Fruit – Zester Daily http://zesterdaily.com Zester Daily Fri, 05 Jan 2018 10:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.12 When It’s Too Hot To Cook, An Ice Bowl Saves The Day /fruit-2/hot-cook-ice-bowl-saves-day/ /fruit-2/hot-cook-ice-bowl-saves-day/#comments Fri, 18 Aug 2017 09:00:41 +0000 /?p=67561 A flower ice bowl filled with summer fruit and elderflower blossoms. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

 

With summer heat at its peak, the idea of hot food is a serious turnoff.  Cool is where it’s at. And you can’t get much cooler than the following flowery ice bowl. It takes a little time and attention to make, as it must be frozen in several stages. However, the result is startlingly gorgeous, especially when filled with fresh summer fruit or sundry scoops of ice cream or sorbet.

Selecting your bowls

To make an ice bowl, you will need two bowls, one slightly larger than the other. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

To make an ice bowl, you will need two bowls, one slightly larger than the other. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

First, select your bowls. You’ll need two: one bigger than the other, so the smaller one will sit inside the larger. The ones I’ve used here are about 8 inches and 10 inches in diameter (20 centimeters and 25 centimeters).

If you have two metal bowls, things will go even faster, but this combo of a ceramic mixing bowl with a smaller metal one works just fine. The point is their difference in size: You’ll be filling the space between the two with water and flowers, and the space must be sufficient to make thick ice walls for your ice bowl.

Also, make sure you have space in the freezer for your two bowls sitting one inside the other. (A cue to use up all that produce frozen last summer?)

Choosing your flowers

Good flower selections for an ice bowl include, clockwise from top left, St. John's wort, lavender, Alchemilla mollis, pelargoniums, perennial geraniums and rose petals. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

Good flower selections for an ice bowl include, clockwise from top left, St. John’s wort, lavender, Alchemilla mollis, pelargonium, perennial geraniums and rose petals. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Next go out and pick (or buy) some flowers — from your garden or terrace if you have one, or even wild ones, which give a graceful, homey touch.

The flowers should not be too big (a maximum of 1 inch across), and you’ll want to use a good mix of colors. Geraniums work beautifully, either the predominantly red and purple Pelargonium/window-box varieties or the blue or pink perennial ones. Lavender is great, as is the deep egg-yolk yellow St. John’s wort, aka Hypericum. A few rose petals won’t go amiss, and if you have some lacy, lime-green flowers of Alchemilla mollis, throw in a few of those too. Basically any small colorful flower or petal will do.

Starting your ice bowl

To start your ice bowl, place a few flowers in the bottom of the bowl, add a little water and freeze. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

To start your ice bowl, place a few flowers in the bottom of the bowl, add a little water and freeze. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Pour about 1 1/2 inches (3 centimeters to 4 centimeters) of water in the bottom of the larger bowl and place a few flowers in the water. They will float around a bit, so don’t fret too much about placing them neatly and symmetrically; they will sort themselves out. In any case, this layer will be the base, so the flowers will be barely visible once you’ve filled your ice bowl. Put the bowl into the freezer and leave until solidly frozen.

Creating the bowl shape

When the base is frozen, place the smaller bowl on top and place a weight inside it to keep it from floating. Then freeze again. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

When the base is frozen, place the smaller bowl on top and place a weight inside it to keep it from floating. Then freeze again. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Once the base is frozen, remove the bowl from the freezer and place the smaller bowl on top. It should sit with its rim slightly above the outer bowl, because it’s sitting on the frozen base. Make sure the smaller bowl is centered, and place a can of something heavy in it so it doesn’t float when you add more water.

Add about 1 1/2 inches of water and drop some flowers between the two bowls, poking them down a bit into the water. Freeze again. Repeat this procedure once or twice more until the water is up to the rim of the outer bowl.

The point of doing this bit by bit is to allow each layer of water and flowers to freeze firmly each time; if you poured it all in at once, all the flowers would bob up to the top, which would spoil the effect.

Once you’ve completed the process, keep the ice bowl in the freezer until needed.

Removing the ice bowl

When the space between the two bowls is filled, the flower ice bowl is ready. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

When the space between the two bowls is filled, the flower ice bowl is ready. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Finally comes the tricky part — you need to get your creation out from between the two bowls. The first step is to remove the small bowl (after you’ve removed that can of something heavy). Pour some hot water (tap-hot is enough) into the smaller bowl and leave for a few moments, just long enough so you can lift it out. Now fill a sink with hot water and lower the big bowl into it. Keep testing until the ice bowl has melted enough that it’s freed itself from the sides of the bowl.

Serving ideas

The finished flower ice bowl, ready to be filled with summer fruits or ice cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

The finished flower ice bowl, ready to be filled with summer fruits or ice cream. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Once the ice bowl has been freed, lift it out and place on a napkin-lined tray or plate (so it doesn’t slide and/or leak).

Now you can fill it with whatever suits your fancy: a mixture of soft summer fruits or a colorful selection of ice cream and/or sorbet, for example.

Main photo: A flower ice bowl filled with summer fruit and elderflower blossoms. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

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5 Cool Desserts Perfect For Sweltering Summer Days /fruit-2/5-cool-desserts-perfect-sweltering-summer-days/ /fruit-2/5-cool-desserts-perfect-sweltering-summer-days/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 09:00:27 +0000 /?p=68440 Layers of berries and whipped cream make a refreshing summer dessert. Credit: Thinkstock

I’ve reached that point of summer where the mere thought of flipping on the oven and heating up the kitchen to bake cookies, pies or cakes makes me sweat.

Rather than risk turning into a puddle over the next picnic or potluck party dish, I’ve shifted into low gear and started whisking, rather than cooking, my summertime treats.

Syllabub

Syllabub. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Syllabub. Credit: Copyright 2017 Kathy Hunt

Topping my roster of simple desserts that can be effortlessly whipped together is syllabub. The name syllabub may conjure up visions of windswept sand dunes, dusty camels and “Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights.” As exotic as it sounds, this sweet comes not from the sun-drenched desert but instead from Britain.

