I have fond memories of my early years in Kanpur, India. Situated on the banks of the Ganges, Kanpur was as fertile as it could be. Our home had crisp green lawns with roses of every hue. My favorite pastime in the summer months was counting the number of tomatoes on the vine, which stretched on to the side walls of the house. I remember admiring the red plump fruit against the faded brown wall. While my dad brought home red juicy apples and healthy bunches of grapes, mom would cut a bowl of fresh tomatoes and sprinkle a little sugar, for us to eat. This was when I fell in love with fruits.
My later years were spent in Chennai. Many an afternoon, we would climb up the mango tree in our back yard. My brother and I would pick the tangy yet sweet mangoes, and add a bit of salt and chili powder to give it that extra zing. We had two different kinds of mango trees in our house, but my eye was always on my neighbor’s tree which had a mango variety called ‘Parrot’s Nose’ (Kili Mukku Mangai in Tamil). These were by far the best crunchy mangoes we could find. These mangoes were a key ingredient to an All-time Favorite roadside snack on the Marina Beach in Chennai, called ‘Thengai, Mangai, Pattani Chundal’ – a mixture of crunchy mango, coconut scrapings, green peas and spices.
There were a few weeks in summer when you could smell our house a mile away. A relative coming from Kerala would bring a huge jackfruit and oh boy! did it stink! All we ate was jackfruit this and jackfruit that, with a few mango dishes thrown in. Finally, my mom would finish off with a jackfruit jam and our home would get back to normal.
My grand mother taught me that fruits were natural cleansers and eating fruits everyday helps remove toxins from our body. I also learnt to cut fruits from her.
Now as Californians, I feel we are blessed with the abundance of fresh fruits. We get most fruits the year round. When my boys were younger, my Wednesday morning ritual was to head to the Farmer’s Market, and stroll the isles, sampling and buying freshly picked fruits. All the colors and tastes were a feast for the eyes and the palate.
You can eat fruits as they are. They can also make many dishes more interesting. I like a ripe banana as much as a banana flambé. My all time favorite is a pineapple upside cake. I can pretty much eat anything with my mother-in-law’s sweet mango thokku (pickle). I can also enjoy a whole juicy mango.
Fruits are a big part of our home menu, either as an evening snack or a salad everyday.
Here are some fruit recipes you can add to your menu. Now you can entice your kids with a healthy alternative to yet another chocolate chip cookie or cheetos! Enjoy!
This is a versatile recipe which is always a crowd pleaser. You can be creative as to what you add, to fit your cuisine preference.
1 ripe mango, sliced into cubes/strips
1 corn, kernels separated
1/2 English cucumber, sliced into cubes/strips
2 sweet peppers, sliced into rings
1/2 lime juice
1 green chili
2 tablespoons of cilantro chopped
salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, refrigerate and serve.
Variations: My Indian version has toasted cumin and/or sprouted moong beans. You can turn it into a Mexican mango salsa with grilled fish. Try it as a Thai Green Papaya salad with Mangoes, by adding mango to shredded raw papaya along with thai chilies, lime and few roasted cashews.
Green Fruit Salad
This refreshing salad incorporates many green fruits. It has Kiwi fruit that is high in Vitamin C and antioxidants. Honeydew is a great source of folate (folic acid). This salad is best when made and served immediately.
1/2 honeydew, skin removed, seeded and cubed
2 golden delicious apples, cored, sliced into cubes
3 kiwis, peeled and sliced
1 cup of green grapes, seedless, sliced into halves
1 banana, peeled and sliced
Garnish with pomegranate seeds for color (optional)
2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoons of honey
½ teaspoon chaat masala (optional)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon mint leaves julienne
Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Place all the fruits in a bowl, mix in the dressing and serve.
A Touch of Fruit (Salad)
We were at my favorite fruit store “De Martinis” in Los Altos and I couldn’t resist buying their fennel bulbs and jicama. This salad is simple yet sophisticated with the addition of sweet red navel oranges and tangy dried cranberries.
1 small jicama, peeled and cut into match sticks
1 small fennel bulb, sliced and cut into strips
1 red navel orange, peeled and segmented, juice reserved
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
2 tablespoons Orange Muscat vinegar (Trader Joe’s)
1 tablespoon red navel orange juice reserved
1 small thai chili, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons pistachios, roasted and chopped
Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Set aside. Place all the ingredients in a bowl, mix in the dressing. Sprinkle the pistachios just before serving.
Banana Flambé (Dessert)
This is an easy last minute dessert which will ‘wow’ all your guests. Pineapple and mangoes can be substituted for bananas. The flambé comes from the alcohol used in the dessert. Alcohol free caramelized bananas are just as good.
4 ripe bananas, peeled, halved, cut lengthwise
3 tablespoon butter
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup orange juice
1/3 cup dark rum
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, for garnish
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Serve with Vanilla Ice cream and chocolate syrup.
Place the butter and brown sugar in a flat pan and let it melt. Add the sliced bananas and let the syrup coat all the pieces. Add the orange juice. Cautiously tilt the pan slightly towards the flame and add the rum. The syrup will flambé with blue flames. . Let the alcohol cook off.
Serve the banana flambé with toasted almonds, a dollop of ice cream, garnish with mint leaves and drizzle this decadence with chocolate syrup.