Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Roasted Honeyed Loquats with Feta on Toast

Loquats are a now-or-never fruit. Originally from southern China, loquat trees found their way here, and by "here" I mean Southern California from the OC to San Diego, where they fruit in April and May. That's it. They grow in bunches and bear a slight resemblance in color and shape to apricots, but are juicy with a mild sweet flavor more reminiscent of ripe pears. I actually prefer the slight tartness of underripe loquats. I'm also drawn to their beautiful seeds. Some loquats have one, others may have four or five--but all look like lovely polished brown stones.

You probably won't find loquats at the supermarket. They are extremely fragile, with thin skins that easily bruise and the fruit itself turns quickly. Right now you can find them at the farmers markets. Both Terra Bella Ranch and Rancho Mexico Lindo carried them last Saturday at the Little Italy Mercato.

Terra Bella Ranch loquats
I'm very lucky that my little community has a few fruit-bearing trees, so you'll see me walking the dogs in the morning and stopping to pick as many as I can reach and gently carry in the little bag that holds my keys and phone.

Loquats are delicious snacks and make for a great jam, salsa, and sauce. A friend of mine with several trees pits the fruit and cooks it down with honey to an applesauce-like consistency. She can freeze this and enjoy it the rest of the year.

I thought I'd try a little something different with my latest score from the neighborhood tree--roasting them with honey, and pairing them with feta cheese on croutons.

Roasting loquats is easy. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Because you can eat the skin, simply slice the fruit in half lengthwise, remove the pits and place the halves in an oiled casserole dish or on foil.

I made up a mixture that would combine sweet, smokey, and just a little astringent: honey, grated fresh ginger, kaffir lime leaf powder that I got from Specialty Produce, and Aleppo pepper.

I brushed this on the loquat halves and roasted them for 20 minutes until they were soft, but before they collapsed.

While they were cooking, I toasted baguette slices brushed with olive oil and sliced a chunk of French feta. I love its gentle tartness and moist texture. The feta went onto the the warm croutons to melt a little.

Once the loquats were out of the oven, I sliced them into three pieces, and placed them on the cheese. Then I sprinkled the layered toasts with chopped fresh chocolate mint from my garden and drizzled the finished toasts with more honey.

Voila! An easy and unusual appetizer that makes use of a delicious fragile fruit with a short season.

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  1. Oh my goodness that looks delicious! It's perfect for an appetizer when having guests over!

  2. I love loquats, too, and that recipe looks delicious!

  3. Thanks for sharing agricultural knowledge, delicious recipes, and supporting local farms! Your friends at Terra Bella Ranch.

  4. Good timing. The potted loquat tree planted from seed that a friend gave to us for our garden a few years ago finally fruited for the first time this year. Loquats are a new fruit to us, so it's nice to have some ideas for how to use them.

  5. super cool idea Caron! Gotta put this one on my "to do" list this weekend!

  6. I have a tree in my yard and love it! I hate to see fruit go to waste, so I let coworkers know when the fruit is ready and let them take what they want. I've learned that if I gently twist the ripe fruit, or, as pictured above, take the stem, the bruising is less severe.
    Friends' kids like them peeled and will just sit there and eat them til we run out.
    The trees grow easily here in South Texas, and I've never looked for recipes, so I'm happy to find one that looks so yummy!