Whip syllabub until soft, velvety peaks form. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Whip syllabub until soft, velvety peaks form. Credit: Copyright 2017 Kathy Hunt

In 16th-century England, syllabub was a frothy beverage made of milk and sweet wine or cider. Because people liked the foamy head more than the liquid itself, syllabub eventually discarded its drink status and took on the role of a creamy dessert.

What makes syllabub an ideal summer treat is its simplicity. You can assemble it in a few minutes with either a whisk or an electric hand mixer. Just beat 1 cup of chilled whipping cream, a quarter cup of sauternes, muscatel or other sweet wine and the same amount of sugar together until soft velvety peaks form. Once you see those gentle mounds, you’ve got your syllabub.

To vary the taste, you can replace the wine with flavored rums or liqueurs or fruit juice. To keep its romantic desert image intact, present your syllabub in colorful North African tea glasses.

Fool

Blackberry fool. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Blackberry fool. Credit: Copyright 2017 Kathy Hunt

Another easy English favorite is the fool. As simple as its name sounds, the fool consists of mashed raw or cooked fruit folded into homemade whipped cream.

In the United Kingdom, fools usually contain gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb or plums. I find the bold look and piquant flavor of blackberries work extremely well here. When spooned into dainty etched glasses, fools become an elegant last course, one that leaves guests talking for days about your ethereal creation.

Fruit and cream

Blueberries and cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Blueberries and cream. Credit: Copyright 2017 Kathy Hunt

If you choose not to swirl mashed fruit through your whipped cream, then you’ll have the next offering, fruit and cream. Yet another straightforward treat, fruit and cream consists of alternating bands of fresh or cooked fruit and lightly flavored whipped cream. Berries, particularly blueberries or elderberries, taste fabulous in this recipe.

When making the whipped cream for this and for fools, you should beat the cream until stiff, glossy peaks form. The whipped cream in these two confections should possess a firmer consistency than that of a syllabub. Because the bands of white and purple — or red or blue or whatever color fruit you choose to use — look so beautiful together, I also serve this repast in a clear tea or juice glass.

Coconut cream

Coconut cream topped with kiwi. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Coconut cream topped with kiwi. Credit: Copyright 2017 Kathy Hunt

Reminiscent of the syllabub, coconut creams feature yogurt, shredded coconut and cream of coconut. Don’t confuse cream of coconut with its thinner, less flavorful relation, coconut milk. You will find both in the international aisle of most grocery stores and in Latin American, Asian and Caribbean markets.

To make coconut creams, whisk together 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons sweetened, shredded coconut, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cream of coconut and an equal amount of sifted confectioner’s sugar. Divide the coconut creams among four small bowls or glasses and refrigerate for 30 minutes. When you’re ready to serve the coconut creams, top each with a sprinkling of fresh diced kiwis, chopped pistachios or almonds, or grated bittersweet chocolate.

Gelée

Gelée. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kathy Hunt

Gelée. Credit: Copyright 2017 Kathy Hunt

Searching for an uncomplicated, dairy-free dessert? Look no further than the gelée. A gelatin-based treat, gelée frequently features champagne, Madeira or other sparkling or fortified wines.

To some, this may sound suspiciously similar to a Jell-O shot. How often, though, do you see that frat house staple served in a filigreed glass or garnished with a spice-infused sauce? Further distancing gelée from college fare is the inclusion of whole or pureed fruit.

Of these effortless goodies, gelée will require the most time. Even so, the moment that you shut the refrigerator door, your work ends. To make a gelée, whisk together 2 .25-ounce packets gelatin, 1/3 cup water, 1 cup wine, 1 to 1 1/4 pounds fresh fruit and 1/3 cup sugar. Pour the concoction into small bowls or glasses and refrigerate it for a minimum of three hours before serving.

During the final sultry days of summer, spare yourself the kitchen heat and whip together some of these quick, cool sweets.

Blackberry Fool

Prep time: 25 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups blackberries

1/2 cup sugar, divided

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Place the blackberries, 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and stir to combine. Allow the berries to macerate for 15 minutes, stirring periodically, until they release some of their juices.

2. Put half the berries in the bowl of a blender or food processor and purée. Pour the purée over the whole berries and stir the mixture together.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla extract and continue beating until stiff peaks take shape.

4. At this point, fold in the berries. Because I prefer a dryer fool, I strain off and reserve most of the juice and just add the berries and strained purée to the whipped cream. I later drizzle the juice over the individual servings of fool.

5. If you’re serving this right away, spoon equal amounts of fool into 4 bowls. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate the fool until ready to serve. Note that when refrigerated, the fool will keep its shape for 2 to 3 hours. Make and serve accordingly.

Main photo: Layers of berries and whipped cream make a refreshing summer dessert. Credit: Thinkstock

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Watermelon Ice Cubes Make A Cool Summer Cocktail /drinking/74814/ /drinking/74814/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 09:00:57 +0000 /?p=74814 Watermelon Surprise, watermelon ice cubes in a vodka cocktail. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

You love summer but not when it is uncomfortably hot. For relief, you could jump into the pool. Or, you could cut a thick slice of watermelon and let the sweet juices cool you down. Even better, you could fill a tall glass with a watermelon cocktail made with watermelon ice cubes and straight-from-the-freezer vodka and settle into the chaise lounge. You stir the ice cubes. Bits of watermelon juice break free. The crystal clear vodka turns pink. You sip, stir and eat a watermelon ice cube and suddenly you are not overheated any longer.  Now, you are cool and happy.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy

August is a good month for watermelon. They grow quickly in the heat of the sun, producing fat, heavy fruit loaded with sweetness.

At the farmers market I was always told to use a hand to thump on the melon. When the sound was deep and resonant, the melon was ripe, ready to eat. If there is a farmer you frequent at your neighborhood market, ask for advice about a good melon that’s ready to eat.

Prices for watermelon vary greatly. At Asian and Latin markets, watermelon can sell for as little as 10 cents a pound. At upscale supermarkets and farmers markets, the prices can be significantly higher.

A melon is delicious at room temperature or ice cold. I like to chill the melon overnight in the refrigerator. Of course, the easiest way to eat watermelon is to use a sharp knife to cut out a thick slice.

