Sunday, September 10, 2017

Pawpaw Beignets with Cinnamon Sugar and Blue Agave

  It's Pawpaw or Asimina Triloba season and the race is on.  This fragrant and unique tropic style fruit is the largest fruit native to the Americas.  It's growth spans mainly along the Eastern United States and even up into parts of Canada. The harvesting period for pawpaws ranges from late August to Early October, depending on your region.  This sumptuous gem is a combination of flavors, akin to a banana, a melon and muted tones of pineapple. Pawpaws have many colloquial  references, including Indian banana, poor man's banana, Kentucky banana, custard apple and banango.  A friend of mine noted that the smell of a more firm pawpaw is very much like the smell of a cut pumpkin, and I agree.   The fully ripe pawpaw bursts with tropical fruit scents, like mango and pineapple, and wonderful citrusy notes as an afterthought.  The best tasting pawpaw is one that is admittedly not the most appealing to the eye.  I have tried this fruit in many stages, and the ugly state wins by a landslide.
Pawpaws have a very volatile shelf life, about 2 days once fully ripened. However, you may place them in the fridge to retard that process and keep them for about two weeks.  One thing I did notice was that the ones kept in the fridge for such a duration looked fine, but seemed a bit dry and not as fragrant as the one left to age naturally on  the countertop.  The pulp of the pawpaw however, may be frozen and used at your convenience, which is an awesome plus.  The process is a somewhat arduous task; peeling, removing the seeds and accumulating pulp, but well worth it.
Pawpaws have a system of seeds that run though the middle. They resemble kidney beans, and are about the same size as well.  The seeds are toxic to humans, so discard accordingly.  After the work, alas comes the play, which leads us to my take on the French Beignet, featuring pawpaws.  I made a 'master batch' of spiced pulp and used a portion to make these beignets, but you may use the pulp as is.
Dry Ingredients:
1 c. AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. pawpaw puree
3 eggs
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp.vanilla extract
Oil for frying
Cinnamon Sugar and Agave Nectar for garnish.
Heat about two inches of vegetable or canola oil until appr. 350 degrees.
Meanwhile prepare the batter.
Combine dry ingredients.
In a small sauce-pot or pan, heat puree and sugar to boiling over medium high heat.
Remove from heat and add dry ingredients.
Beat in eggs, one at a time and stir with wooden spoon until thick and batter pulls away from sides of pot.
Stir in vanilla.
Drop in oil using a tablespoon and without crowding, fry until golden, about 2 1/2 minutes.
Drain on paper towels and toss with cinnamon sugar while hot.
Drizzle with agave and serve immediately.

Spasagna, Two Comforts in One

 Spaghetti and Lasagna are two of America's favorite recipes to create at home and order out.  What do you get when you combine the two? This wonderful and family friendly recipe I created called Spasagna.  This is simply your favorite recipe for spaghetti, layered with mozzarella like lasagna and finished with a garlicky and cheesy topping consisting of store bought garlic bread pulverized into tiny pieces, tossed with shredded Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, fresh parsley and olive oil, smothering the whole shebang and baked.  This topping rocks and helps to lend to a one dish meal, cutting the carbs by using the garlic bread as a garnish of sorts as opposed to a side item.
Everything in this recipe is essentially cooked already, so it is basically heating the Spasagna through to melt the wonderful sheet of mozzarella in the center.  I discovered this sheet of  fresh mozzarella put out by BelGioioso, that unrolls as would a sheet of paper.  It is fun and easy to use, the price around 6 dollars per 8 oz, I however caught mine on sale.   If you cannot find this in the deli section of your grocer, simply get the ball of mozzarella or burrata and slice thinly and layer accordingly.
1 1/4 lb. cooked ground beef, drained of excess fat
1 lb. spaghetti cooked just under al dente, about 6 minutes
2-23 oz. jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce or homemade,  preferably one chunky, one regular, reserving 2/3 cup for the top.
1 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
2/3 c. sweated onion, small diced
1 palmful fresh mixed herbs like parsley, oregano, sage, thyme and marjoram
1 8 oz. roll of fresh mozzarella
sugar to taste, optional
For Topping:
1/2 lb. day old garlic bread, pulsed in processor into smaller, uniform pieces
1/2 c. fresh parsley, rough chopped
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat to 375*F.
Combine the spaghetti ingredients down to the palmful of of herbs, sugar to taste if desired.
Drizzle baking dish with olive oil or spray with cooking spray and place half of the spaghetti  mixture in dish.
Unroll the mozzarella cheese and place it on top of the spaghetti.
Add Remaining spaghetti.
Spread  reserved sauce over spaghetti.
Top with parsley garlic bread-bread crumbs and cheese mixture.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 35 minute,or until dish is hot throughout and bubbly.
Remove foil and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Let dish rest for several minutes before serving.
Serves Plenty!!! (8 to 10 as a main dish)