What's in season: If you've been to the market lately, you've probably noticed the mounds of cherimoyas. The season for the notoriously difficult-to-grow tropical fruit generally ranges from November through early spring. The cherimoya, known for an irregular shape and leathery green skin marked by large indentations, has a smooth, velvety flesh and delicate flavor, like a mix of papaya, pineapple and banana. Look for lighter-colored fruit that's slightly underripened and heavy for its size. Let the fruit ripen away from direct sunlight, and refrigerate cherimoya only once ripened.
What's just left: Brussels sprouts are beginning to taper off.
What's on the horizon: Beyond winter greens, keep an eye out for more delicate greens and specialty lettuce blends as we head into warmer temperatures.
What to cook: Cherimoyas don't need much work in terms of preparation, just peel and slice the fruit, being sure to discard the large black seeds, which are toxic. Purée the fruit for smoothies or freeze the purée for a creamy granita or semifreddo. For a stunning yet simple tart, fit a tart pan with puff pastry, brush with a simple egg wash and bake until the pastry is golden-brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and slice a little over a pound of cherimoyas, discarding the seeds. Arrange the slices on top of the crust, brushing the fresh fruit with lime simple syrup. Garnish the top of the tart with fresh berries and grated lime peel before serving.
Total time: 2 hours, 15 minutes | Serves 8
Note: From test kitchen director Donna Deane. Cherimoyas are available in some farmers markets and the produce sections of some supermarkets.
6 Key limes
1/2 cup sugar
1 package (14 ounces) butter puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cherimoyas (1 to 1 1/4 pounds)
1. Grate enough of the limes with a box grater or microplane to get one-half teaspoon zest. Spread half the zest on a sheet of wax or parchment paper to dry. Reserve the remaining fresh one-fourth teaspoon zest. Juice the limes to get approximately one-fourth cup juice.
2. In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar in one-half cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook to a syrupy consistency without stirring, about 15 minutes (about 230 degrees). Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the fresh undried lime zest and 1 teaspoon lime juice. Set aside.
3. Butter the bottom and sides of an 11-by-8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Unfold the puff pastry and roll out creases with a rolling pin. Drape the dough up onto the rolling pin and lift onto the tart pan. Gently ease the dough into the tart pan pressing it onto the bottom and against sides of the pan. Press the dough around the top edges of the pan to cut dough even with the top of the tart pan.
4. Brush the bottom and sides of the dough with beaten egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Prick the dough over the bottom and sides with a fork or run a dough docker over the bottom of the tart. (It is unnecessary to use pie weights.)
5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven until the pastry is golden brown. If the bottom of the dough puffs too much during baking, gently press it down without breaking the pastry. Remove from the oven and let cool to warm. When the pastry is cool enough to handle, gently loosen the sides of the shell from the pan with a knife, and remove the shell to a serving platter.
6. Cut the cherimoyas into quarters. Peel each quarter and cut into one-fourth-inch-thick slices, removing seeds with the tip of the knife as you slice. Brush the slices with the leftover lime juice as you slice them to prevent browning.
7. Arrange cherimoya slices on top of the baked puff pastry in an attractive pattern. Brush the fruit generously with the lime syrup. Sprinkle the dried lime peel over the tart. Scatter raspberries over the top, so each serving has a raspberry. Cut into slices and serve.
Each serving: 304 calories; 3 grams protein; 37 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 17 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 70 mg. cholesterol; 202 mg. sodium.
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