But when I was in Zurich recently I met Olivier Rais, a talented chef who runs the bistro Rive Gauche in the iconic hotel Baur au Lac across the street from Lake Geneva. He had just returned from working with Tal Ronnen, the celebrated chef who created Crossroads Kitchen, an upscale Los Angeles restaurant devoted to vegan cuisine.

Rais made several vegan dishes for me to taste, one of which was a watermelon-gazpacho served in a glass.

I love watermelon but had never thought of extracting the juice. When I replicated his gazpacho at home, I had watermelon juice left over. Deciding to experiment, I reduced the juice in a sauce pan over a low flame. Once the juice cooled, I poured it into a mini-ice cube tray.

Watermelon ice cubes in an ice cube tray. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Watermelon ice cubes in an ice cube tray. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

That night I added the ice cubes to vodka that we keep in the freezer. I dropped in an espresso spoon, settled into a chair and stirred my drink. After a few sips, I realized that I had stumbled onto an easy-to-make, deliciously refreshing cocktail. Summer’s perfect drink.

Serve the cocktail with an espresso or small spoon. One of the pleasures of the drink is stirring the ice cubes. As the ice cubes melt, the watermelon juice infuses the vodka. The mellow sweetness takes the edge off the vodka.

As you stir, the ice cubes crater and reduce by half. Use the spoon to scoop up the icy bits. In an effervescent moment, the softened ice cubes dissolve like pop rocks in your mouth.

Watermelon Surprise

Watermelon slices. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Watermelon slices. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

Use any size plastic ice cube tray. The mini-trays that make 1” square ice cubes work well because the ice cubes melt easily. Use only unflavored premium vodka, and for non-alcoholic drinks, add the ice cubes to glasses of carbonated water or lemonade.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Freezer time: 1 hour or overnight depending on the temperature of the freezer

Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes or overnight and 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 (3-pound) watermelon, washed

8 ounces unflavored premium vodka

Directions

1. Place the vodka bottle in the freezer the night before serving.

2. Using a sharp knife, remove the rind from the watermelon. Discard.

3. Cut the melon into chunks, removing any seeds.

4. Place a food mill or a fine mesh strainer over a non-reactive bowl.

5. Press the watermelon chunks through the food mill or strainer, capturing all the juice in the bowl. Discard any pulp and seeds.

6. Pour the juice into a sauce pan over low heat. Reduce volume by 30%. Remove from stove. Allow to cool.

7. Pour the reduced juice into the ice cube tray.

8. Place into freezer.

9. Just before serving, pour 1½ ounces ice cold vodka into each glass. Place 5 to 6 ice cubes into each glass.

10. Serve with an espresso or small spoon.

Main photo: Watermelon Surprise, watermelon ice cubes in a vodka cocktail. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

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5 Stone Fruit Dishes Kick Summer Into High Gear /fruit-2/5-stone-fruit-dishes-kick-summer-high-gear/ /fruit-2/5-stone-fruit-dishes-kick-summer-high-gear/#respond Sun, 06 Aug 2017 09:00:07 +0000 /?p=66501 Frozen fruit-salad pops are a perfect outdoor treat. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

It’s stone fruit season! Stone fruit includes peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and cherries, all those summer tree fruits with a pit in the center. These are fruits that can be used in sweet treats, of course, but also in savory meals. Here are five recipes to celebrate stone fruits. Try them all with your family while these fruits are at their peak.

Most store-bought smoothies are high in sugar. But if you make one yourself using real fruit and plain yogurt, it's a super-healthy drink that's also a great snack. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Store-bought smoothies can be high in sugar. Make one yourself, using real fruit and plain yogurt, and create a super-healthy drink. Credit: Copyright 2017 Carl Tremblay

Keen Peachy Smoothie

Start off your morning with a peach smoothie made from real fruit and yogurt. Use fresh peaches in the summertime, since they’re in season now. During the rest of the year, you can use frozen peaches so you can have a taste of summer all year long.

Chunky stone fruit salsa pairs nicely with flax-seed chips for a healthy treat. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Chunky stone fruit salsa pairs nicely with flax-seed chips for a healthy treat. Credit: Copyright 2017 Carl Tremblay

Stone-Fruit Salsa

You can use any combination of peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots or cherries in this sweet, tangy recipe. This salsa can be used to top yogurt or waffles at breakfast, or for tacos and quesadillas at lunch or dinner. Or, just go classic and scoop it up with a chip. The salsa can also be made a little spicier by adding jalapenos, if you like.

Frozen fruit-salad pops make the most of summer fruits’ colorful sweetness. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Frozen fruit-salad pops make the most of summer fruits’ colorful sweetness. Credit: Copyright 2017 Carl Tremblay

Frozen Fruit-Salad Pops

These homemade popsicles can be made with any fruit you like, but since stone fruits are in season, it’s a perfect time to use them. Chopped-up fruit frozen in white grape juice makes a sweet treat for hot days. Plus, these pops are so beautiful! (But not too beautiful to eat.)

Stone fruit and biscuits make for a filling, and satisfying, summer treat. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Stone fruit and biscuits make for a filling, and satisfying, summer treat. Credit: Copyright 2017 Carl Tremblay

Peach-Cherry Cobbler

This dessert uses two stone fruits: peaches and cherries. Of course, you can use your favorite stone fruit instead. (Or even strawberries or blueberries — we won’t tell!) A cobbler is kind of like a giant, fruit-filled biscuit, and it makes a perfect treat after a lazy summer day.

A "secret" ingredient in this smoothie: Dates, which are a great natural sweetener because they also add nutrients, including fiber and the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

A “secret” ingredient in this smoothie: Dates, which are a great natural sweetener because they also add nutrients, including fiber and the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium. Credit: Copyright 2017 Carl Tremblay

Cherry-Berry Smoothie

Here’s a creamy shake made from cherries and dates. Dates aren’t stone fruits — but they do have pits! They’re also super healthy, and sweet, which adds natural sweetener to this smoothie.

