Carambolas can had flavor and star power to your holiday recipes. This gift from nature to the garnishing-impaired, is harvested in Florida from June through March, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Typical size for the golden fruit is 2-4 inches long. For best flavor, allow fruit to ripen at room temperature until ribs turn brown, about 2-5 days. Simply slice and use as a garnish for cocktails or party platters, a refreshing touch of sweet in fruit salads, or substitute for pineapple in upside-down cakes. I recently grilled carambola slices and really liked how the sugars caramelized. The second time I tried them this way I brushed them with a little spiced rum and the results were even better. The results can get messy looking if you leave them on the heat too long. The key is a super quick sear to maintain the star shape. Drying slices is a cool way to create garnishes as well. At 1921 by Norman Van Aken in Mount Dora, Fla., dried carambola adds a whimsical touch to cocktails and more. Here are a few recipes to get you cooking and entertaining with Fresh From Florida carambola.
25 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick (see note)
5 cups brown sugar
1. Remove either end of the fruit and slice each into 1/4 – 1/2 inch pieces.
2. Place fruit in a large pot and cover with water and add the sugar and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil for 1 minute then turn off heat and set aside to cool for 3 hours. The fruit will soak up the sugar and spice flavors.
3. Preheat oven to 150F.
4. Drain liquid. Place fruit on baking sheets. Dry fruit in the oven with the door propped open to allow the steam to escape. Turn every hour or so until the fruit is done (cooking will vary depending on how much liquid was drained and humidity).
5. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe note: If you have a dehydrator, set the temperature at 125 to 135F to dry fruit. Experiment with different spices to enhance the flavor of the fruit. You can substitute white granulated sugar for brown sugar.
Chicken & Carambola With Ginger-Lime Butter Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
4 chicken breasts, boned and skinned
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 ripe carambolas, sliced and seeded, use one in recipe and the other for garnish
4 lime slices for garnish
Lime zest for garnish
1-inch piece of ginger, or to taste
Zest and juice of a lime
1/2 stick of butter
1. To make the sauce, let the butter come to room temperature. Peel the ginger and grate it fine. In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, ginger, lime zest and a little lime juice. Taste and add salt or more lime juice to balance; set aside.
2. Pound thickest part of breast with the bottom of a bowl or a meat pounder to quarter-inch thickness. Roll lengthwise up into a tube-shape. Heat butter and oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken breasts, turning occasionally, until they are golden and springy to the touch. Slice, remove to a heated plate and keep warm.
3. In same pan, saute the carambola slices until soft and lightly browned.
4. Arrange carambola and chicken on serving plates and brush sauce over both. If desired, garnish with sliced lime peel.