Flirting with Flavour


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Pickin’ up pawpaws, put ’em in your pocket…

A couple of weeks ago, while at the annual Anniversary Weekend of the mosque where I went to pre-school, I tried pawpaw fruit for the first time.  The mosque has a farm where they grow a number of different fruits and vegetables.  And as I wandering around, I stopped to admire (hungrily, I might add) the apples that had been brought in from the farm.  In a small wicker basket on the edge of the table with the apples, were a fruit that I thought might be some kind of mango or papaya.  Unsure, I asked what they were.  “Pawpaws”, came the reply.

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Pickin up pawpaws, put ‘em in your pocket… A familiar, yet unfamiliar, tune made its way into my head.  Please tell me you also remember this nursery rhyme from your childhood?!

Upon asking a few more questions (and a couple google searches), I found out that pawpaw trees are native to the north east of the United States and are absolutely not related to papaya, which occasionally are given the nickname pawpaw.  They do, however, taste very tropical, a bit like a banana crossed with a mango and a hint of something that would make it the perfect accompaniment to a Piña Colada, and have the texture of papaya.  Their seeds are shaped like the stretched out pennies you can get as a souvenir at the zoo and there are lots of them, which make them a bit messy to eat.

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I had my first few bites of pawpaw and we threw ideas back and forth about what could be done with them, aside from eating them fresh – smoothies, curry, chilli, tea loaf, muffins, cookies, custard, were a few of the ones we came up with.  I did really like them fresh, but always one to leap at the chance to try new ingredients and recipes, I accepted the challenge to take 6 medium sized pawpaws and make something, anything, with them.  With my roadtrip to Maine coming up, I opted to make muffins, figuring they’d make a good snack for during the long ride.  The recipe I came up with, which is included below, is inspired by the pawpaw’s similarities to banana and the fall weather.  In order to get the puree, I washed, peeled, and de-seeded the pawpaws and then put the meat through a food processor for just 1-2 minutes, until I had a mashed-banana-like consistency.  The resulting muffin is really the perfect representation of autumnal spices.  For that reason, it would be a good accompaniment to a Thanksgiving brunch.  I’ve never tasted anything quite like it, but then again, until a few weeks ago neither had I ever tasted fresh pawpaw!  And, of course, these could be made using banana, mashed sweet potato, squash, or pumpkin, or anything you feel goes well with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger!

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Pawpaw Muffins
Yield: 22 muffins

Ingredients
Dry

2 ¾ cup flour (I used a mixture of spelt & white rye)
1 7/8 tsp cream of tartar
¾ tsp salt
1 1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon (I use a Vietnamese cinnamon that I got through the King Arthur Flour website – I have never had such a fragrant cinnamon, even when I grate it myself)
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp each of allspice and ground ginger
Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/3 cup mixed chocolate & cinnamon chips

Walnuts, roughly chopped (to sprinkle on top)

Wet

¼ cup vegetable oil
6 medium ripe pawpaws, pureed
5/8 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
Juice from ½ lemon
3 eggs

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C or 350F convection).  Line muffin cups.
  2. In a medium bowl mix together flour, cream of tartar, salt, baking soda, spices, and lemon zest
  3. In the bowl of a mixer (or use a hand mixer), whisk oil, pawpaw puree, and sugar on medium speed until well mixed and fluffy. Add lemon juice and the eggs one at a time. Combine.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until just combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Remove bowl form mixer and fold in coconut and chocolate/cinnamon chips.
  5. Divide batter evenly into muffin cups. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine cooked in 23 minutes in a convection oven at 350F.)
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Driving over the bridge from New Hampshire into Maine, I’m greeted by a sign exclaming: Welcome to Vacationland!

The past week has been full of good friends and good food, starting with an impromptu batch of homemade shakshuka and ending with a full array of vegan, gluten free ice creams, with lots of lobster in between.  It had been at least 10 years since I was last in Maine and I had never been to Boston, so I was certainly determined to experience the most I could!

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Shakshuka success! (photocredit: David Friedkin)

What a delight it was to wake up in the middle of the Maine woods this Saturday morning, the smell of french toast wafting up the stairs.  I wandered down to find H in the kitchen with her mom and the ensuing girl-talk, and fresh scrambled eggs with red onion and mushrooms her mom whipped up for me (since I couldn’t eat the french toast), were both highlights of the weekend.