More from Zester Daily:

» Shaking the tree
» First summer stone fruit
» Prime time for nectarines
» Go beyond pie and cobbler: 7 ways to use peaches

Main photo: Frozen fruit pops are a perfect outdoor treat. Credit: Copyright 2017 Carl Tremblay

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Born In China, Peaches Easily Swing Sweet And Savory /world/born-china-peaches-easily-swing-sweet-savory/ /world/born-china-peaches-easily-swing-sweet-savory/#comments Sun, 30 Jul 2017 09:00:38 +0000 /?p=67897 Stir-frying is among the ways the Chinese prepare peaches that differ from cooks and bakers in the U.S. Credit: Copyright 2015 Laura Kelley

One of China’s many gifts to world cuisine is the peach, and with the season in full swing, now is the time to celebrate this most ancient and beloved of fruits. Peaches have been an important aspect of traditional culture in China, and were first described in the agricultural manual, “Xiaxiaozheng,” written almost 4,000 years ago.

The Daoists considered them important symbols of immortality, and other works celebrate their association with youth. For example, in the “Shijing (Book of Odes),” a compilation of poetry and song from about 3,000 to 2,500 years ago, the peach tree is compared to a young bride with brilliant flowers, abundant fruit and luxuriant leaves:

The peach tree is young and elegant;
Brilliant are its flowers.
This young lady is going to her future home,
And will order well her chamber and house.

Culinary uses

Pickled peaches are traditional in China. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sasimoto/iStock

Pickled peaches are traditional in China. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sasimoto/iStock

The culinary uses of peaches in China are generally more varied than they are in the west. We tend to limit our use of peaches to sweeter dishes, such as pies, cakes, cobblers and fruit salads. Additionally, we use them to add a sweet flavor to oatmeal and other cereals, generally served at breakfast.

In China, peaches are featured in both sweet and savory dishes. From the familiar peach-based duck sauce, and savory and spicy sauces for meats, to pickled peaches and even half-sour peach kebabs, peaches are everywhere. Peaches in China also tend to be eaten when we would consider them to be a bit under-ripe and hard. So, even in sweeter dishes, they often have a slightly sour tang to them when compared to sweet peach dishes in the west.

Peach origins

Peaches ripening on a tree. Credit:Schwäbin (Wikimedia) / Lizenz: Creative Commons CC-by-sa-3.0 de

Peaches ripening on a tree. Credit: Schwäbin (Wikimedia) / Lizenz

Recent archaeological analysis of peach stones (pits) has concluded that peaches were first domesticated in China’s lower Yangzi Valley beginning almost 8,000 years ago. In the area just a little south and west of Shanghai, feral ancestors of today’s peach (Prunus persica) were consciously selected for fruit size and taste, time from germination to fruiting and length of fruiting season.

The domestication process was complete in China by about 6,700 years ago, and the peach was introduced to areas of coastal Japan by about 6400 years BP (before the present). The larger, sweeter cultivars spread quickly and were commonly eaten across China by about 4000 BP. Domesticated peaches were first seen in India by about 3700 BP — a tribute to the power of early Silk Road trade.

This new analysis from a team of international scientists is significant and challenges conventional wisdom that the peach was domesticated in northwestern China. It also questions accepted ideas about how early in the history of agriculture that fruit trees became important crops. The earliest changes from feral fruit type appears almost 1,000 years before the beginnings of rice farming in the Yangzi Valley when rhinoceros and elephants were still common wildlife in the area.

Peach varieties

Fieldcrest peaches are one of 2,000 peach varieties. Credit: Copyright Patrick Tregenza/USDA

Fieldcrest peaches are one of 2,000 peach varieties. Credit: Copyright Patrick Tregenza/USDA

Globally there are more than 2,000 varieties of peaches that can be harvested from late spring through the end of October. Of these, 300 are commonly grown in the United States. Peaches are classified in three groups: freestone, clingstone and semi-freestone. The classifications refer to the way the fruit’s flesh clings to the pit.

Clingstone varietals ripen between May and August, and have yellow flesh that turns mild red to bright red close the pit. Clingstones also have a soft texture, and a high sugar and juice content, making them good for eating raw. Freestones, on the other hand, have firm texture, relatively low level of juiciness and mild sugar content, making them ideal for baking. Freestone varietals bear fruit between late May and October. The semi-freestones combine two of the most prized qualities of clingstones and freestones — a relatively high sugar content and juiciness along with flesh that doesn’t cling to the pit.

Varying by geography

Flat peaches, such as the Saturn, took more than a century to catch on in the United States. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Flat peaches, such as the Saturn, took more than a century to catch on in the United States. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Peach varieties tend to vary a great deal by geographical area. In the Central Atlantic, most farms are now featuring Glenglo and Early Red Free peaches with Red Havens ripening in the next week or two. August promises the greatest variety of peaches in this area with peaches available for almost any use.

The global produce market makes many varietals available at supermarkets regardless of the local fruiting season. The most interesting additions to these markets has been the flat Saturn and Jupiter peaches, also called doughnut peaches. These are freestone varieties with low acidity and high sugar content, best eaten raw. Interestingly, flat peaches (Peento variety) were introduced to the U.S. from China in 1869, but the idea of a flat peach didn’t catch on with consumers until the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Chinese stir-fried peaches

This is an authentic, savory way to enjoy the fruits of the summer. For a real Chinese touch, use an under-ripe peach, or one with a low-sugar, high-acid content for a sweet and sour treat.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 6 to 10 minutes
Total time: 16 to 26 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

 Ingredients

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 to 3 teaspoons lightly roasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons sugar (Demerara or palm sugar is best)

6 peaches

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 to 3 tablespoons grated ginger

1 to 2 tablespoons minced garlic (or Chinese chives)

Directions

1. In a small bowl or cup, combine the soy sauce, hoisin, rice wine, rice vinegar and sesame seeds. Add sugar. Mix well and set aside.

2. Thickly slice peaches and remove the stones. You may skin the peaches if you wish, but it is not mandatory.

3. Heat the sesame oil in a wok until it just starts to smoke, and add the ginger and garlic and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until partially cooked. Add the peaches and stir until well coated. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring several times, until the peaches start to soften. It may be necessary to cook longer if the peaches are very firm.

