Every time I go out to work on the garden, a new bloom greets me. I thank my lucky stars every day that this is happening right now in the backyard of our new place. The candytuft flowers are real eye candy and the columbines look like the perfect hangout for fairies. Spring is definitely here and the weather is getting warm enough for us to enjoy a meal or two under the clear blue sky. I write plenty about the seasons, especially with regards to how they affect my outlook as someone from a tropical country, and I have to say I'm getting pretty chummy with Spring. To me, it's a season filled with a sense of newness and hope, and an air of lightness replaces the heavy drapes of winter.
I really like the idea of Nowruz, the Persian New Year that starts at the moment of the Spring equinox. The occasion is observed with the practice of "khooneh tekouni", literally "shaking the house", just before the celebration. It's what we all know as Spring Cleaning. Nowruz means "a new day" in Persian, and I find myself drawn to the tradition of rebirth, resurrection and starting anew in Spring. We were too busy with renovation work in January to celebrate New Year's Day and too preoccupied with the move to celebrate Chinese New Year, but we're settled in enough now to celebrate Spring and the freshness of life the season brings.
I was even in the mood to make one or two resolutions, including the kitchen goal to discover and cook with seasonal vegetables that are new to me (and there are many). We went straight at it by subscribing to a CSA farm share, and you can check out the colorful farm-fresh produce that came in our first box here!
The same motivation prompted me to pick up the exotic cherimoya from the local fruit store. The heart-shaped fruit ripens like avocado, and when soft produces a most heavenly sweetness with a texture many have likened to mango. Its loveliness has earned it the nickname 'nature's ice cream', and Mark Twain once called it "the most delicious fruit known to men". It is indeed a fruit to fall in love with.
For a few days since discovering it, cherimoya occupied a firm place in my breakfast because it has the sort of delightfulness I wanted to start my day with. I've included some notes on cherimoya together with a simple recipe for overnight oats at the bottom of the post. Before we get there, I'd like to share with you some links on the internet that have recently caught my attention. Enjoy!
Big love for Spring: a spring produce guide by SAVEUR, 7 spring fruits and vegetables to get excited about by SELF, how to cook spring by Epicurious, what's in season in April and May by Bon Appetit.
Do you need reasons to love the world? Here are 50 by writers, chefs, musicians...
Did you know ketchup has its origins in Southeast Asian fish sauce? Whoa! Learn about the incredible true story of ketchup on this podcast episode of Food Non-Fiction.
How to make everything you've ever wanted to eat from a Hayao Miyazaki film.
I discovered rose radicchio through Changing Plate's beautiful Instagram account, and was thrilled to find out that Adriana likes rambutan.
Malaysian artist Red Hong Yi painted a mural with celery sticks.
Hang out at The Little Library Cafe for recipes inspired by books, like a bright red tart from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Everything you need to know about Thailand's noodle soups.
Why wouldn't anyone want to read very short stories composed entirely of example sentences from various dictionaries? Seriously, check out Dictionary Stories.
Do you like talking about food? I do! That's why I interview food bloggers and ask them why they write about food. New interviews on Monday. Join the conversation here.
Check out my Asian Kitchen Project, in which I share key ingredients that let me cook with an Asian twist no matter where I am in the world. And you can too.
Here's what's happening on Vermilion Roots this Spring: With the help of some wonderful blogging friends, I am learning to cook spring vegetables that are new to me. I call it the Spring Discovery series and will focus on one vegetable per week with new posts on Wednesday. Expect great information and recipes from very talented and passionate bloggers, and a whole lot of veggie love! It's going to be exciting and I hope you will join me on this kitchen adventure.
If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear from you. Leave me a comment and tell me what Spring produce I should try!
Cherimoya Overnight Oats
I like to start my day with a thoughtful, not necessarily complicated, meal often consisting of fruits. While cherimoya can and should be eaten any time of the day, here's how it can be enjoyed for breakfast. Serves 1 and can easily be doubled.
What is cherimoya: Belonging to the same family as custard apple and soursop, both of which I've tried when living in Southeast Asia, cherimoya is believed to be native to Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, according to California Rare Fruit Growers, and grows well in the coastal areas of Southern California. Its unique sweet flavor has been compared with pineapple and pear while its texture likened to mango and peach. Mark Twain has described it as "deliciousness itself". You should be able to find them from now till May, and I hope you do!
How to select: I've learned, from talking to the local fruit store owner and reading articles like this and this, to approach cherimoya as I would avocado. Pick fruits that are firm and heavy, and let them ripen at room temperature. When ripe, they yield to gentle pressure and the green skin may turn dark.
How to prepare: Cut in half with a sharp knife. Scoop out the center with a spoon and carefully remove the inedible seeds. Be careful not to crush the seeds or swallow them as they are poisonous. Here's an excellent photographic guide.
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons oat bran
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon ground flax seeds
1 cup plant-based milk
1 banana, sliced
1/2 to 1 cherimoya, flesh scooped out
Dried fruits (goji berries are one of my favorites)
Mix all the ingredients, except the toppings, in a jar, cover and refrigerate overnight. It's as simple as that. I sometimes keep it there for another night or two for the mixture to get really soft and incorporated. When ready to serve, top with more milk as desired and add the toppings.