Recipes for Exotic Fruits and Veggies

Curious about all the interesting-looking produce at your natural products store? If you don’t have a clue how to use these fruits and veggies, the folks at Melissa’s World Variety Produce have the answers—some of them in a gorgeous new cookbook. Produce pioneers Joe and Sharon Hernandez seek out and taste-test exotic produce from all corners of the world. Asian pears from Korea, coconuts from Thailand, loquats from Hawaii, tamarillos from New Zealand, and yuzu from Japan aren’t exactly household names. But they bring exciting new tastes—and nutrients—to the standard American diet. “What we strive for is flavor,” says Joe Hernandez. “It has to taste good,” or consumers won’t try it again. Adds daughter Melissa, for whom the largest distributor of specialty fruits and vegetables is named, “Each fruit and vegetable has its own distinct flavor. “I was the kid with lychees in my lunchbox,” she says. Her peers were curious and willing to try new tastes. “It’s like a new pair of shoes. People want to know where you got them.” That’s one reason for Melissa’s Great Book of Produce by Cathy Thomas ($29.95, Wiley, 2006), from which the following recipes, plus tips on how to select, store, and prep these exotic fare, are taken. During the summer, many of these fruits and vegetables are available fresh and local, depending on where you live. Jicama A white-fleshed tuber, jicama (pronounced HE-ke-ma) is also called Mexican potato or yam bean. Its crunchy, juicy, and slightly sweet flesh is usually served raw. Shopping and Storing Look for small to medium-size jicamas, and avoid those that are cracked or shriveled. Store whole in a cool place for several days, or refrigerate for up to three weeks. Prep Cut off top and bottom. Place flat end on cutting board. Following the vegetable’s contours, remove skin in strips from top to bottom. Cut into cubes, slices, or sticks as desired. Jicama and Papaya Salad 25 minutes prep time | Serves 6 What you need: 3 Tbsp fresh orange juice 1/4 tsp minced orange zest 1-1/2 tsp sugar (optional) Salt to taste 2 Tbsp cider vinegar 3 Tbsp vegetable oil 12 oz jicama, peeled and cut into sticks 1 large, ripe papaya (1 to 1-1/2 lbs) 1/4 c chopped cilantro 2 heads Bibb lettuce, washed and drained What you do: Whisk juice, zest, sugar (if using), salt, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Set aside. Place jicama in a large bowl. Peel papaya and cut in half. Scoop and discard seeds. Cut 1-1/4-inch strips lengthwise. Cut strips into 1/2-inch crosswise slices. Add to jicama. Add dressing and cilantro. Toss gently. Arrange lettuce on a platter and top with jicama mixture. Per serving: 137 Calories, 2 g Protein, 18 g Carbohydrates, 5 g Fiber, 7 g Total fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono, 4 g poly), 9 mg Sodium, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Folate, Molybdenum, Potassium Fennel With its whitish bulb, green stalks, and feathery, dark green tops, fennel is hard to miss. Its slightly sweet flavor may remind you of licorice or anise. This vegetable is prized in Mediterranean cuisine. Shopping and Storing Bulbs should be fragrant, firm, and blemish free. Look for bright green feathery leaves at the top. Wrap in a plastic bag, dry and unwashed, and refrigerate for up to five days. Prep Rinse with cold water. Remove fern-like greenery (may reserve for garnish). Trim any brown layers at base. For crosswise strips, cut bulb in half lengthwise. Place cut side down and halve lengthwise again. Cut into crosswise slices. Fish Fillets with Fennel and Orange 30 minutes prep time | Serves 4 What you need: 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, cut in crosswise strips (reserve leaves for garnish) Salt and pepper to taste 1 orange, cut in segments (reserve juice) 4 fish fillets, such as salmon, red snapper, or sea bass (5 to 7 oz each) 2 Tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley What you do: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, deep skillet over high heat. Add fennel, salt, and pepper. Lower heat to medium and cook until fennel browns slightly, about 3 minutes. Add reserved orange juice. Cover and simmer on medium-low until tender, about 2 