4. When the peaches are partially cooked, add the soy sauce mixture and stir well to coat. Cover and cook until peaches are of a desired tenderness, about 2 to 3 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Main photo: Chinese stir-fried peaches. Credit: Copyright 2017 Laura Kelley

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10 Watermelon Recipes That Scream Summer /fruit-2/10-watermelon-recipes-that-scream-summer/ /fruit-2/10-watermelon-recipes-that-scream-summer/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 09:00:25 +0000 /?p=67216 Chocolate-dipped Watermelon slices sprinkled with sea salt. Credit: Copyright 2015 Zester Media

Watermelon’s dribble-down-your-chin deliciousness adds an exclamation mark to any summer picnic. Memories of seed-spitting contests followed by a run through the sprinklers are the essence of childhood.

But there is so much more to love about watermelon. It is summer’s most versatile food. Dress it up or keep it simple. Soups, curries, salsas and salads; watermelon’s savory sweetness deserves a place at every meal. Let your imagination go!

Whether you use the fruit in cocktails, healthy smoothies or a simple Mexican agua fresca with watermelon juice and a squeeze of lime, drink in the goodness of watermelon.

Check out these 10 killer ideas; you will never see watermelon the same way again.

More from Zester Daily:

» Watermelon salad heaven starts with the right melon
» Watermelon + seeds
» Japan’s fruit fetish
» Ring in the new year with simplicity and health

Main photo: Chocolate-dipped Watermelon slices sprinkled with sea salt. Credit: Copyright 2015 Zester Media

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Cocktail Tip: Infusing Vodka With Summer Fruit /drinking/cocktail-tip-infusing-vodka-summer-fruit/ /drinking/cocktail-tip-infusing-vodka-summer-fruit/#comments Thu, 13 Jul 2017 09:00:48 +0000 /?p=66066 Bing cherry infused vodka in quart jars. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Infusing vodka with fruit is perfect for summer and holiday entertaining. Colorful and easy to make, all you do is place the washed fruit into a clean glass jar, pour in the unflavored vodka, cover and store until the fruit has transferred its flavors to the vodka. The resulting infused spirit can be sipped by itself or used in a deliciously refreshing cocktail. That’s it. Wash, pour, cover, wait and enjoy.

Flavored vs. infused

Umeshu after one year. Credit: Copyright David Latt

Umeshu, after one year. Credit: Copyright David Latt

All the popular spirits — bourbon, tequila, gin, brandy and rum — can be infused with savory or sweet flavors. Vodka is the easiest because it is more neutral than the others.

You may have seen vodkas labeled as infused with lemons, oranges, cranberries, pomegranates and raspberries. In point of fact, they are actually flavored artificially. The taste of those vodkas ranges from passable to medicinal.

Creating your own flavors allows you to control the quality and the strength of the infusion. Using a farmers-market-fresh approach will bring a farm-to-table excellence to your cocktails.

How long to infuse?

Ume or green at Marukai Market (West Los Angeles, CA), sold to make umeshu. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Ume or green plums at Marukai Market in West Los Angeles. They’re used to make umeshu. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

Generally speaking, soft fruit needs less time to transfer its flavors. Strawberries for instance need only a few hours or a day at most. With quick infusions, taste frequently and strain out the fruit when you have the flavor you want. When the fruit is removed, the infusion stops.

With a firmer fruit such as cherries, infusion can take longer. To make the Italian liqueur limoncello, lemon peels remain in the vodka for several months. When making umeshu, Japanese plum wine made with green plums called ume, the plums take a year to complete the infusion process.

When making infusions, no need to use premium vodkas. The fruit so dominates the flavor, buying affordable vodka is definitely the way to go.

Infused vodkas can be used as the basis of any number of cocktails. Personally, I enjoy them over ice, neat or with a mix of soda water. Simpler is better. The result is deliciously refreshing, especially on a warm summer day.

Cherry-Infused Vodka

Bing cherries being washed in a colander. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Bing cherries are best for vodka infusions. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

Buy good quality, unblemished cherries, preferably Bing cherries because they are fat and sweet. The cherries can be pitted, in which case they will give up their flavor more quickly. But over time the cherries will become less firm. I prefer to keep them whole so they can be served as an adult dessert.

Use glass jars, any size you have on hand. Wash the jars and tops in hot, soapy water and rinse well. Quart juice or canning jars work very well. Use the cherries separately as a dessert by themselves, with plain yogurt or as a topping on ice cream.

The infused vodka can be served cold as a shooter with a cherry as garnish or in a mixed cocktail of your choice. Leave the cherry whole or finely chop when using as a garnish.

Add more vodka when needed to keep the cherries covered. Keep refrigerated.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Infusion time: a week to a month

Yield: two quarts

Ingredients

3 pounds fresh cherries, preferably Bing, washed, pat dried, stems removed

1 quart unflavored vodka

Directions

1. Examine each cherry. Reserve for another use any that are blemished or over ripe.

2. Remove and discard any stems.

3. Place the whole cherries into the jars.

4. Fill with unflavored vodka.

5. Cap and place in the back of the refrigerator.

6. Serve cold. Pour the infused vodka into small glasses garnished with cherries (whole or finely chopped) from the jar.

7. Add vodka to keep the cherries covered. Refrigerate.

Umeshu or Japanese Plum Wine

Ume or green plums, Japanese rock sugar, unflavored vodka in a glass jar to make umeshu. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Mix ume or green plums, Japanese rock sugar, unflavored vodka in a glass jar to make umeshu. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

Although frequently called plum wine, ume is actually more of a apricot and umeshu is a liqueur. Available in Japanese and Korean markets, ume are also sold in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Armenians and Iranians eat the unripened plums raw but do not use them to prepare a liquor. In Asia, ume are also eaten preserved in salt and called umebsoshi in Japan.

Sold at a premium price because of the short growing season in the spring, only use green, unripe fruit. Ripe ume should not be used.

