Monday, July 28, 2014

Musings From a Plant Based Life - Episode #1

Cocona, Lilikoi and Lava Sauce
July 28, 2014

Summertime at Lokelani is full of lots of plant motivated activites. Today, for example was a day for processing some of the gorgeous riches of lilikoi, cocona, peppers and bananas we have an abundance of at the moment. Some of these fruits, like cocona, might not be something you see everyday, if ever. I certainly had never seen or heard of it before my husband proudly displayed the exotic seed package he had ordered from some tropical plant nursery somewhere. I must say, it is an interesting plant which fruits prolifically which also means it was necessary for me to figure out what to do with so much of it. So, first, some research:

Cocona - Solanum sessiliflorum is a big furry leafed relative of the tomato.
It is a native of the Amazon and Orinoco regions of South America. Also called a peach tomato, or Orinoco apple. The fruit is about the size of a tomato and deep, dark burnt red sort of color. When you cut it open the flesh is reminiscent of a tomato in both texture and flavor but is a bright golden color. Because the fruit doesn't appear so often outside of these areas of South America there didn't seem to be a lot of recipes on the internet discussing what to do with an abundance of fruit. There was some suggestion that it could be made into a drink of sorts and that it is often used as a salsa or hot sauce in Peru. Taking these suggestions to heart Roland incorporated some cocona puree into this week's round of kombucha (around here known as “the booch”). We will see what that comes out like in a couple of days. And, that gallon of fermented goodness didn't even use half the batch that had been picked. So, hot sauce was next on the agenda.

To make the hot sauce I started by putting all the cocona in a big pot just as they were, skins, stems, fuzz everything. I then filled the pot about ¾ full with water, put a lid on and turned the heat on med high. I simmered them for about 20 minutes until the skin was shriveled and the insides soft. After letting them cool, I slit them open and scooped out the flesh inside into a bowl. I ended up with about 6 cups. Now, just so you know, you can use them raw for like a salsa fresca kind of thing. Just cut them in half and scoop out the flesh. It could be used most places you would use tomato but it is defintely more tart so adjust accordingly.

Next, I went out to our high tunnel screen house and picked a bowl full of the local red, little, sweet peppers we have lots of, and about 10 chocolate habeneros. I cut the tops off the habeneros and threw them in the vitamix and did the same with about half the red peppers. So the peppers filled the blender about half way up. I then poured in all the cocona juice/pulp (about 3 cups) and blended it all up into a smooth puree. It was pretty hot and tangy.

I poured out about 2 cups of the puree into a pot and set it aside as the blender was getting too full to add anything else. Then I added some sea salt, about 4 ripe bananas and blended again. It was almost there. I added a bit of tamari to deepen the flavor and to add a wee touch more saltiness. I also added maybe a tablespoon of sherry vinegar to keep it bright and balanced, blended it one more time and called 2014 Lokelani Lava Sauce #1.

As for the stuff in the pot I wanted to try a cooked version of the hot sauce and I wanted to use some of the many lilikoi that sat in the 5 gallon bucket next to me. I was thinking of something sweet and smoky so I poured in about ½ cup of lilikoi syrup that I already had on hand. I wanted more of a lilikoi flavor so I juiced the rest of the lilikoi and added in about 1 cup of lilikoi juice to the pot. I let this mix simmer for about 30 minutes. After turning off the heat I added about ¼ cup of honey and 2 tsp of smoked applewood salt. Et Voila, 2014 Lokelani Lava Sauce #2. And, it is pretty tasty if I do say so myself. It was especially good on the slices of baked plantains I had just made as a recipe test for Mark Reinfeld's upcoming Healing with Vegan Foods cookbook.

So that is how it rolls here on a July morning at Rancho Lokelani. I still have several cups of lilikoi juice to work on but I'll save that for the next post – lilikoi jam and lilikoi butter (vegan style). And then there's all things Vanilla to talk about as well. So many things to think about and work on here on this verdant slice of the tropics. Until next time.

Mahalo nui loa and Aloha,