the skillet. Slowly pour the milk and liqueur into the batter, whisking all the while. Sprinkle a little sugar on the buttered pan. Pour about a quarter of the batter into the pan and bake about 5 minutes, just until set. This creates a base to keep the fruit from adhering to the bottom of the pan. Remove skillet from oven, and arrange the nectarine slices over the batter skin. Gently pour the remaining batter over the slices, re-arranging them if any float out of place. Bake 20 – 30 minutes, until center is set and edges are golden. Remove from oven and sprinkle with just enough sugar to make it sparkle. Serve warm or room temperature.

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Deskmates 1: Some Summer Fruit

Introducing my new series, Deskmates. These are the foods that keep me going when I’m at work. Most of them are pictured on my desk, hence the name. Also, I end up eating at my desk while trying to respond to emails and edit drafts way more than I’d like to admit. No leisurely lunchbreaks for me!

At least I can enjoy the fruits of the season at my desk. And I usually stop to buy something at the greenmarket on the way from train to office.

Some of them aren’t even close to being local or in season, like this Minneola from Peru. I’m still not entirely certain of my personal plan for eating local, seasonable, and sustainable foods (besides choosing those as often as possible), but I’m allowing myself the occasional citrus indulgence. Until I move to California, that is, and have my own personal lemon grove. I’ll let you know when that happens.

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Nose to Tail Watermelon

I hate waste and I love pickles. So preserving the rind of a juicy summer watermelon makes perfect sense to me. I get jars and jars of delicious pickles, crisp pink watermelon cubes, and of course the satisfaction of using every part of the beast. And believe me, a 15-pound watermelon is a beast. This recipe is sweet, spicy, and slightly sour and features some of my favorite flavors – cinnamon, lemon, mustard seed, vinegar. It’s worth getting a whole watermelon just to make these.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

For the rind:

  • 1 15-pound watermelon
  • 8c water
  • 1 Tbs coarse sea salt

For the brine:

  • 2c cider vinegar
  • 1c water
  • 1c turbinado sugar
  • 1 Tbs coarse sea salt
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 1 lemon’s zest, peeled off in long strips
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs brown mustard seed
  • 1 Tbs coriander seed
  • 1 large bay leaf

With a chef’s knife, cut the watermelon into quarters. Slide the knife between the rind and flesh of each quarter the way you’d loosen a cake from its pan. Pull the flesh out in one chunk and reserve for a sorbet, salad, or snack. Use a soup spoon to scrape the remaining flesh from the white part of the rind. Strip the green skin away with a vegetable peeler. Cut the rind into 1-inch squares. Place the rind and 1Tbs salt in a large stock pot and cover with the 8c water. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer about 5 minutes, until the rind begins to turn translucent. Remove from heat, drain well in a colander. Put the cubes into sterilized jars, leaving about 2 inches at the top. (I used one 2-quart jar and two pint jars.)

In another pot, place all the brine ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook just until the sugar and salt dissolve. Ladle the brine and spices over the rind cubes. Cover with 2-piece lids and boil in a water bath for 15 minutes. Or if you don’t care about sealing the jars, leave them on the counter for 3 or so hours until they’re at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.

The pickles are ready to eat after a day of brining, but their flavors fully develop after a week.

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Rhubarb, Repeated

It’s like I have a one-track mind in spring, and that track is laid with slender pinkish stalks and leads inevitably to the oven.  I’m talking about rhubarb, of course, and my favorite (easiest!) preparation, the oven-baked compote.  So last week at the greenmarket, I was compelled to buy yet another pound-plus of the crunchy, tart, plant.  I had all kinds of glorious plans, but by the time I got home, I only had energy to chop it and toss it with some sugar before collapsing.

When the compote was meltingly soft, about an hour later, it occurred to me that rhubarb would make a delicious, silky sorbet, what with all its pink and earthy flavor and high pectin content.  So I puréed the compote with a cup of Vigonier that had been wasting away in the fridge, and ran the resulting slush through my ice cream maker.

The sorbet was delicious.  Just sweet enough to balance the tartness of the rhubarb and the crisp wine.  Somehow the wine brought a note of spice and sophistication, and thanks to the long, slow cooking process, the rhubarb fibers melted into the gelatinous purée.  I’m already thinking of how to improve this recipe when I make it again (though there’s still a half-full quart container in my freezer).  I think I’d opt for less wine next time and maybe a few drops of rose water.  I meant to put that in this time, but forgot.  I think adding some berries to the rhubarb would also be nice, as would agave nectar instead of sugar or two tablespoons gin instead of the wine.  It’s a pity rhubarb season is so short and my freezer so small — otherwise, I’d make a variation on this sorbet at least once a week.

Rhubarb Sorbet

1 1/4 pounds rhubarb, washed, trimmed, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (or use a mixture of rhubarb and berries)

3/4 c sugar

1 1/2 c crisp, fruity white wine ( I used an Argentinian Vigonier, but a California Pinot Grigio or Provenςal Rosé would be nice, too)

2 tsp rose water (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a pyrex loaf pan, toss the rhubarb and sugar.  Bake about 1 hour, until the rhubarb falls apart when stirred. Cool to room temperature.

Purée the rhubarb with a food processor or immersion blender and add the wine and rose water gradually.  Chill the mixture overnight, then run through ice cream maker.

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