Slowly but surely I’m developing as a cook – trying new foods and methods.

Ever heard of a custard apple?  Me either.  It’s call “chirimoya” in Chile.

It’s a super sweet, soft tropical fruit.  You don’t eat the peel or the black watermelon-seed-sized seeds; the flesh is soft like that of a banana.  It’s so sweet, it reminds me of a meringue.  It’s nice in a fruit salad paired with sliced bananas and blueberries. Yum!  They are on the pricey side, as far as fruits go, so we eat them like we eat dessert – once in a blue moon.  Okay, maybe it’s a bit more often than that…  After all, chirimoyas are in season right now.

Here’s a peak at the inside.

courtesy of flickr's Silvia Wrigley

courtesy of flickr's Silvia Wrigley

Mushrooms.  I’d always had a ho-hum relationship with them.  I could take or leave them.  Since talking with the mushroom vendors at La Vega, a whole new world has opened to me.  Ok, that’s probably an exaggeration.  I should just say that I’m really enjoying cooking with them now, though I can feel myself already getting in a rut in how I prepare them.

At La Vega, there’s one truck that sells mushrooms — just one.  Remember, La Vega is a huge, covered food market.  There are scores of booths/stands.  But if you arrive early enough (between 5-10am), you’ll have the opportunity to buy from the delivery trucks and get better deals.  There is one truck that sells mushrooms and a few oriental veggies (like…is it “dragon teeth”?)  They sell three different types of mushrooms.  The first I tried was Ostras.  This variety comes in all sizes, the largest being about the size of my hand.  They have a smooth top and a very textured, pleated underside.

There’s a Chinese guy among the mushroom sellers who told me his favorite way to prepare ostras: dip in beaten egg and then saute in butter; add salt and pepper to taste.  So simple and so delicious.  I was hooked.

The ostras sell out quickly, and after a few weeks of not getting any, I talked with a different mushroom man who sells with the same truck.  He’s an older man and likes to practice his English when he sees me.  He told me that the button mushrooms were his favorite, which surprised me.  Plain, common button mushrooms?  So, I asked how he prepared them.  His eyes lit up as he told me to saute them in butter with garlic and just a bit of freshly grated ginger.  So I bought some and tried them.  Wow! A whole new world!  I love how both “recipes” are so very simple but so full of flavor.

I like to add some sliced onions in with the button mushrooms.  One time I put in too much though, and they overpowered the mushrooms.  Green onions would work better, I think…

On another note, after doing a bit of cooking with both a Filipino and a Vietnamese woman (women?), I’ve gotten braver about using garlic.  The last time we had button mushrooms I put in a whole head of garlic!  This is new for me.  But I’ll keep doing it.  We all enjoyed the dish, and the garlic wasn’t overpowering as I’d feared.  And garlic is so very good for you.

To your health!