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Jocote at last

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I have been referring to "Cocote" in previous articles, but I was incorrect; the proper name of this edible plant is "Jocote," which I saw in Costa Rica newspapers. So by the time I finally know its actual name, I have gotten a chance to taste it.

It is probably a fruit, although it is quite unusual. If you have ever eaten Lychee nuts, you know more or less what Jocote is like: a thin shell of edible membrane enclosing a large seed. They don't look like Lychees, though; they look like Betel Nuts, if you have ever seen them, or like tiny coconuts. They hang off their branches in huge numbers, looking like the clusters of dates that you see if you visit a date farm like Date Land in western Arizona along Interestate 10 on your way from Tucson to San Diego. We always stop there and buy some for West Coast relatives.

Anyway, Jocote is built like Lychees but they taste similar to Guavas; they are sweet, which is surprising because they don't look like they would be. They also have an astringent citrus flavor that is stronger than Guavas. By the way, if you have wondered what to do with Guavas, cut them up, cook them in water and sugar until they are soft, and then proceed to make guava sauce, which is eaten like applesauce, or add more sugar and cook it down into jam.

To make guava sauce, pass the cooked, sweetened guavas through a food mill so as to remove the seeds, which resemble grape seeds and are not edible. After that, you can go on cooking the sauce down into jam.

Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to try steamed jocote at a friend's house, and it is interesting. I think I would use it by juicing the cooked fruit and adding it to drinks or smoothies for a refreshing tang. That would work.

I also discovered a new way to use bananas, and usually when I have two or three bananas that are about to become too ripe to eat, I find that it's time to make Pure Banana Bread out of them. But if you have just one leftover banana, here is a new idea that will make your family happy one morning.

You can make Banana Pancakes! Finding this recipe was one of those moments when I asked myself why I haven't thought of this before. If you are doing what I do, just making up a pancake mix once in awhile and keeping it in the freezer, you can take out 2-1/2 cups of it, moisten it with milk and add one very ripe banana. Do this by placing the banana in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer and beating it up, adding your liquid, beating that up and finally folding in the pancake mix.

But if you don't happen to have a pancake mix ready--including some excellent pancake mixes that you can buy in the store, like the one from Oroweat that I found in Whole Foods in Tucson years ago, you can always make a recipe of pancake mix including the banana. You can also get gluten-free pancake mix from Bob's Red Mill, by the way.

BANANA PANCAKES

From Cafe Margot

Ingredients:

2 cups of Spelt flour (either whole or regular)
1 teaspoon of powdered Stevia
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 container of plain or soy yogurt
1 large very ripe banana
1/2 cup milk, soy milk or almond milk
2 Tablespoons safflower, Canola or corn oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract if you like the flavor in pancakes
4 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks

Butter to lubricate your pancake iron

Place your egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat them to soft peaks. Set them aside briefly while you complete the batter.

In another bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and whisk them together. Set this mixture askde.

Beat up the banana in another bowl and add the other liquids. Add the dry ingredients to this mixture and beat them together briefly. Turn them into the bowl containing the beaten egg whites and fold them in at the mixer's lowest setting, or on Fold if you have that setting. Do not overmix!

Heat up your pancake griddle on the stove or electrically. When a drop of water skitters about, bubbling, on the surface, it is ready. Cook the pancakes, turning each one when the top appears dry to be sure it is cooked through. Serve them hot.

You can use the boxed egg whites that you find in the dairy section of Tucson's supermarkets to make these pancakes without wasting egg yolks. If you do have leftover yolks, consider making Lemon Curd and storing it away for dessert.

And if you have concerns about food-borne illness, find pasteurized egg whites at the store. You ought to be all right anyway, though, because the egg whites are going to be cooked thoroughly in the pancakes.

And speaking of food safety, I'm going to repeat it: DO NOT use a kitchen torch to brown meringue on a pie or other dessert unless you have made it from pasteurized eggs. I shudder when I see cooks on television doing this. It is almost as bad, to me, as plunging your bare hands into mixing bowls. As far as I am concerned, a "kitchen" torch has no place in a kitchen, period.

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