Mention umeshu to someone from Japan and invariably they will smile

Umeshu shooters with chopped macerated ume (Japanese green plums). Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Umeshu shooters with chopped macerated ume (Japanese green plums). Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

Traditionally umeshu is made by grandmothers. In the spring when the plums appear in the markets, dull green and hard as rocks, the grandmothers buy up all they can find, place them in a large jar, add rock sugar and shōchū (similar in taste to vodka). The jar is placed under the sink and everyone waits a year until the plums soften and the shōchū has mellowed.

After a year in their sweetened, alcoholic bath, the ume can be eaten. I like to include them in the cocktail, either whole or cut off the pit, chopped up and added as a flavor garnish that can be eaten with a small spoon.

Only use unblemished, unripe fruit.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Infusion time: one year

Yield: 2 quarts umeshu, 2 quarts macerated umeIngredients

2 pounds ume or green plums, washed, stems removed

1 pound Japanese rock sugar

1.75 ml unflavored vodka

Directions

1. Wash well a gallon glass jar.

2. Place the ume into the jar.

3. Add the rock sugar.

4. Pour in the vodka. Stir well.

5. Cover.

6. Place in a dark, cool area where the jar will be undisturbed for a year.

7. Serve ice cold with macerated ume whole or chopped up as garnish.

 Top photo: Bing cherry-infused vodka in quart jars. Credit: Copyright 2017 David Latt

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Battle The Winter Blahs With These 4 Ginger Recipes /recipe/battle-the-winter-blahs-with-these-4-ginger-recipes/ /recipe/battle-the-winter-blahs-with-these-4-ginger-recipes/#comments Mon, 06 Mar 2017 17:15:06 +0000 /?p=72284 Create a ginger tea with tumeric, cayenne pepper, lemon, cinnamon and honey to keep colds away. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

Winter is making its presence chillingly known, and when the bitter winds and icy storms appear, so do the runny noses and sore throats. I’ve discovered that a key friend in these situations is also one of my favorite ingredients: ginger. The spicy root, while better known for curing nausea, also has secret anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting powers that make it a handy natural defense against winter germs. With its subtle heat, ginger even gives that extra warmth needed to sustain you in the frigid months. Luckily, there are several easy and delicious ways to incorporate ginger into your diet, so you can give both your immune system and your tastebuds that warm fuzzy feeling.

Ginger Immuni-Tea

Create a ginger tea with tumeric, cayenne pepper, lemon and cinnamon to keep colds away. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

A ginger tea will warm up your immune system. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

Try this bright tea to warm up your immune system and clear up your sinuses. Add several pieces of peeled sliced ginger (or a teaspoon of ground ginger) to three cups of water. Bring the water to boil and simmer 5 minutes. Add a teaspoon of turmeric (another anti-inflammatory immune booster), a pinch of cayenne pepper (decongestant), a tablespoon of lemon juice (vitamin C infusion) and a cinnamon stick (anti-inflammatory, bacteria-fighting, and antioxidant-rich). Simmer 5 more minutes, then strain into a mug and add a spoonful of honey (sweetens the spice). You can adjust measurements — just err on the careful side with cayenne and turmeric, which pack a strong punch. Prefer a shortcut? Combine the ingredients in a mug and pour boiled water over them, stirring well. Looking to really heat things up? Add rum or whiskey — it’s a Ginger Hot Toddy! A bit of a cheat on the health front, but will definitely help you stay warm.

Ginger Smoothie

Add ginger to your smoothie for a tasty immunity boost. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

Add ginger to your smoothie for a tasty immunity boost. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

This is a great option for when you’re on the run. Fresh ginger infuses refreshingly tart spice into any smoothie. Options include: mixed berries, milk, honey and banana; pineapple, coconut water, yogurt and cinnamon; mango, orange juice, ice and banana; strawberries, banana, milk and honey; carrot (juice), lemon juice, banana and mint; or kale, apple, lemon juice, blueberries, cinnamon, banana, milk and honey. Go wild with variations. I use frozen berries or banana to thicken, but you can add ice if using fresh fruit. Pick your preferred milk or yogurt — I go with almond and goat, respectively — and same goes for greens (like substituting spinach for kale). Toss it all in the blender with a few peeled slices of fresh ginger for a smooth and tasty immunity boost.

Ginger-Miso Marinade/Dressing

This Asian-inspired paste, made with ginger, is good for salads or sauces. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

This Asian-inspired paste, made with ginger, is good for salads or sauces. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

Here’s a zesty way to incorporate ginger into your lunch or dinner. Combine several peeled slices of ginger in a blender with a few tablespoons of miso, soy sauce, rice vinegar and about 1/4 cup olive or canola oil, a scant teaspoon of sesame oil, a clove of crushed garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice and/or orange juice, and salt and pepper to taste (and chopped scallions or fresh cilantro if desired). After a few minutes you have a mouthwatering, immune-empowering, Asian-inspired paste that can be used as a marinade for meat and veggies, a dressing for your favorite salad, or even a sauce for stir-fry.

Ginger-Spiced Granola

Incorporate ginger into granola with berries for a healthy snack. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

Incorporate ginger into granola with berries for a healthy snack. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

Granola is the perfect snack: portable, versatile and filling, with lots of protein and flavor. If you’re a granola addict like myself, it just makes sense to create your own. It’s easy and enables you to add all your favorite elements — including ginger!

Here’s a good starting recipe:

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Total time: 65 minutes

Yield: 6 cups

Ingredients

4 cups oats (substitute other grains, like oat bran or quinoa)

1/4 cup each of your favorite nuts, roughly chopped (I use almonds, walnuts and pecans)

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

1/4 cup each of dried fruit (figs, raisins, cranberries, apples, cherries — or a combination)

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup molasses (optional)

1/3 cup maple syrup (substitute agave or honey)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

1. Combine oats, nuts, coconut, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, salt, ginger and dried fruit in a large bowl.

2. On medium-low heat, combine coconut oil, molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a saucepan. Stir until sugar dissolves. Pour sauce over dry ingredients and combine.

3. Lay out granola on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 275 F for 20 minutes; turn the pan; bake 20 to 30 minutes more until golden brown.

