Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lychee & Lilikoi

I've hardly cooked anything recently. That's July for ya: too hot and humid to feel like venturing into the kitchen. We've been living on fruit, smoothies, and salads, with a little chicken and fish from time to time, cooked as simply as possible.

Local melons -- mostly the small seedless watermelons and honeydew -- have been excellent lately. And pineapple, of course, and papayas. And lychees. Now that August has arrived, lychee season is pretty much over. There are still some around, but the price per pound has doubled and the quality isn't as good as it was a 2-3 weeks ago. We had such a delicious time of it this year: mahalo lychees, you were grand! We'll see you again next summer. Here, just one of our happy moments in lychee heaven.

I came home from the farmer's market Wednesday with three bags of lilikoi, intending to capture the pulp and freeze it for future use. This bowl of vaguely egg-like things is about two dozen fresh lilikoi (cost: under $5!). Don't be alarmed if some of them are blotchy and kind of wrinkly. Those might be the juiciest ones.

There were a few more, but Taraka had some as a snack last night. I was upstairs getting ready for bed when he cut them open, and I could smell them all the way up there. Such a flowery aroma; at first I thought I was smelling something blooming outside. The taste isn't quite as floral as the smell: sweet, but beyond tart. If you've ever had a SweetTart" candy, lilikoi are like that, only more so. I rarely eat them "as is." Partly 'cause of the tartness, also 'cause they're full of little black seeds. They look like this when you cut them open.

Brave souls -- and fans of SweetTarts -- can go ahead and eat the pulp with a spoon, seeds and all, as my husband does. The seeds are edible, technically, meaning it won't harm you to consume them. But they aren't what the lilikoi thing is about. So, if you're like me, you'll scoop that pulp into a bowl.

If you start with a big enough pile of lilikoi you'll end up with something like this. It looks dark because of all those black seeds still in there. If you're familiar with fresh lilikoi this will look very, very wonderful. Otherwise, I have to admit, it looks sort of... gross.

Hang in there. What you want to do now is separate the yummy, juicy, slightly gelatinous pulp from the seeds. Mushing it around in a strainer will do the trick, and take forever. A better approach is to strain what liquid you can out, then dump the rest into the bowl of your food processor and pulse it a few times.

This won't pulverize the seeds, so they can still be strained out, but it will loosen up the gel enough so you can get more of the good stuff more easily. Pour it back into the strainer...

... and mush it around until what you've got left is mostly seeds.

Toss the seeds, and look what's left! This is almost two cups of liquid gold.

I'm gonna freeze some. And I'm starting to feel tempted to attemp a lilikoi cake. I've never made one, but surely it's possible. I have a tangerine cake recipe I haven't shared with you yet (I'll post it someday, perhaps when tangerine season rolls around again); perhaps I could adapt it.

Lilikoi Cake: that might be worth turning the oven on for...

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