Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Papaya Surprises

What's the deal with papaya? I love the stuff -- but only if it's dried. Last summer the Best Husband Ever and I visited my native New Jersey. Before we arrived, my mom asked whether there was any food that I'd like her to stock up on for our stay. One of the items I requested was dried papaya.

Apparently, there was none to be had, so she substituted canned papaya. Never having tasted papaya outside of its dessicated form, I helped myself to some of the canned fruit, game as ever. I took a bite -- and promptly spit it out. I thought it tasted like vomit. Not even sort of like vomit, or vaguely reminiscent of vomit. No, to me, canned papaya = vomit vomit.

A few months later, I found myself standing before an amazing array of fresh fruit at the breakfast bar of the hotel I stayed with for the first few days of my missions trip to Malaysia. Fresh papaya was nestled between the mango, melon, and sliced apples, so I decided to try a few pieces. After all, I knew that papaya contains a natural digestive aid that helps break down protein and clean out the digestive system. (Read more about papaya's amazing nutritional properties here -- apparently it's quite the power house!) I ate some, and tried not to wince with every bite. You guessed it -- I tasted vomit again. Not as strong as with the canned stuff, but still unmistakable and unpleasant. I continued to eat the fresh papaya whenever it was available in Malaysia (we all needed a little extra digestive help!), but never enjoyed it.

So you can imagine how I felt upon discovering that the required ingredients for the current round of the Royal Foodie Joust are tarragon, cheese, and papaya. When I read that, I threw up my hands in immediate defeat. With my distaste for papaya, I simply did not want to even attempt a recipe to enter in the event.

Until I got to thinking. And Googling. Surely there must be some way to enjoy papaya without being overwhelmed by its aftertaste, I thought. And you know what? I think that must be true. Through my web searching, I discovered quite amazing-looking recipes, like a shrimp and papaya stir-fry, papaya coconut ice cream, papaya salsa, and even a write-up on papaya bread, all of which call for fresh papaya.

So I let my misgivings go and gave fresh papaya a chance. I settled on making one of the easiest, healthiest, and yummiest summer dishes that I know -- fruit gazpacho! I thought that papaya, combined with another fruit or two, would make a brilliant tropical chilled soup. I took my inspiration from Abby's Kitchen, and of course suited it to my tastes, plans, and the Joust ingredients. This took about 10 minutes to prepare, not counting the chilling time, and was fun and easy. There were also plenty of opportunities for shenanigans on the part of the pups, aided and abetted by the Best Husband Ever.

Don't worry, Lio didn't get a lick! But the hubby and I did as part of that evening's dinner. To my great surprise, the papaya, peach, and melon (a farmer's market Crenshaw -- this was a "melt in your mouth" melon, folks!) melded perfectly. The quark cheese added a lightly creamy texture, while the tarragon gave the gazpacho a refreshing bite. Still, in spite of this soupy success story, I'll choose dried papaya over fresh by its lonesome any day.

Summertime Gazpacho

3 cups ripe melon of your choice, seeded and chopped
2 ripe papaya, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 ripe peach, pitted and chopped
1/2 T honey
1/4 cup fat free quark cheese
1/4 tsp tarragon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of lavender
tarragon sprigs and shredded coconut to garnish

Place the papaya chunks in a blender (or food processor for a chunkier texture). Process until smooth, then slowly add the melon, and then the peach. Blend after you add each new cup of chopped fruit until a smooth puree remains.

Add the quark cheese, honey, tarragon, nutmeg, and lavender. Blend until smooth. Cover and chill at least one hour. Serve in lovely bowls, garnished with a sprig of tarragon and a sprinkle of coconut. Pour over vanilla or coconut milk ice cream for an extra special treat

Makes 2 large servings, or 4 small dessert servings.

(By the way, these photos were taken with my spiffy new camera. I really like it!)

1 comment:

  1. JennDZ - The LeftoveSeptember 1, 2009 at 6:36 PM

    Your entry was great! I can't believe the papaya dislike and you STILL went ahead and entered! What a trooper!!! :)I personally LOVE papaya, it is probably my all time favorite fruit. But I hate bananas, which everyone seems to to each their own, I say! :)


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