minutes. Set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, nonstick, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add fillets and cook about 3 minutes per side, browning well. If thicker fillets need additional cooking, place skillet in 350° oven until fish is cooked (3 to 5 minutes). Place fish on 4 plates. Stir parsley into fennel. Spoon fennel mixture over fish. Garnish with orange segments. Per serving: 252 Calories, 18 g Protein, 13 g Carbohydrates, 5 g Fiber, 15 g Total fat (3 g sat, 9 g mono, 3 g poly), 90 mg Sodium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B3 (niacin), Vitamin B6, C, K, Pantothenic acid, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), Biotin, Folate, Calcium, Copper, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Potassium, Selenium Kohlrabi Try this cabbage cousin raw or cooked. Whether you prefer the green or purple variety, baby or mature, kohlrabi is delicious. Its flavor blends those of cucumber and mild broccoli, with a subtle hint of peppery radish and a slight sweetness. Purple-skinned kohlrabi tends to be a bit spicier. Shopping and Storing Check for crisp, firm bulbs with no sign of bruises or cracks. If intact, leaves should also be crisp. Store bulbs, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Wash leaves in several changes of cold water, drain, and wrap in a kitchen towel or paper towels. Enclose in a plastic bag. Store leaves separately in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Prep Peel bulb with a paring knife. Cut into chunks, dice, or slices, depending on use. Roughly chop leaves before cooking. (Leaves may be prepared in a similar manner to collard greens.) Waldorf with Attitude 25 minutes prep time | Serves 4 What you need: 2/3 c mayonnaise 1/3 c sour cream 2 Tbsp sugar 2 tsp lemon juice 1 mature or 2 to 3 baby kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice 4 Fuji apples, cut into 1-inch dice 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced 1/2 c toasted walnuts or pecans Salt to taste, optional What you do: Stir mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add kohlrabi, apples, celery, and nuts. Toss and add salt, if desired. Per serving: 326 Calories, 4 g Protein, 39 g Carbohydrates, 6 g Fiber, 19 g Total fat (4 g sat, 4 g mono, 11 g poly), 116 mg Sodium, Copper, Manganese, Vitamin B6, Biotin, C, E, K, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Phosphorous, Potassium Mango Characterized by its mouth-watering flavor and enticing scent, mango is the most widely consumed fruit worldwide. Shopping and Storing Seek out ripe mangos that yield to light pressure. Avoid any with loose or shriveled skin. If necessary, ripen mangos at room temperature for 1 to 3 days. When ripe, refrigerate in a plastic bag up to 3 days. Prep The easiest way to peel a mango is to dice it first. Hold it on the work surface with stem end pointing up. Make a vertical slice along one of the long sides, about 3/8-inch from the stem, using a sharp knife. Make a second slice on the other side. The long seed is in the center slice left behind. Place a double layer of clean kitchen towels in your hand. Place one of the seed-free slices cut side up on a towel-lined hand. Using a small, sharp knife, make parallel diagonal slices across the mango about 3/4 inches apart, taking care not to slice through the peel. Slice again in the opposite direction. Push up the center of the slice on the skin side to expose small mango chunks. Run knife just above the skin to slice away chunks. Repeat with the other seedless slice. Peel center slice that contains the seed: Cut 2 long strips from either side of the mango seed and dice. Easy Mango Sorbet 15 minutes prep time (not including freezing time) | Serves 4 What you need: 2 c mango, peeled, diced, and frozen for 3 hours 8 oz nonfat vanilla yogurt 1/4 tsp fresh lime juice Pinch of sugar (optional) Mint for garnish What you do: Place partially frozen mango in a blender or food processor. Add cold yogurt, lime juice, and sugar, if desired. Pulse until coarsely pureed. Serve with fresh mint. Per serving: 326 Calories, 4 g Protein, 39 g Carbohydrates, 6 g Fiber, 19 g Total fat (4 g sat, 4 g mono, 11 g poly), 116 mg Sodium, Copper, Manganese, Vitamin B6, Biotin, C, E, K, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Phosphorous, Potassium