Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Recipe #23: Fresh papaya with lime

It seems somehow like cheating to take credit for a "recipe" for cutting up fresh fruit like papaya (or pawpaw, as it's often called in Ghana), but because it's a less familiar fruit to North Americans, even though it needs no dressing up to taste wonderful, it deserves a post all to itself.

Though papayas likely originated in the Americas, probably southern Mexico and adjacent Central America, they're found all over the tropical and subtropical world, and imported to grocery stores throughout North America and other countries. There are many types (see the papaya link above), but I tend to think of them as the small ones and the big ones. Both taste wonderful when they're ripe. And papayas (including their seeds) have all sorts of health benefits to recommend them, especially as a natural source of papain, which aids in digestion, but also loads of vitamins C and E, fiber, potassium, lycopene, etc.

Papayas (which are technically a kind of herb) are soft and sweet and juicy with a mild flavor. Their flesh looks kind of like ripe cantaloupe, and has a similar texture, but the flavor is very different. Kind of like a sunset in Jamaica might taste. At any rate, they're a wonderful addition cut up in fruit salads, but this morning I'm having it one of my favorite ways for breakfast: sliced and sprinkled with lime juice.

All you need, as usual, is to begin with a ripe fruit. If you cannot step outside and pick one off a tree, you can buy it green and let it ripen at home. Don't worry if it looks kind of blotchy. It should be mostly yellow and soft to the touch. (There are also recipes for unripe papayas, but those are for another day.)

Wash it and cut it in half, scooping out the black seeds (unless you like their peppery flavor, in which case you can save some to sprinkle on top). I like to cut the peeling off, but you can also serve it with the peeling and scoop it out with a spoon like a melon. You can serve an entire half of a small one to a person, or cut it into slices, whichever you prefer.

Arrange the slices on small plates and serve with lime wedges for dinersto squeeze over just before eating. The sweet tartness of the lime does something very special to enhance the flavor of the papaya.

And voila! It feels warm again even in the Fall.

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