I’ve been a vegetarian since birth. You’d think by now my taste in fruits and vegetables would be pretty fixed. After all these years, I was surprised to discover that I suddenly liked
two three foods that I had never really liked much before: turnips, kiwi fruit, and dried apricots.
Turnips: In Pittsburgh I used to get turnips in my CSA basket all the time. I tried all different ways to cook them–roasted, braised, mashed, even honey-glazed. They ranged from inedible to bearable, but I never managed to create a turnip dish that I liked. It all started to change last October at Zosimo, a Sicilian restaurant in Berlin. I couldn’t figure out what the slices of white, silky, mild vegetable in the salad were. Turned out they were slices of raw turnip. Then in November I saw Melissa Clark’s article in the New York Times about adding raw turnips to salad. I figured it was a sign, and I should definitely try raw turnips in my own salads. Since then I’ve added thinly sliced raw turnips to salad many times. I like them a lot, both the texture and the flavor. Baby turnips are the best, but I even like big, mama turnips in my salad. They’re a bit spicier, but in a radish sort of way–nothing too intense. Then in December I made Peter Berley’s Leek and Turnip Soup, and really liked it. The final straw came this week when I roasted a bunch of root vegetables, and threw a turnip in with the other vegetables. I actually liked the roasted turnip! I guess my tastes have simply changed.
Kiwi fruit: I don’t remember ever liking kiwi fruit before, but I’ve been eating organic kiwis from France, and now I can’t get enough of them. Strange. I guess our tastes continue to change, even in adulthood. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll even like eggplant!
Dried apricots: Although I like almost all dried fruits, I was never a fan of dried apricots. But recently I discovered unsulfured dried apricots. Supposedly unsulfured fruit is sweeter tasting than sulfured fruit. But I don’t think that’s why I like them better. I don’t think it’s the dark brown color either. It’s that the taste is darker and more complex—not the bright, sweet, one-note flavor of the orange (sulfured) apricots. Apparently sulfur is an antioxidant, and the oxidization of the pigments in the skin also helps to create natural tannins, which impart a deeper, more apricoty flavor . I’ve tried three different brands of dried unsulfured apricots. The flavor was similar in all three. The main difference was that for one brand the apricots were much juicier, whereas for the other two the apricots were more dried out and tough. When I got one of the really juicy apricots—wow! Some brands apparently soak the dried apricots in a little water before packaging them, to give them a juicier texture. But I can’t seem to find any of those brands in Germany. Maybe I should try soaking my apricots in a little water…