Again, feel free to personalize! Don’t like granola too sweet? Scratch the maple syrup and sugar. Wild for luscious clusters? Don’t stir while baking. And if you still need more ginger: Add 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger to the dry ingredients or shave fresh ginger into the saucepan mixture.

Main photo: Create a ginger tea with tumeric, cayenne pepper, lemon, cinnamon and honey to keep colds away. Credit: Copyright 2016 Rose Winer

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Sweet Figs: 3 Healthy Recipes That Need No Sugar /chefs-wrecipe/sweet-figs-3-healthy-recipes-that-need-no-sugar/ /chefs-wrecipe/sweet-figs-3-healthy-recipes-that-need-no-sugar/#respond Mon, 19 Sep 2016 09:00:20 +0000 /?p=75401 A plate of fresh figs (Black Mission, Calimyrna and Brown Turkey figs) at the Oaks at Ojai. . Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Here’s the challenge. Create a daily spa menu with 1,000-1,200 calories. Do not use refined sugar or salt. Use fresh fruit, vegetables, low-fat animal proteins, fish and whole grains. That’s how chef Christine Denney at the Oaks at Ojai begins every day. She prepares meals using full-flavored, fresh ingredients. To celebrate fig season, she demonstrated three easy-to-prepare dishes: a stuffed baked figs appetizer, a side dish of fig salsa and a bitter greens salad with figs, almonds and Manchego cheese.

Most of Denney’s career was spent in fine-dining restaurants. Ten years ago, when she took over the kitchen at the Oaks, she had to rethink how she created flavor. No more beef, pork or lamb. No using butter, refined sugar, salt, white flour or white rice. And, she needed to create vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes.

Faced with those restrictions, she returned to basics and decided, as all good cooks do, that good food relies on good ingredients.

Fortunately, the Ojai Valley is just a half-hour from the California coast inland from Santa Barbara. The valley is famous for growing high-quality produce, citrus and avocados. On the property itself, Denney harvests ingredients she uses in her dishes.

Many of the plants at the Oaks that guests take to be purely ornamental are in fact used in her kitchen. Mature orange, lemon, guava and tangerine trees surround the pool where swimmers do laps and the morning exercise class does its workout. Along the walkway to the 46 guest cottages, she harvests rosemary, prickly pears, lavender and mint. And, of course, there are fig trees growing on the property. In good years, Denney gets a bumper crop.

Unfortunately, this year her fruit trees aren’t doing well, a consequence of California’s continuing drought. In a normal year, the figs at the Oaks are ready to harvest in early fall. This year, what figs did appear ripened a month early at the end of summer.

Luckily there are fig growers in the valley. For the video demonstration, she found a good supply of Calimyrna, Brown Turkey and Black Mission figs.

Use good-quality, fresh ingredients for flavorful and healthy meals

Fig and dried fruit salsa with a turkey burger and house made whole wheat pita bread prepared by chef Christine Denney at Oaks at Ojai. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Fig and dried fruit salsa with a turkey burger and house-made whole wheat pita bread prepared by chef Christine Denney at Oaks at Ojai. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

As part of her culinary strategy, she believes in creating meals that are full of flavor. Long ago she realized that extreme diets rarely lead to long-term weight reduction. At the Oaks, her goal is to serve meals that illustrate a culinary approach focused on farm-fresh produce and fruit, balanced servings of starches and proteins, and animal and seafood products low in fat and herbs.

Figs fit nicely into that mix.

Because Denney avoids using refined sugar in her dishes, she likes adding figs because of their natural sweetness.

A good source of fiber and manganese, the versatile fruit can be eaten raw, baked, grilled, poached or made into jam.

Baked Stuffed Figs

Use any variety of available fresh figs. They can be any size you like, large or small.

The figs should be ripe, neither too hard nor too soft.

The stuffed figs can be baked in the oven or placed on the “cold” side of a hot outdoor grill. In the summer, while hot dogs, chicken breasts, hamburgers and steaks are on the hot side of the barbecue, the nut- and cheese-stuffed figs can cook on the “cold” side.

Serve the stuffed figs either as an appetizer or as a dessert.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

8 to 12 fresh figs depending on size and appetite

12 mint or basil leaves

1 to 2 ounces soft cheese, preferably blue, feta or goat cheese

12 toasted pecan halves or 1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds

Directions

1. Wash and pat dry the figs.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F or grill to hot.

3. Trim stems from figs using a sharp paring knife.

4. Using the paring knife, from the top of the fig, cut down halfway. Make a second cut from the top so the fig opens like a flower.

5. Place a fresh mint or basil leaf on the inside of each fig.

6. Place a teaspoon of cheese on top of the leaf.

7. Add the nut on top of the cheese.

8. Press the four sides of the fig together.

9. Place the figs onto a baking tray and put in the preheated oven. If grilling, place the baking tray on the “cold” side of the grill. Cook 15 minutes or until the cheese softens.

10. Serve warm.

Fresh Fig Salsa

A good accompaniment for grilled turkey burgers, hamburgers, grilled chicken or sliced turkey.

Use any kind of fresh fig. For color contrast, use a mix of Calimyrnas and Black Mission figs.

Use a microplane or small-hole grater to grate the fresh ginger root.

After mixing, the salsa will gain flavor if allowed to rest at room temperature for half an hour.

Total time: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups diced fresh figs

1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper

2 tablespoons finely minced red onion

1/4 cup dried cranberries or black raisins

2 tablespoons finely minced jalapeno pepper or 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh mint (optional)

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely minced or finely grated fresh ginger root, peeled

Directions

1. Combine the fresh figs, dried fruit and vegetables in a large bowl. Toss gently to mix well.

2. In a small bowl, mix together lemon juice, olive oil, jalepeno or red chilli flakes, fresh mint (optional) and grated ginger root.

3. Drizzle the dressing over the figs, dried fruit and vegetables.

4. Toss well.

5. Serve at room temperature.

Bitter Green Salad With Figs, Nuts and Grated Manchego Cheese

Chef Christine Denney with a bitter green salad with fresh figs, nuts and cheese at Oaks at Ojai. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Chef Christine Denney with a bitter green salad with fresh figs, nuts and cheese at Oaks at Ojai. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Use any greens you enjoy. For the cooking demonstration, Denney used arugula. Watercress, frisee, chicory and escarole would also be good, as would conventional lettuces like green or red leaf or romaine.

