Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Passion for Passion Fruit

While in Florida this past weekend I went to the most incredible fruit stand I could ever imagine. I'd tell you where it is if I wasn't also trying to write an article about it; wouldn't want to scoop myself.

However I would like to scoop some more goop out of a fresh passion fruit like the one I bought there. The twang of passion fruit is remarkable in nearly any form, even in those dubious tropical fruit cocktails that probably don't contain any actual passion fruit (or any fruit).

Jean-George's trademark passion fruit souffle is the star of the dessert menu at Market (though not made with the "seasonal market ingredients" the restaurant promises, though there are varieties of p.f. native to the U.S.). You can even purchase a passable passion fruit at some higher end supermarkets. I'm not going to name names, so I'll just call such a place "Foal Hoods."

But the passion fruit from my mysterious fruit stand blew away all other incarnations. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the ultimate ingredient based cooking is just eating the ultimate ingredient. Raw, with no prep and with your hands.

You wait until the skin is a little crinkly. You pick up the fruit, wondering how someting so light could taste so crazy. You slice it open with your mom's challah knife whose handle you unsuccessfully tried to refinish in middle school. You show the spread-eagled fruit to your wife, who recoils a little at the sight of the pulp, which admittedly does look like a cross between frog's eggs and a sinus infection (though she does take a taste).

You spoon the innards into your mouth. Your eyes widen. Your hips start to waggle. Your passion is stirred, making this the most aptly named piece of produce. Besides the orange.

The flavor is sour enough to feel it in the A-1 spots. Unlike a guava, a passion fruit's seeds are not an imposition and instead offer a delightful crunch not unlike the puffed rice in a Krackel. The taste is more tart than sweet and is as bracing as a cup of coffee while delivering a heavy dose of that funky tropical flavor that I am simply not creative enough to describe.

A fresh passion fruit tastes like.... well, a fresh passion fruit.

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