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From Chile to your market ... and table.

GOLDEN CALIFORNIA POPPIES GLEAM BESIDE the road, tattered eucalyptus shade the way, and wild briers studded with ripe blackberries drape over fences. All are sights you would expect to see on a summer drive along California's Central Coast. But this is January, and you are on the bottom half of the world. Stretching 2,700 miles long and 110 miles at its widest point, Chile uncannily mirrors our Pacific coast, with agricultural areas reversed. In northern Chile, where it's hot and dry, barren land responds as fruitfully to water as does the Southern California desert (both are grape-growing areas). In the central regions, stone fruits, berries, apples, and pears flourish. South, toward Patagonia, the land is lush and green, its vines and bushes laden with raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.

Over the last two decades, Chileans have made a Herculean effort to develop an agricultural program to serve a world market, and to capitalize upon their reverse-season advantage. Chile's summer is our winter, and nothing more vividly makes this point than the summer fruits from Chile now in our markets. Because of their country's climatic and geographic similarities to California, Oregon, and Washington, Chileans invited agriculture experts from these states to guide variety choices, planting, cultivation, harvesting, packing, and transport of produce familiar to North American consumers.

As Chilean fruit has gained acceptance, plantings have increased. Exports have grown from 161 million pounds in 1976 to more than 1.8 billion pounds last year--about half to the United States and Canada. More than half of that bounty was grapes. By bridging California's harvests, Chile has turned grapes into a year-round commodity in North America. From late November through April, look for Flame, Ruby, and Thompson (all seedless); and Ribier varieties.

Similarly, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberriers (4.5 million pounds) arrive from late November through April. Mid-December through early January brings apricots (1.7 million pounds). December into mid-January, keep an eye out for cherries (3.5 million pounds); Bings are here now. Continuing to arrive from mid-December to mid-March are nectarines (58 million pounds). Late December to mid-March brings plums (57.5 million pounds). The season for peaches (43 million pounds) runs from late December to early April.

Besides conforming to USDA and FDA requirements for fruits and vegetables, Chilean exporters must meet regulations set by various states for domestic produce. Through cooperative effort, much fruit is inspected in Chile by the USDA; it may be inspected again upon arrival in this country. Earliest fruits, available in November, are often shipped by air. Berries regularly arrive by air freight, but most fruits make a 10-to 12-day ocean voyage in refigerated ships, then arrive at your market in refigerated trucks.

On a visit to Chile last winter, we gathered recipes for summer fruits from good cooks we met. Here we share two choices, a tart and a cake, from Hacienda Los Lingues, a 400-year-old estate about 80 miles south of Santiago; the estate not only produces fruit, but breeds horses and accepts guests. The last recipe is for manjar (delicacy), Chile's version of one of Central and South America's most popular sweets--milk boiled with sugar to form a rich, smooth caramel.

Red Fruit Tart

1/3 cup sugar

1 envelope (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin

3/4 cup rose wine

1/4 cup port

3 or 4 strips orange peel, orange part only, 3 to 4 inches long

1/2 cup orange juice

4 large (about 2 1/2-in. diameter, or 1 lb. total) firm-ripe, dark red-skinned plums, rinsed, pitted, and each cut into 8 wedges

Baked pastry (recipe follows)

About 1 cup rinsed and drained raspberries or pitted cherries

In a 2- to 3-quart pan, mix sugar and gelatin. Add wine, port, peel, and juice. Bring to a rolling boil on high heat. Add plums; simmer until fruit begins to soften slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. With a slotted spoon, transfer fruit to plate; discard peel. Chill fruit.

Chill poaching liquid in uncovered pan in the refrigerator--or, to speed chilling, set pan in a large bowl of ice. Stir often until it begins to thicken slightly.

