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by Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers
Papaya is available in most supermarkets all year round. If you plan to eat them right away, look for fruit that's mostly yellow in color and slightly soft to the touch. Papayas that are mostly green with a bit of yellow color, and firm, will be ready to eat in a few days. Avoid fruits with too many black marks or soft spots.
There are two types of papayas, Hawaiian and Mexican. The Hawaiian type weigh about 1 pound and have yellow skin when ripe. Mexican papayas may weigh up to 10 pounds and be more than 15 inches long. Hawaiian papayas have a little more intense flavor than the Mexican variety. Both are delicious and extremely enjoyable.
Storage: Slightly green papayas will ripen quickly at room temperature. Place them in a brown paper bag at room temperature if you wish to accelerate the ripening process. If completely ripe, refrigerate, in the crisper, and use as soon as possible.
Preparation: A papaya has the consistency of a melon with a combination sweet and tart flavor. To prepare a papaya for eating or cooking, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Next use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. The fruit is now ready to slice, dice or eat.
Papaya seeds are edible (they are spicy like black pepper), but they are usually discarded. Some chefs add the seeds to salad dressings. If you like the spicy flavor of pepper, we encourage you give the seeds a try.
To boost the natural flavor, sprinkle papaya with lemon or lime juice.
Here are easy ideas for putting a tropical papaya spin on your family's meals:
Tropical Side Salad: In a salad bowl add 1 diced papaya, 1 diced mango, 1 diced cucumber and ¼ cup finely diced red onion, 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro and 1-1/2 cups of cooked white rice. For the dressing, whisk together in a small bowl, ¼ cup olive oil, 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 1 Tablespoon lime juice, 1-2 Tablespoons honey (to taste) and 2 garlic cloves minced. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently, and garnish with chopped peanuts.
Simple Thai-spiced Shrimp and Papaya: Sauté 1 pound of raw, peeled shrimp and 1 peeled and sliced papaya in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When shrimp are pink remove fruit and shrimp from pan. Set aside. To the hot pan, Add one can of coconut milk, 1-2 teaspoons red curry paste, 2 Tablespoons fish sauce, 1 Tablespoon lime juice. Heat the sauce gently over medium-low heat until bubbling. Add shrimp and papaya back to the pan to warm. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with rice.
Papaya Bed for Kabobs or Grilled Meats/Tofu: Next time you are grilling, add the WOW factor to the presentation and add a new flavor. Simply slice papayas and line a serving platter with them. Sprinkle the slices with lime juice. When you are done grilling, place the main dish right on top of the papaya slices and serve. It will be a hit!
Papaya Salsa: We love to use fresh salsas to change up the flavor of foods. Salsa takes a plain baked or grilled item from bland to gourmet with only minutes of prep work and no cooking. Salsas are also a simple way to add an extra fruit or veggie serving to your meal. Try this papaya salsa with grilled fish.
1 papaya, seeded, peeled and diced
1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a bowl, combine all ingredients and set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
Toddler Treat: Papaya Summer Soup
Cold, fruit soups may seem a bit sophisticated for a toddler, but think again. They are perfect - sweet, healthy, and refreshing. Come to think of it, they are perfect for anyone on a hot summer day. Bring two spoons to the table with a bowl of this soup. Better yet, bring a second bowl - toddlers aren't much for sharing. Enjoy!
1 papaya peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1/2 cup pineapple, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups of vanilla yogurt (soy or dairy)
1/2 cup of milk (soy of dairy)
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons lime juice
Sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon
Puree all ingredients in a blender. Chill and serve.
Makes 3-4 servings.
About the Author: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children, and founders of Fresh Baby.
Raised by parents who love fresh foods and entertaining, their mom, a gourmet cook, ensured that they were well-equipped
with extraordinary skills in the kitchen. Both with long track records of business success, they decided to combine their
skills in the kitchen with their knowledge of healthy foods and children to create Fresh Baby. Cheryl and Joan put a modern
twist on the conventional wisdom that when you make it yourself, you know it's better. Their goal at Fresh Baby is to make
the task of raising a healthy eater a little bit easier for all parents. Visit them online at www.FreshBaby.com and subscribe
to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips and activities for developing your family's healthy eating habits!
While there are many reasons for teaching kids to cook -- less expensive than eating out, preserves family heritage, etc, the most important
reason is that by teaching your child to cook, you're giving him a better chance to be a healthy grown-up. Enabling your child with the ability
to appreciate freshness and to transform ingredients into tasty foods opens their eyes to making wiser choices about what to eat...