Denney uses oil and vinegar produced by the Ojai Olive Oil Co. If flavor-infused olive oil and vinegar are not readily available, use high-quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

When grating lemon zest, Denney advises caution so that only the peel and none of the white, bitter pith are used. The best tool for zesting is a microplane. If one is not available, use a grater with small holes.

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

6 cups arugula or other greens

3 tablespoons fig-infused balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/4 cup finely minced fresh basil

5 tablespoons basil-infused olive oil

8 fresh figs, washed, pat dried, stems removed, cut into quarters or sliced

1/4 cup grated Manchego cheese

1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds or pistachios

Directions

1. In a large bowl, add bitter or leafy greens.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, herbs and seasoning.

3. Add olive oil to the seasoned vinegar. Just before serving, whisk well to emulsify the dressing.

4. Drizzle dressing over greens. Toss well.

5. Transfer to a platter (if using). Garnish with figs, cheese and nuts and serve.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

Main photo: A plate of fresh figs (Black Mission, Calimyrna and Brown Turkey figs) at the Oaks at Ojai. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

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Ojai Pixie Tangerines: Your New Main Squeeze /agriculture/ojai-pixie-tangerines-your-new-main-squeeze/ /agriculture/ojai-pixie-tangerines-your-new-main-squeeze/#comments Wed, 24 Feb 2016 10:00:17 +0000 /?p=72438 A crate of Ojai Pixies ready for purchase. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dana Rebmann

Beaches and show biz bring coastal Southern California its fame, fortune and visitors. For many they represent the epitome of California living. But head inland and you’ll find that agriculture is the star of the show. Even though farm country isn’t Hollywood, it has a way of making its own magic. Get your hands on an Ojai Pixie and you’ll understand what I mean.

No, I’m not talking about a cartoon fairy with sparkly dust. I’m talking about Pixie tangerines. Approximately 25,000 Pixie trees are rooted in Ojai Valley, about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles; their fruits make up less than 1% of the state’s tangerine crop, yet slowly but surely they’re making a name for themselves in faraway places.

The roots of Pixie pride

A Pixie fresh off the tree. Credit: Copyright 2015 Dana Rebmann

A Pixie fresh off the tree. Credit: Copyright 2015 Dana Rebmann

Sweet, seedless and easy to peel, Pixies typically begin ripening in March and hang around through May or June. Folks here love these tasty fruits so much they host a four-week festival dedicated to celebrating their natural sugar rush: April is Ojai Tangerine Pixie Month, when Pixie pride is at its strongest and tastiest.

A tour around Friend’s Ranch will teach you everything you ever needed to know and then some about Pixies. Five generations of Friends have lived and farmed in Ojai (and the sixth is currently growing up in the orchards, where they spend time playing and tasting).

A grower’s glory

In the groves at Friend's Ranch. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dana Rebmann

In the groves at Friend’s Ranch. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dana Rebmann

Family members Emily T. Ayala and her brother George Thacher take visitors of all ages into the orchard to taste the very sweet fruit of their labor. Guests are invited to pick off the trees and taste as they learn about the Pixie and what makes it different from other tangerines. Seedless and a snap to peel, Pixies can vary in size and appearance, but in general they are small, 1-3 inches, with easily separated segments. “We won’t pick it if it doesn’t taste good,” says Ayala.

Getting messy is encouraged. Thacher carries a handy backpack with everything you could possibly need for your time among the trees, even baby wipes to tackle the inevitable sticky fingers.

“It’s just a fun place to be,” he says.

Pixie tangerine dreams

A visual feast of Ojai fruits and flowers. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dana Rebmann

A visual feast of Ojai fruits and flowers. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dana Rebmann

For such a little fruit, it seems to have brought the community of Ojai together in a big way. Take a walk through its small downtown and you’ll see signs everywhere: in clothing stores and boutiques, book stores and restaurants, tabletop displays that include tangerines mixed in with the flowers. 

Every chef at every restaurant has a favorite way of showing off the fruit. Family-run Knead Baking Co. is famous among locals and tourists alike for its citrus syrup cake with fresh Pixie juice. Throughout April, Ojai Valley Brewery’s White Pixie Ale will be poured at Azu California Tapas.

If you want to try your hand at creating a Pixie-inspired dish, you can juice up a weekend getaway with a cooking class at the Lavender Inn, where you’ll prepare such dishes as citrus-marinated whitefish crudo and tangerine chicken. Save room for the Pixie-fennel shortbread served with tangerine-orange curd. Ojai’s Mediterranean climate is ideal for picnics, so after your lesson, you can enjoy your creations at a table in the inn’s sunny garden.

As good for cocktails as cuisine

Sunshine in a glass. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dana Rebmann

Sunshine in a glass. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dana Rebmann

Craft cocktails at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa take on a citrus theme all season; from whiskey and gin to tequila and vanilla-flavored vodka, it’s amazing what happens when you add a little squeeze of tangerine juice. The Pixology Cocktail Class includes a demonstration and sampling of two cocktails, including margaritas that pack a tasty punch. Pixies have also squeezed their way into the resort’s spa, where Pixie Tangerine Body Scrub and a pampering Body Polish Spa Treatment are available from March through June when the tangerines are harvested.

Drinking in the view

A view of the Ojai Valley. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dana Rebmann

A view of the Ojai Valley. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dana Rebmann

Work off all those Pixie calories with a power hike; Shelf Road is a quick 15-minute walk from downtown. The 1.5-mile trail is mostly level and easy to walk, run or bike and delivers great views. Expect a friendly dog or two. Citrus trees hang over the trail fences and all fruit in reach is fair game: Peels scattered along the way prove outdoor enthusiasts eat well along the trail — as everywhere else in Ojai.

Note: Dana’s trip was hosted by the Ojai Visitors Bureau, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.

Main photo: A crate of Ojai Pixies ready for purchase. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dana Rebmann 

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