The more limited resources available at the farmers’ market last weekend prompted me to go back to the basics and learn more about quince, – something more ubiquitous than the exotic radish and broccoli varietals of last month.
I decided to do a little research and found out that cultivation of quince may have actually preceded apple culture; thus, many references translated to “apple” in various texts may have described a quince. For example: it is possible that the legendary golden apple of Hesperides that Paris gave to Aphrodite was really a quince. Though the book of Genesis does not name the specific type of the fruit that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden, some ancient texts suggest that Eve’s fruit of temptation might have also been a quince. Who knew?
Actually, a fresh quince presents a much lesser temptation than an apple, as in raw form, it is extremely hard, acidic and astringent. Some varieties of quince have flesh as firm as that of a winter squash, but they have a wonderful honeysuckle aroma that permeates everything around them, – a big plus in my book.
Probably the most fascinating thing about this fruit is that its flesh changes color from pale yellow to pink or even red when cooked (apparently, the heat and the acids in the fruit convert the colourless leucoanthocyanin pigments to red anthocyanins). Of course, they don’t not just mean “when cooked”, but rather, “when cooked for 2, 3, 4 hours” (SLOWLY roasted at 300F)…But – I was up for experimentation. A little sugar, a little honey, a little bit of whole cardamom and cloves, bay leaves, and here we go:
Ok, I thought, that’s a start. Whenever I walk around in our neighborhood brimming with restaurants (Adams Morgan), I invariably see signs like, “Tuna 6-ways”; so I wanted to go for a lineup of at least 3 different expressions. Coming up with the second one was easy: the widely available membrillo (Spanish quince paste). Another quince project involved poaching quince segments with a touch of cinnamon, honey, and lemon juice. So I had to get a bit more quince, this time, from WholeFoods (where it was hiding in the sea of pineapples, coconuts, and cantaloupes).
Following the underutilized process of planning and buying (buying the car to match the shoes :-)), one thing led to another, and the purchase of 1 quince resulted in a long list of items including 3 Spanish cheeses (La Serena – raw sheep’s milk cheese, El Trigal 8-month manchego – raw sheep’s milk, Campo de Montalban – pasteurized goat’s, sheep’s and cow’s milk cheese), a Rhone wine (2007 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage for $21.99), and a lovely lemon baked ricotta cake. Later that evening the original plan was to go to the 8pm yoga class, but neither one of us could wait that long: the quince was calling. A couple of hours later we sat around the table marveling at the amount of food we just ate, and contemplating the quince trinity: the intense caramelized roasted slivers, the delicate, perfumed poached segments, and the firm fruity paste.