Quickly arrange plum slices in pastry; set raspberies decoratively on plums. When poaching liquid is slightly jelled but still soft enough to pour smoothly, ladle over fruit (if mixture gets too thick, warm to soften, then chill to thicken). Chill tart until gelatin is set, at least 1 or up to 8 hours; cover airtight after 1 hour. Remove pan rim and set tart on a platter. Serves 8 to 10.

Per serving: 244 cal.; 3.8 g protein; 10 g fat (5.9 g sat.); 35 g carbo.; 103 mg sodium; 46 mg chol.

Baked pastry. In a food procesor or bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour; 1/4 cup sugar; and 6 table-spoons butter or margarine, cut into chunks. Whirl or rub with your fingers until fine crumbs form. Add 1 large egg and whirl or stir with a fork until dough holds together. Firmly par dough into a ball, then break into large chunks into an 8-by 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom, or a 9-inch cake pan with removable bottom. Press dough firmly and evenly over pan bottom and flush with rim.

Bake in a 350[degrees] oven until golden brown (don't worry if crust cracks), about 35 minutes; cool on a rack. Remove pan rim and slip a long spatula under pastry to release, but leave in place; set back in rim. If made ahead, cover airtight up until next day.

Peach Breakfast Cake

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 large eggs

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 large (about 3-in. diameter, or 1 3/4 lb. total) firm-ripe peaches, peeled, halved, and pitted

Topping (recipe follows)

Cinnamon sugar (optional)

With a mixer or food processor, beat or whirl butter, sugar, peel, and almond extract until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well. Add flour; whirl or beat until smothly mixed. Spread batter in a buttered, flour-dusted 9-inch cheesecake pan with removable rim.

Arrange peach halves, cut side down, on batter. Bake in a 350[degrees] oven until cake is lightly browned and just begins to pull from pan sides. Remove from oven and, quickly and neatly, sppon cream topping around fruit. Bake 10 minutes longer. Cool on a rack at least 30 minutes; serve warm or cool. If made ahead, cool, cover, and let stand up to 3 hours at room temperature, or chill up to 8 hours.

Run a knife between pan rim and cake. Remove rim and set cake on a platter; sprinkle top lightly with cinnamon sugar. Serves 8 or 9.

Per serving: 295 cal.; 4.2 g protein; 11 g fat (10 g sat.); 33 g carbo.; 138 mg sodium; 85 mg chol.

Topping. Beat to blend 1 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 large egg white, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.

Manjar

Spoon onto fresh grapes, raspberries, peaches, apricots, or plums. For a cool, tart accent, accompany with sour cream.

You'll find manjar in any food store in Chile, but to make it at home, even the best cooks start with this one ingredient.

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

Remove can top; cover can tighly with foil. Bake or pressure-cook, as follows.

To bake. Set covered can in a 5- by 9-inch loaf pan. Place on rack in a 350[degrees] oven. Add boiling water to pan to within 1 inch of rim. Protecting hands with insulated mitts, cover pan tightly with foil. Bake until milk is a golden caramel color, about 3 hours. (For richer caramel flavor, bake until a darker color, about 4 hours.) To check color, open foil carefully to avoid hot steam.

To pressure-cook. Set covered can on rack in a 4- to 6-quart pressure cooker. Add 1 1/2 inches water. Cover pan with lid and bring to pressure according to manufacturer's directions. Cook at 15 pounds pressure for 45 minutes for golden caramel color, 1 hour for a darker color. Release pressure quickly as manufacturer directs.

Hold hot can with insulated mitts and scrape milk into a blender or food processor; whirl until very creamy and smooth. Serve hot, warm, or cold (manjar thickens as it cools; bet to thin, adding, if desired, a little water to thin more). If made ahead, cover and chill airtight up to 1 month. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

Per tablespoon: 64 cal.; 1.6 g protein; 1.7 g fat (1.1 g sat.); 11 g carbo.; 25 mg sodium; 6.7 mg chol.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes; summer fruit for winter cookery
Author:Di Vecchio, Jerry Anne
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:1452
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