The Mighty Chocolate Fruit!

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Before I moved to St. Croix, I had no idea such a thing existed.

Chocolate Fruit

It truly is pretty darn ugly, isn’t it?  I mean, where in human history did someone look at this thing and think…Hey, I want to eat that?!?  This one is particularly large, about the size of a softball.

Chocolate Fruit Insides

Cut open though, you can see how the inside looks and tastes exactly like fudge pudding.  Doug made short work of this one tonight.

Chocolate fruit are actually persimmons – but they’re a dark-fleshed variety that has this unique flavor.  If you want one of your own, the best place to buy them on St. Croix is from Aberra, who has a farm stand on the Southgate corner on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.  He’s my primary source for unusual tropical fruits.  Give it a try!

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Grilled Veggie Tacos with Butter Lettuce

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So there’s a delicious pile of fresh veggies sitting in the kitchen, and now the fun begins!  But before the cooking begins though, a few thoughts.

As I talk with others about buying and preparing local foods, another statement I frequently hear is, “I see all these great vegetables, but I don’t know what to do with them.”  Or, “I don’t have a recipe for them.”  I understand both those statements.  But the key to buying and preparing local is to be inspired by the food, and not the other way around!  We’ve been taught as cooks to go through three steps:  1) Find a recipe; 2) Go buy ingredients, and; 3) Prepare.   This is actually a very wasteful way to cook!  Invariably, when buying ingredients, too much of one ingredient is purchased (due to packaging) and some is thrown out – or, left to languish and rot in the refrigerator because there isn’t another recipe handy to cook with it.

When cooking locally though, the food is the inspiration!  Every week when I do my shopping trip(s), I have no idea what I’m going to prepare that week…that’s actually part of the fun.  I head out and I buy what looks freshest and tastiest, bring it home, and then I start to think about what I’m going to prepare.  Cooking this way means that I will use all of my ingredients and that I will be preparing food that’s as fresh as possible – and therefore, healthy as possible!  Oh, and delicious too, yep yep yep.  Doug and I eat very well, simple foods and simple meals that are filled with flavor, because we are eating foods that haven’t been sitting on a shelf or in a cooler for weeks and weeks.

Also, local cooking does not need to be complicated!  Really, everyday meals do not need to be elaborate cooking events that take several hours to prepare.  When I’m cooking for just Doug and myself, most of the time it’s a pretty simple dish, or a combination of a few simple dishes.  Doug eats vegan most of the time, so often much of what I prepare is vegetable dishes, which can be simple or elaborate depending upon my mood.  I often will choose a recipe based upon ingredients I have in the kitchen to prepare, but I freely exchange ingredients depending upon what I have.  So feel free, experiment, taste, cook, and enjoy!

And now for the first meal from yesterday’s shopping trip.

Doug bought me a grill for Christmas, which I’ve been dying to have!  I chose a charcoal grill, a Weber, which I’ve owned previously in the past and really enjoy.  So last night I wanted to fire it up and try it out with something simple.  I decided to grill some of the veggies and make vegan tacos for Doug, since he’s been craving some simple meals.

I started by choosing the veggies that I knew would grill best.  I pulled out some of the eggplants, the green bell peppers, and some non-local organic onions that I bought at Quality Food.  I did notice yesterday on my shopping trip that ARTfarm now has local onions in season, so I’ll be buying those next week!

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Washed, chopped, and in the grill basket (I LOVE this grill basket!)

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Getting the fire ready…wait, how did that get in the pic?  *grins*

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Next some seasoning.  I use Penzey’s spices almost exclusively for my cooking spices.  This blend of Szechuan pepper and sea salt is very tasty on vegetables – slightly spicy, and it has a warm earthy flavor.

IMG_2262Basket on the grill…wait…toss…drink more wine…

IMG_2268And then we’re done!  I had some tortillas left from the batch I made on Friday, so it served as the shell of the taco.  I lined it with some of the butter lettuce leaves, and filled with the roasted veggies…and topped off with Miss Anna’s hot sauce (made on St. Croix)!

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And…eat!  Doug said it was quite tasty.

One simple meal down, more on the way.  I’m getting ready to start preparing lunch, stay tuned!  😀

Saturday Shopping Day

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One of the things I hear a lot when I talk to people about shopping locally is the comment, “I just don’t have enough time to do all that shopping.”  Well, over time with this blog, I hope to disprove that thought process!  It is possible to shop locally on one (or two) days a week, and get plenty of good local food to add to the weekly menus.

I primarily do all our shopping on Saturday mornings, and sometimes on Wednesday as well.  I typically go to the Farmer’s Market in La Reine (center island), and then the farm stands on the corner in Southgate.  About once a month I also visit Sejah Farm and/or Annaly Farms (for meat), and also sometimes ARTfarm on South Shore Road.  In addition, I will often stop at Quality Food VI for organic produce (and sometimes meats) that can’t be bought locally.  However, I generally do NOT go to all these on one day, that would be crazy!  It’s more about…what do we have at home, and what would we like to eat that week?  And then I decide on where to stop.  My shopping is generally 2 hours or so, and it gets most everything we need for our menus.

This week, I went to the La Reine Farmers’ Market, and then on to ARTfarm and the Southgate farm stands.  Here’s the picture of what all I brought home:

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This includes hydroponically grown butter lettuce, carambola, tomatoes, chocolate fruit, pomelo, sopadilla, soursop, pumpkin, dried peas, cucumbers, eggplants, limes, green bell pepper, bananas, avocado, honey, hot scotch bonnet peppers, tamarind candies, and a black cake – a local holiday treat!

So what am I going to do with all this?  Well, that’s the next upcoming post!  Stay tuned for the first of my, “What I Did With It” posts – dinner…tonight!