At the risk of sounding totally counterculture, I would like to confess that I love tropical fruit. That is, I thoroughly enjoy consuming fruits that have been harvested in tropical regions, packaged, and shipped across the globe. I enjoy these things even while I acknowledge the impact that common farming/distributing practices have on the environment and our natural resources. Granted, we Americans could stand to consume fewer bananas. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. It is not only the limits of our natural resources that make them so precious; it is also the tremendous opportunities and experiences they provide. As a chef, eating a Kiwifruit is just as significant an experience as seeing The Great Wall of China in person. Yet so many people (even the fervent locavore) suspend their guilty conscience when it comes to traveling abroad. I for one am thrilled to be alive during these ever-precarious times…especially when it comes to enjoying the earth’s flavorful bounty.
If you peel the skin off of a kiwi, slice it horizontally into quarter-inch disks, and use a cookie cutter to shape it into a star, there’s a good chance any kid will eat it. That was the way I first encountered this exotic, Chinese fruit. I was quickly hooked on its mouth-watering, delicious sweet-tartness. However, my ability to discriminate between kiwi and star-fruit was marred. For a long time after that first encounter, I believed that the kiwi was shaped like a star.
Many years later, I found myself in Pastry Arts and Design II punching disks of kiwi into stars while reminiscing about my first encounter. It is really fun (if not a little adolescent) to cut fruit into shapes before eating them. The act of doing so never grows old. They even teach it in culinary school. But you don’t have to cut it into shapes to enjoy it. Whether diced and thrown in a salsa, or pureed and roasted with Acorn squash, the kiwi is just plain delicious…
Much like the banana and mango, the kiwi has a tough outer skin which makes it sturdy enough to endure being packaged and shipped long distances. But perhaps the fruit’s greatest virtue is how well it ripens at room temperature while sitting undisturbed on a countertop.
The kiwi’s ovular shape and fuzzy brown exterior belie its seed-stippled brilliant green flesh. Mark Bittman describes kiwis as “soft, juicy, and sweet-tart when ripe.” Yet the tartness of an underripe kiwi is not entirely unpleasant. It may at times be preferred–especially when used in salsa. A delicious salsa containing kiwi, segmented oranges, fresh grated jicama, sweet red pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and jalapeno can be prepped and assembled in minutes and served with a variety of seafood including prawns, mackerel, and trout. Many other uses and applications for the kiwi can be found all throughout the blogosphere. Some of these recipes produce great results, and are (at times) even inspired.
When shopping for kiwi, employ the same criteria as when buying apples or tomatoes. Look for unblemished, un-shriveled specimens that have no soft spots. From experience, I’ve found that most kiwis are sold underripe and should be left at room-temperature until they yield to the touch in the same way an avocado does, or a peach. Once ripe, they can be stored in the refrigerator.
Kiwi Ginger Spiced Squash
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the squash cut sides down in shallow ovenproof dish, and add enough boiling water to come to a depth of 1/2 inch.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
4. Remove the squash from the oven, carefully pour off the water from the baking tin, and turn the squash cut sides up.
Although this recipe seems a little unconventional, the combination of Kiwifruit and Acorn Squash is a welcome marriage of both flavor and region. So feel inspired, not guilty, and dig in…
- 1 Whole Acorn Squash, halved and deseeded
- 4 Kiwi, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp. melted Butter
- 2 tbsp. Brown Sugar
- ½ tsp. Fresh Ginger, minced
- 2 tbsp. chopped Walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the squash cut sides down in shallow ovenproof dish and add enough boiling water to come to a depth of ½ inch. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
- Peel and chop 3 of the kiwi.
- Add the kiwi melted butter, brown sugar, and ginger and pulse to blend. Set aside.
- Remove the squash from the oven, carefully pour off the water from the baking tin, and turn the squash cut sides up.
- Fill the hollows with the kiwi mixture then return to the oven, uncovered, and bake for a further 10 minutes.
- Slice the remaining kiwi and arrange over the squash. Sprinkle with the nuts and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.