Longans, not long for this world.Photo: Zoe Singer
As the holidays get under way, rich, warming foods are of course de rigueur, as is their refreshing counterpoint: imported sunshine in the form of citrus and tropical fruit.
What to Look For
The drab brown, acorn-size longan is fetching a high price on the streets of Chinatown now that the last of its close relative, the lychee, is no longer available. Buy firm fruits on the branch, as they deteriorate quickly once plucked, and eat them like lychees, biting off the top third of the skin, sucking out the round of translucent fruit, and separating it from the smooth, brown pit in your mouth. The taste is honeyed, with vanilla and cucumber notes. The fruit is also used in Thai curries (available wherever Asian fruit is sold).
Coming at the end of an especially good season, California pomegranates are full of lush, tangy juice. Choose the heaviest fruit you can find, score its skin, and submerge it in a water to break it in sections. Loosen the seeds with your fingers, discard everything else, and strain the cleaned seeds. They are gorgeous in salads and vegetable sides like squash (recipe) (widely available).
Buy sweet, buttery, and full-flavored French Perigord walnuts in the shell for longer shelf life. Roast, then crack and eat them warm to savor their deep taste, or sprinkle them raw on salads (recipe) ($3.99 per pound at Fairway).
Squeeze Palestinian limes to release their thick, nectar-sweet juice, which is mild and tangerine-like. Used to ward off colds in the Middle East, the juice can be brightened with a tart dose of lemon or regular lime ($1.29 per pound at Manhattan Fruit Exchange, $2.99 at Balducci’s).
Pruneaux d’Agen, the famed prunes of Southwest France, are a particularly succulent, tender, and bright-tasting dried fruit, luxe in savory dishes (recipe), better still soaked in armagnac and served with cheese or desserts ($4.99 per pound at Fairway).
Ripe for the Moment
Lovers of fruitcake, panettone, babas au rhum, and the like know that a good candied-fruit mix makes all the difference. Moist, plump, colorful, and free of green cherries, the diced blend imported from Italy at Buon Italia, full of citron, orange, lemon, and cherries, is ripe for holiday baking (recipe) ($11 per pound at Buon Italia). — Zoe Singer