As I looked at the date on this column, I realized that exactly three months from now, Christmas not only will have been here, it will be all over but the shouting! The 24th and 25th fall on a Sunday and Monday, yikes…gonna be a tough one, guess I’d better get busy!
This past week was busy in a very pleasant way! Monday and Tuesday seemed to speed by as I had plenty to do to keep me busy, including laundry and packing for a trip to Devine. Wednesday came all too quickly and I managed to get on the road fairly early. I got to my daughter’s home in time to help her prepare food to take to Mrs. Haass’ funeral that would be a little later that day. Faye was not only the mother-in-law of my grandson, but she was also the sister of KK, and we worked together for quite a while at The Devine News. With the years I have been gone from Devine, and her living out of town, and then stays in health care, we haven’t seen much of one another the past several years, except at family gatherings. She will truly be missed by her many friends and relatives. RIP Faye.
My special treat during this time, was that my youngest granddaughter and her two little boys were in from the TX panhandle, and I got to see and play with them Also, my daughter and I took her little granddaughter to visit with my youngest grandson, his wife and three children in Natalia and those cousins got to play while the adults visited. So much fun in such a short time. We all had dinner together on Friday evening to celebrate Brittany’s birthday. All I had to do was sit in a chair, maybe hold one of the great-grandchildren, nibble on snacks, and visit!
Several months ago, a friend invited me to go to Gonzales with her for a little shopping at their Wal-Mart and HEB, both of which are larger than the ones that are a little closer to home. While we were in Wal-Mart, there was a display of fruits and vegetables right as you come in the door and as I glanced at the plums and peaches, I noticed a plastic box (the kind that usually has strawberries), with an unusual fruit in it, labeled Rambutan. There were ten or so fruits in the box and they looked really strange. The fruit it contained was a dark red, almost maroon and had little spiny things sticking up all over it. You could tell they were soft spines as some were curved from contact with the box but weren’t broken. (They remind me of the little toy balls that kids bounce on the floor, and they light up). The fruit looked as if it was a little smaller than a golf ball for the total size. However, it made me curious enough that Saturday morning when I was ready to write my column, I used Google and guess what? No problem…there they were at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The article was quite long so I’ve just used some pertinent parts of it. If you see this unusual fruit at one of the stores you visit, now you know what it is! However, I did not find any recipes using it, nor did I find any references to recipes. This just means, maybe I didn’t look close enough!
The name Rambutan is derived from the Malay-Indonesian languages word for rambut or “hair” that is a reference to the numerous hairy protuberances on the fruit. In Vietnam, it is called “chom chom”, which means ‘messy hair’ due to these same protuberances. (There is a line above the ‘o’ that I can’t put in place with my computer).
The fruit is a native of Southeast Asia and is grown in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. It has also spread from there to parts of Asia, Africa Oceania and Central America. The widest variety, both wild or cultivated are found in Malaysia.
Around the 13th to 15th centuries, it was introduced into Zanzibar and Pemba of East Africa. There are also limited plantings in parts of India. In the 19th century the Dutch introduced Rambutan from their colony in Southeast Asia and Suriname in South America. After that, the plant spread to the tropical Americas, being planted in the coastal lowlands of Columbia, Ecuador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Cuba. It was introduced to the Philippines from Indonesia in 1912.
There was an attempt to introduce the fruit to the United States with seeds from Java in 1906, but the species was proven to be unsuccessful except in Puerto Rico.
The plant is an evergreen tree that reaches a height of 12-20cm. The fruit itself is round to oval, about 3-6cm long and 3-4cm across its width.
They fruit grows in loose clusters of 10 to 20 together. The skin is reddish (rarely orange or yellow), and is covered in fleshy pliable spines, hence the name that means “hairs”. The flesh, which is actually the ‘aril’, is translucent, whitish or very pale pink, with a sweet, mildly acidic flavor, very reminiscent of grapes.
The single seed is around 1cm and a glossy dark brown. It is soft and contains equal portions of saturated and unsaturated fats and can be cooked and eaten. The peeled fruits can be eaten raw or cooked and eaten: first the grape-like fleshy ‘aril’, then the nutty seed.
To learn more about Rambutan, Google the name and go to the first site, which is “Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia” The article has lots of pictures and quite a bit more information, including growth information and descriptions of the leaves, etc.
Here is a really tasty stir fry dish using shrimp and sugar snap peas. The first time I made it the store did not have sugar snap peas, but they had fresh green beans so I decided to use the green beans instead. It worked very well as I cut them, on an angle, into 1-inch pieces and it was fine. You might have to increase the cooking time just a little, to get them as done as you would like them to be. I like the stir-fry dishes cooked until the vegetables are not quite done and are still a little crisp. Some folks prefer them to be done but not mushy!
Sugar Snap Pea and Shrimp Stir Fry
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
½ cup canned, sliced water chestnuts
12 to 16-oz large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
2 tablespoons Ponzu sauce (Japanese soy sauce), (HEB handles this).
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds; add the sugar snap peas and water chestnuts; season with salt and pepper if desired and cook stirring until the peas are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil over medium/high heat and add the shrimp in a single layer. Cook without stirring until pink on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp, add the Ponzu sauce and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vegetables; cook until heated through, about 2 more minutes. Serve with cooked rice.
The following is a recipe that my daughter found in a newspaper or magazine several years ago. It is delicious.
1 can fruit pie filling, any flavor
12 flour tortillas (any brand) (not burrito size)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 stick margarine or butter
1/4 cup sugar/cinnamon mixture
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease 9×13 pan and set aside.
Place 2 Tbs. pie filling on a tortilla and roll up. Place seam side down in prepared pan. When all 12 are rolled, melt margarine and mix it with the 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Stir together thoroughly and pour over the rolled tortillas. Cover pan with foil and bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon mixture and put back in oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from over. Serve hot or cold. This is a great breakfast treat or it could be served with ice cream as a dessert.