Despite my love of food and cooking there are still some foods that I have never tried before. Most of them consist of foods not grown or produced here in Canada. My husband, for instance, has travelled quite a bit for business in China and has eaten many foods that most people would never have even heard of. I call him the 'garbage pail' though; he'll eat anything! I don't think I would fare well in China myself...
The other day when making dinner I realized that there were several ingredients in my meal that I had never used. Those ingredients were persimmons, lemongrass and star anise. When I planned my meals for the week I just went with what sounded nice and didn't notice until I compiled my grocery list what foods I was going to end up getting.
When buying new ingredients I often pull out my handy dandy 'Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients'. I love it because it describes what the food is, how to buy it, how to store it, what to pair it with, and also how to prepare it. For the persimmon's for instance, it suggests buying the fruit in season in late fall and winter and to choose fruit with rich color, glossy skin, and no blemishes with leaves intact. To eat, it says to cut off the top and spoon out the pulp, or add to fruit salads. Blend for smoothies, use in sauces and in cold/iced desserts. Pretty informative, eh?
I wish the book had more information for choosing pomegranates though. When I opened one to go with the persimmons in the salad it was all rotten on the inside. Bummer!
So anyways...you're probably wondering what these exotic ingredients were being used for... Well, the persimmons were used in a salad and the lemongrass and star anise were used in a Red Lentil and Coconut Soup. Yeah...the meal was quite exotic.
Both recipes were from 'The Earthbound Cook', one of my favorite cookbooks.
The soup's ingredients had onions, fresh ginger, lemongrass, cumin, star anise, dried coriander, garlic, vegetable broth, red lentils, a jalapeno, coconut milk, fresh basil and lime juice.
Here's a tip about using lemongrass: "lemongrass is a staple of Asian cuisines, used like an herb to add a subtle, aromatic, lemonlike flavor without the bit of citrus. Sold in individual stalks that are long, pale green, and reedlike, it is generally available in most well-stocked supermarkets and in specialty food stores and Asian markets. Only the inner core of the lower 5 inches of the stalk is usable. To prepare lemongrass, cut off and discard the root end and the reedy top, leaving about 5 inches of usable stalk. Peel and discard the outer three layers of leaves, or as many as required until you reach the pale, soft inner core. Finely slice the lemongrass." (from The Earthbound Cook)
Then there's the Star Anise. Being that it is such a common ingredient it is a bit odd that I had never used it in any recipe before. I think it's one of those things that if they are unknown to you, you don't feel comfortable using it. Now that I've used it in a recipe, however, I will probably be more apt to use it since I know what it tastes like and what it would work well with.
The persimmons.... Well, they were allright... I don't think I would buy them on a regular basis. I don't know if mind wasn't quite ripe yet, but when I first tasted it I thought foresure I was having some sort of allergic reaction. It's hard to describe, but it felt like my lips and tongue had gone numb or completely dry. I asked my husband to try one to see if it was just me having a weird reaction, or the persimmons themselves. He tried it and he experienced the same thing as I did. Very odd piece of fruit! Within the salad it didn't really add any particular flavor at all so I could have left them out and it wouldn't have made any difference. - the salad was a mixture of romaine lettuce, red cabbage, apple slices, pear slices, the persimmon, an apple cider vinaigrette and mint leaves. The pomegranate seeds were supposed to go in too, but you saw the picture of the rotten seeds. They didn't make it into the salad.
In conclusion, it was an evening of many firsts with some good, and some bad, experiences.
Have you tried any new foods recently? Have you tried persimmons before? Did your mouth react the same? Or did I just buy a bad one?