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Star Stuck

carambola ready to be pickled

I live in Florida. And it’s September. And together, that means Star Fruits. – Not a few, here and there. No, it means loads of them, over and over again.

So we eat Carambola – as this star shaped, deep golden colored fruit also is called -, whole, just as one would eat an apple or pear. We slice it up and let the lovely little stars infuse our water. We cut it into slices, dehydrate it and nibble on star shaped chips. We juice it. We cook it (with the aid of lots of pectin!) into jam. We chop it and make it into salsas and chutneys. We decorate salads or crudité platters with the yellow stars.

And, because even after all of the above there usually still are way too many Carambolas around – I pickle them. I have experimented with different brines and solid partners, and by now stick to red onions as a perfect companion to the Star Fruit, and a simple apple cider vinegar liquid. Pickling Carambola is quick and easy, so I recommend to make the little extra time to take out the seeds. It is not a huge effort, and the result is a very pleasant eating experience.

carambola bounty

carambola

Pickled Star Fruit are most probably not part of any cook book recipe – and therefore mobilize one’s creative juices. They can be added to savory sandwiches or be part of a big mixed salad. They have turned out to be the just perfect companions to specific cheeses. They marry merrily with all kinds of fatty meats and charcuterie (Foie Gras, anybody? Rillettes, Pâtés?). They make baked fish very happy, and simple rice dishes right out fancy – especially when there are some warm spices involved (think curry, turmeric, cumin, coriander, etc.).

Not to mention that they taste fruity and sweet and tart and summery just plain out of the jar. – So, being star stuck isn’t a bad thing after all.

pickled carambola in jars

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Stop Complaining Already!

key lime panna cotta dessert served

The beginning is always exciting. When you move to another country – where things are much different to what you are used to -, you first set out to explore everything new. And of course “everything”, for folks like me, first and foremost means food. While you become accustomed to fruits you never had seen before, meat cuts that sounded bizarre, cans that make you shiver, vegetables who’s names you can’t pronounce and baked goods that don’t resemble the ones you used to make back home – very, very slowly the euphoria shrivels and makes space for your longings.

There were a lot of foods, after I had moved across the big pond, that I missed early on. Cheese, for one. (Which, looking back, is ok. I turned that lack into a business that I still passionately love. And that provides me with nothing but the best cheeses.) White asparagus. Reineclaudes and mirabelles. Horse meat (and yes, i know some can’t believe that). My mom’s quince gelée. Lattich. Mangold. Apples and cherries and red currants I actually could see grow and ripen on the tree or bush, rather than just have it shipped from some far away place. I missed foraging for mushrooms and wild herbs. I missed my daily walk to the bakery and the über fresh breads for breakfast.

squeezed key limes for dessert

I still miss those (and other) things. But I made a point to stop complaining, and instead start enjoying all the many goods available here and now. I use tomatillos, star fruit, various citrus, mangoes. I experiment with boniato and yuca, lemongrass and long beans. I tend to bake more than I ever used to, and to find local and regional producers who offer edibles that make sense. It is a challenge, and to me that’s a good thing.

To this day, I see bountiful plum orchards in my dreams every now and then. And, as every early fall, I start practicing to imagine fire roasted chestnuts – eaten straight out of a paper bag on the street – without falling into a light to medium depression. But I am getting better. By now I can read recipes for stone fruit tarts or gourd soups without stumbling.

By now I also am able to remember an old, familiar recipe for Panna Cotta* with a Mixed Berries & Honey Coulis and, instead of start day dreaming, to immediately translate it into one that features Key limes instead of the (unavailable). Because there’s a box full of Key limes – grown right here where I am – waiting in my kitchen. – So, yes, always look at the bright side. And stop complaining.

forms for panna cotta

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