Somehow, this crazy summer made me miss my country even more. As always, food comes to help, and in this case, thoughts of cactus fruit, the tzabar or sabra, entered my mind.
- Savoring the Fruits of Our Land
- Tourist Tip #208 / 7 Strange Fruits – and a Veggie
- Alien Bug Threatens Israeli Sabra
Cactus fruit, also known as Prickly pear, has been seen for years as the symbol of all Israeli-born people, prickly on the outside but sweet and tender inside. It was actually brought to the Levant by the Arabs only about 500 years ago from Spain (it was brought there from Mexico). Cactus fruit now grows wild all over Israel and is available during the summer months in every shuk, supermarket and in many side-of-the-road stalls.
The best way to have the Prickly pear is by simply peeling it and serving a bowl-full of ice-cold fruits to enjoy on a hot summer evening. But my thoughts of a bowl full of the beautiful, colorful fruits vanished as soon as I checked its price in my local supermarket – up to $2.50 each! This is, more or less, ten time the price in Israel. So no bowl of cactus fruit for me.
The following recipes use cactus fruit in moderation. The ceviche benefits from the sweetness of the fruit and the pavlova is fresher thanks to it. Both enjoy the gorgeous bright color of the fruit.
Chilean sea bass, Prickly pear and mint ceviche
Serves 4 as first course
1 lb. skinless Chilean sea bass (or any firm white fish)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
4 Prickly pears
2 small cucumbers, skin on, chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
½ Serrano pepper, seeded, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
Kosher salt to taste
a good drizzle of olive oil
1. Pat dry the fish and cut into ½ inch cubes. Mix with lime juice in a bowl, cover and fridge while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
2. Cut off the ends of the Prickly pears and make a lengthwise slit through their skin. Peel off and discard the skin. Cut into ½ inch cubes.
3. Add Prickly pears, cucumbers, red onion, Serrano pepper and mint to the fish and mix well. Add salt to taste, drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Prickly pear and white chocolate pavlova
For the meringue:
14 cup cornstarch 1 tablespoon white vinegar 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 12 cups sugar 8 egg whites, room-temperature
For the white chocolate cream:
7 oz. white chocolate
1 cup whipping cream
12 cup Greek yogurt
4 Prickly pear
1-2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon mint leaves
1. Make the meringue: Oven to 215 degrees. Using a pencil, draw a 9 inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper, flip the paper and use it to line a baking sheet.
2. In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Set aside. Beat egg whites in a stand mixer on medium speed until fluffy, then add sugar in a slow and steady stream. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Add cornstarch mixture to egg whites and beat for 5 more minutes.
3. Transfer the whipped eggs to the center of the 9 inch circle. Using a spatula, shape the meringue into a 9 round, make the sides a little taller than the center.
4. Bake for 1 12 hours. Turn off oven and let meringue sit until cooled, 3–4 hours. Peel parchment paper from the meringue and transfer to a cake stand. The meringue can be baked a day in advance.
5. To make the white chocolate cream, break chocolate into small pieces and put in a medium bowl. Bring whipping cream just to boil, either in the microwave or in a small pot over medium-high heat, and pour over chocolate. Let stand for two minutes then mix well to a smooth cream. Transfer to the fridge until cold, 2 hours and up to a day.
6. Transfer chocolate mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer. Add yogurt and whip until soft peeks form. Spread evenly over meringue, leaving sides of about 12 inch.
7. Cut off the ends of the Prickly pears and make a lengthwise slit through their skin. Peel off and discard the skin. Cut into ½ inch cubes.
8. Just before serving, mix Prickly pear with lime juice and sugar. Spoon to the center of the chocolate cream. Sprinkle with mint leaves and serve.