Vacationland!!

Vacationland!!

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to visit my grandmother’s best friend right on the water in Biddeford Pool, basking equally in the stunning coastline, good company, and delicious lobster roll – sans roll, of course, which really just meant oodles and oodles of lobster meat on a few greens 🙂 – at Pier 77.

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The View from Pier 77

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The outside of Pier 77

And to finish off a glorious day, H’s parents took us all out to Boone’s in Portland, where if I hadn’t yet had enough lobster, I made sure to get my fix on all things seafood.  To start our table shared fried oysters and clams (in a GF batter!), as well as 4 different types of oysters on the halfshell.  While, I could have done without the clams, the oysters – raw and fried – were outrageous.  I usually don’t care for raw oysters, but these ones were perfectly tender and slid right down.  For the main, I lucked out and was sitting with three other foodies, also wanting to try everything, so we decided to get a bunch of dishes and split them:

New England Clam Chowder;
Crab Cakes;
Baked Stuffed Lobster with Scallops;
Baked Stuffed Haddock with Lobster and Buerre Blanc;
Charred Arctic Char a la plancha with a Buerre Blanc Sauce;
accompanied by sides of crispy brussel sprouts and coleslaw.

It was a LOT of food and we licked our plates clean, leaving just enough room for dessert – an outrageously rich flourless chocolate cake covered in dark chocolate ganach and studded with York’s peppermint patties to celebrate H’s mom’s birthday (and made by her as well – can you tell yet, how much I admire this woman?!).

Sunday night became a St Andrews reunion, running into former hallmates and catching up with Principal Louise Richardson at the Boston screening of Ever to Excel.  Afterwards, a few of us broke (gluten free) bread and wine at Legal Test Kitchen.  I got lobster again.  I know what you’re thinking – branch out girl!!  But let me tell you, when one is used to only partaking in lobster once a year and the said specimen generally comes from ShopRite, the fresh Maine variety is a temptation that it would be a sin to turn down!

“angry lobster” (GF)

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Crema Catalana (perhaps better known as Creme Brule)

Sharing all these delicious meals to you is making my mouth water, despite having just eating the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever had at the Two Boots in Grand Central Terminal (today is another travel day, this time destination: home).  By the way, if you ever find yourself at Two Boots (they have locations all over NYC as well as in Baltimore and New Orleans), I highly recommend the Tony Clifton – shitake mushrooms, vidalia onions, sweet red pepper peto, and mozzarella.  The plain cheese pizza is very good, as well, and the crust is thin and NOT grainy.  What a concept!  Even my food-normal friend enjoyed it, though she did comment that the wheat crust was better.

All of the above are more than enough to get excited about going to either Maine or Boston (or both!), but the crowning glory was dessert last night.  I had dinner at Canary Square in Jamaican Plain with 2 dear Pocono friends, which was great.  Canary Square is farm to table, definitely worth checking out.  But their dessert list wasn’t exactly inspired, so we took a walk down the street and were lured into a small storefront, FoMu, calling itself “alternative ice cream and cafe”. Turns out there is no dairy in the entire store.  None.  The majority of their ice creams are made with coconut milk, though there are a few soy-based, and the flavours range from dark chocolate, to cardamom pistachio, from avocado, to mocha chip, from apple spice donut, to pumpkin spice.  You get it.  They have basically every flavour you could ever imagine.  You can imagine what a treat this was, since I am usually relegated to whatever non-dairy flavour the supermarket has on its shelf and while these have certainly expanded over recent years, FoMu blew them all out of the water.  It was heaven.  I got my favourite gelato combo – dark chocolate with cardamom pistachio and chocolate chunks.  Yum.  Next time you are in Boston, go there.  And if anyone from FoMu reads this – can you please open a store in Philly?!

mint chip with rainbow sprinkles

mint chip with rainbow sprinkles

dark chocolate + cardamom pisatchio topped with TAZO chocolate chunks

dark chocolate + cardamom pisatchio topped with TAZO chocolate chunks

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espresso “ice cream” topped with Newman O’s

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“fall into FoMU” – yes please!