Monday, August 17, 2015

"Tropical Fruit Cookbook" - Hawaiian Sunset Salad

Date I made this recipe:  August 21, 2015

Tropical Fruit Cookbook by Marilyn Rittenhouse Harris; illustrated by Charlene K. Smoyer
Published by: University of Hawaii Press
ISBN: 0-8248-1441-X
Purchased at Hennepin  County Used Library Book Sale
Recipe:  Hawaiian Sunset Salad – p. 70

People, at long last, it got stinkin' hot in these parts, with the temperature and the humidity heading up in the upper registers.  About damned time!  Still, it felt rather tropical outside and so what better thing to make than this tropical salad?

This book amused.  One should not be fooled into thinking that "tropical" equals "exotic" because most of the fruits listed here are ones we eat regularly:  avocados; bananas; grapefruit; lemon; oranges and so on.  And as I found, some of the less-popular fruits like passion fruit or guavas, are hard to find unless you live in the tropics in which case, jackpot!  My husband and I went to four grocery stores before finally and almost finding guava at Lunds & Byerlys.  I say "almost" because naturally, the store was out of guavas that I needed for the recipe and wouldn't have them in until the following week – maybe – and so I Googled substitutes and it recommended strawberries or pineapple; I used strawberries. So I'm afraid I cannot tell you all about guava and that's a damned shame but our schedules were such that it was now or never for the recipe.

The thing that sold me on the book though, was not necessarily the recipes but the illustrations by Charlene K. Smoyer.  I don't know who she is but I love her renderings. Alas, her illustrations are not sold separately, making me contemplate getting a second book just so I can deface it by removing and framing some of the artwork which I know, sounds horrible but how else am I going to get that artwork on my walls?

As to the recipes, most sounded really good but I was in a salad mood and was particularly swayed by the author's note (regarding the salad recipe): "In Hawai'i, many people watch sunsets carefully, looking for a "green flash" on the horizon as the sun's ball of fire sinks into the beautiful, blue Pacific.  This salad, combining green, gold, pink, yellow, and red, carries with it the memory of a Hawaiian sunset." 

I have been to Hawaii four times and while I have never seen the "green flash," I have seen some spectacular sunsets.  And since I love Hawaii, I thought the least I could do is to make this salad.  And by the way, and speaking of green and colors, I have seen the Aurora Borealis ("northern lights") a couple of times in the Boundary Waters area in Minnesota and that is impressive.  And I've heard wolf howls, happily from a distance.  One does not find wolves in the tropics and for this we are thankful.

So anyway, the recipe:  it was serviceable but it didn't float my boat, primarily because I felt something was missing in the dressing.  Although the author suggested using macadamia oil, I was not in the mood, especially after my guava search, to go track that down.  Had I done so, I would have likely thought the dressing was good.  As it is, it was just olive oil, pepper, minced kumquats and sesame seeds.  The author suggested I could use lime zest instead and I think I would have been happier with that.  And by the way, kumquats are like little mini oranges.

And as long as I'm being picky, the Chinese pea pods were bland and needed to be snapped in half as they were just too big to eat on their own and the water chestnuts are just silly.  Honestly, unless they are in a casserole, slathered with cream of mushroom soup, there is just no need to add water chestnuts to anything.  We added chicken because yes, this was a dinner salad, but Andy would have liked it more if I had marinated it beforehand.

All in all, this wasn't a bad dish but it wasn't a "nailed it" one either.  I think it could be good if you substituted a few more things and/or just selected another recipe like Lychee Champagne Punch (p. 834) or one of the many chutney recipes made from tropical fruit.  They sky is the limit in terms of recipes but you may have trouble sourcing some of the ingredients and that's a shame.  I had guava many years ago and would have liked to reacquaint myself with it but alas, 'twas not meant to be.


Hawaiian Sunset Salad – Yield:  4 servings
3 cups Chinese pea pods
2 guavas, unpeeled, deseeded, and diced
1 carambola, ("star fruit") thin star slices
½ cup sliced water chestnuts
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
3 cups coarsely chopped watercress
4 tablespoons macadamia or live oil
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
2 kumquats, minced or 2 tablespoons lime zest
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Optional: The addition of 3 cups cooked chicken cubes turns this salad into a meal

Ann's Note:  If you cannot find guava – and believe me, it is not easy to find – Google says that you can substitute strawberries or pineapple.  Also, "carambola," is often called "star fruit" at the grocery store.

Steam or microwave pea pods to crunchy but tender.  Cool.  Mix dressing ingredients in a salad bowl.  Toss pea pods and all remaining ingredients with the dressing in salad bowl.  Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.

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