Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Various groceries, from $4.99/lb
Google "cherimoya" and you'll inevitably lean that this tropical fruit was hailed by Mark Twain as "deliciousness itself." (It's curious that an early American writer would dominate an such an indirect internet search. Is it because he hit the nail on the head? Or because in the 150 years since his pronouncement, no one has been quite so effusive?)
Originating in either Central or South America, cherimoya shrubs are now grown around the world, particularly in the southern parts of Asia, California, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The fruit's strikingly bumpy skin is aptly characterized by Wikipedia as "'slightly tubercular," but it's the tendency of its pale flesh to turn creamy when fully ripe that earned cherimoya the English name "custard apple." Flavor notes vary among varietals, but descriptions commonly refer to a combination of other fruits, especially banana and pineapple, leading the first time taster to expect an all-in-one tropical fruit salad. Whether those expectations are met hinges on factors including how far the fruit has had to travel and how well it was treated along the way.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Pie in a Bowl
Acknowledging that baking pie filling inside a pie shell isn't always worth the risk, Skillet takes a surer route to satisfaction by cooking the components separately. Not until you place an order for "pie in a bowl" do the tender chocolate pudding and shards of perfectly cooked crust come together in the eponymous bowl, where their sweetness is balanced out by a smattering of sea salt and bitter cocoa nibs.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Seattle Center's Hmong New Year, $2
Food is a big component of Hmong New Year or Xyoo Tshiah, the only major holiday observed throughout the Hmong diaspora. There's pork in several formats, there's a spicy salad of pounded green papaya, there's the chewy confection ncuav, a mochi cousin made from pounded sticky rice.
And there's nab vam, a dessert-drink hybrid so colorful it rivals the appliqued costumes worn by many of the young celebrants. Although nab vam is often translated as "three color dessert," the variety of textures in each cup is at least as important and often more numerous. As Sami Scripter and Sheng Vang explain in their excellent Hmong cookbook, Cooking from the Heart, "Westerners are used to solid and liquid food being separate. That is not so for the Hmong (and Asians in general), who delight in a variety of slippery, crunchy, chewy, and watery sensations all happening in the same dish.”
Nab vam's textural delights usually include crunchy crushed ice, runny caramel syrup, unctuous coconut cream, slippery strings of rice flour jelly, and bubbly balls of "frog egg" tapioca. Extras might include crisp water chestnuts, soft-cooked beans, or juicy bits of chopped fruit. How popular is it? Scripter and Vang's standard recipe makes 40 servings.