Saturday, January 07, 2006


Papaya in Vanilla-Lime Syrup

So I got back from my vacation this week, and I am relaxed as one girl can ever hope to be. It was such a wonderful treat. We were (gosh, I almost don't want to say, it's so fantastically underdeveloped) on an island off the coast of one of my all time favorite countries, the sublimely welcoming Venezuela, in a national marine park. I thought long and hard about staying forever. Just chucking it all and grilling fish on the beach for spare change. It was that tranquil. The foods we ate were all very basic and traditional, lots of plantains, grilled fish, black beans, a flan-like dish called quesillo and the national specialty, arepas. (A sort of filled corn patty) I was in heaven, even with the rain. (Tropical island, what are you going to do)

Because my Spanish lacks like nothing my trilingual family can believe (insert head hanging in shame), the odds of me getting a recipe were zero, and I think while the charming hostess of our incredible hotel was just as lovely as can be, she thought I was a little nutty when I tried to take a peek into her kitchen.

So since a slew of my vacation pics would bore you into a coma, and I haven't had a chance to recreate anything I tried there, hows about a nice recipe for papaya in vanilla-lime syrup. It's geographically appropriate anyway.

I have been known to have a hard time eating papaya. Sometimes it is too mealy for my taste, and has a distinct cheese thing going. (Does that make sense? Do you think that too? I just think it smells like cheese.) While green papaya salad is one of my all time favorite things, a juicy slice of the pink or orange fruit is not normally on my agenda. So, when I was playing in the kitchen late in Novemeber, I came up with this to take see if I could find something more appealing, and to contend with the monster papaya I had randomly brought home. (From the market! Not from my trip!) The process perfumed the fruit lightly, added to the sweetness, softended the texture a bit, and (bonus) kept for a week in the fridge. I served it plain, but it would be spectacular over (ginger?) ice cream. It's interestingly different, elegant and can be made in a snap. I think the variations on this theme are endless, but this was a perfect combination of flavors. Try it, and enjoy!

1 medium papaya, peeled and sliced into uniform pieces
(about four cups)
1 vanilla pod
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
zest of one lime
Basil for garnish

Using a small, sharp knife, split your vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape the tiny black seeds into a large sauce pan. Add the sugar, water and lime zest and gently heat over a low flame to infuse the flavors and melt the sugar. When that is warmed through and bubbling lightly add your papaya and super gently stir to coat (there should be more papaya than liquid by a bit), let that simmer for four to six minutes. You dont want the papaya to get mushy so if that seems like its about to happen, remove it from the heat. After six minutes, remove the pan from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the papaya and set aside. Turn the heat up to medium under the remaining syrup and reduce for 5 more minutes, or until thickened. Pour that back over the fruit and serve.

As an optional garnish you can add some basil chiffonade. To do that, make a pile of basil leaves, roll up like a cigar and slice as thin as possible.

Serves four to six


If you live in Houston Texas, and want to try Venezuelean cuisine, you can visit Miguelitos Restaurant

Want to buy a new Japanese Cooks knife? Check out this 10 inch Shun Elite for sale on ebay!

There are two types of papayas, the Hawaiian and Mexican. The Hawaiian varieties also known as Solo papayas. They are pear shaped, weigh about a pound each, and have yellow skin when ripe. The flesh is bright orange or pinkish, depending on the variety. Mexican papayas are much larger then the Hawaiian types and can weigh up to 20 pounds and be more than 15 inches long.

The white powder sold as "Meat Tenderizer" is composed mainly of an enzyme extract from the papaya.

Papaya King in NYC sells fresh fruit drinks and hot dogs. Some claim they are the best in the world.


Which kind of papaya are you buying? I always buy the smaller, pear-shaped Hawaiian ones. They're sweet, not at all mealy and have a nice perfume, nothing cheese-y there. :G: However, they don't taste nearly as good if they're not ripe enough. Which may be the issue, because a nicely ripe Hawaiian papaya wouldn't stand up to cooking in hot syrup for that long.

That syrup would be nice for a lot of things, like sweetening iced tea, for instance, served with a sprig of basil. Great flavor combo.
Looks like a species called "Sekaki" in Malaysia.
When I buy them (rarely) I always get the Mexican variety.

And I have to say, the one I poached held up fine in the wasnt really so hot and I never stirred.
I know exactly what you mean about the cheese thing! Papaya has that sort of reprehensible, sort of sweet odor. And it is distinctly mealy. I'm really not fond of it. But I like this syrup you made.

Grey's Papaya hot dogs are tremendous, by the way.

Mostly -- welcome back! I missed you!
Thanks hon!
Funny thing is of course, I love cheese, just not cheese flavored fruit. LOL.
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