Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alien Ingredient #29: Korean Melon

Korean Melon, Cell Phone for Reference
I spied this small oblong orange-yellow melon at the market the other day and decided to take it home. I chose it like any other melon: I smelled it for fragrance and felt it for a little give. This one was fragrant and had plenty of give.

On cutting it open, the fragrance is a cross between honeydew and cantaloupe and the flesh is nearly white with a slight yellow cast. The flesh tasted the same way, but despite showing all the signs of ripeness, it was too firm to spoon out of the shell.

Vote: nothing to write home about. Both ripe honeydew and ripe cantaloupe blow this guy out of the water and at $1.79 for a tiny melon, it's very expensive. I'll wait for July and August for our local melons, thanks.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alien Ingredient #28: Artichoke Stems

Out of the blue, one of our growers recently brought us a big bunch of artichoke leaves. I really don't know of any use for the gray-green leaves, but the central leaf ribs which you see in the picture below can be used like Swiss chard. Stripped down like this, they sort of resemble celery, chard, cardoon, or rhubarb stalks. We braised one of the artichoke stems in chicken stock with a touch of butter and lemon juice and our initial taste of the small end led us to believe that not only was the stalk edible, but that it tasted very much like artichokes, no surprise there.

I peeled the stalks down like celery or rhubarb, removing as many of the strings as I could and then braised them. We unleashed them on an unsuspecting table of guests at our Chef's Table. We served them stuffed with a classic Bolognese sauce made with some of our local rabbit. And the verdict, tasty but too stringy still. Darn! Back to the drawing board.

So we puréed them and served them as-is as a plate garnish, in a soup with asparagus, and as a sauce for some delicate John Dory filets. They worked admirably for these applications.

We're working on thinly slicing them across the grain to see how that works. I'm hoping that lets us use the stems in salad and side dish applications.

Vote: Delicious, but are probably best puréed and passed through a fine chinois. We'll take more any day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Alien Ingredient #27: Rambutan

This hairy relative of the lichee looks rather bizarre but is really a delicious fruit with notes of sweet melon, peach and jackfruit. The texture of the flesh surrounding the small pit is similar to a firm grape, but like jackfruit the flesh is not juicy. On some, when the flesh would peel away from the seed, it would pull some of the seed coating away attached to the flesh. This seed coating has an almond-like flavor.

I found it necessary to nick the husk with a knife to start opening it. I left a few on the counter overnight trying to see if I could get them to ripen more. Bad move. They shriveled. It seems best to store them covered.

Vote: Fun, tasty, not super sweet, and not cloying like lichees, but at $8/pound with at most 50% yield, probably not worth the price.