Finally, it is starting to feel like Summer here in San Francisco. What is better for Summer than some delicious iced treats? Recently I saw some luscious peaches and colorful pitayas side by side so I decided to make some cool Nieve de Durazno y Pitaya.
More often than not pitayas (also spelled pithaya) are associated with exotic, tropical or Chinese products but they are also abundant in Mexico. Some species of Pitayas are native to the Americas, and in Asian countries they are referred to as "dragon fruits", because they seem scaley, like a dragon's skin. They are rich in calcium and vitamin C. Pitayas are actually not tropical, they grow in arid regions. Like other succulents, like the nopal and the prickly pear, they are believe to regulate blood sugar in diabetics.
Here in San Francisco I found Pitayas on several groceries stores on Mission Street. They are also available at Rainbow Groceries. This being an artsy blog, I also wanted to mention that these curious fruits were a favorite painting subject of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Here is one of Frida's paintings depicting pitayas!
In Mexico these fruits are not often eaten by themselves. They make wonderful Agua Fresca and nieve, a type of sorbet. I think that the species found here in the US are not particularly flavorful, they have the consistency of kiwi with crunchy little black seeds. The flavor some how resembles Jicama, with a hint of melon. I think the ripe juicy peaches marry well with the flavors of the pitaya. These recipe is super easy. You'll need the following ingredients:
- Two big, very ripe peaches. This recipe wont work if the peaches are not soft.
- Two red pitayas
- Fresh squeezed lime juice
- Sugar or sweetener of your choice to taste (optional)
- A splash of fruity liquor like Midori, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec (optional)
Cut the pitayas lenghtwise and take the white flesh out of the peel carefully using a spoon. Save the red peel as a "cup" for presenting your sorbet. Cut the pitaya flesh in chunks and place them in a food processor.
Peel the peaches by cutting an "X" on their skin, then dunk them in boiling water for a few seconds. Dunk them on iced water and the skins should be able to come right off. Cut the peaches in chunks and add them to the food processor.
Add the lime juice, the liquor and a little bit of the water you used to peel the peaches. The peaches I used were very sweet so I didn't use any sugar, but you can add the sweetener of your choice at this point. Process until you have a soft puree. Don't process the fruit too much, or the little seeds of the Pitaya will pulverize and discolor your sorbet.
Freeze the puree in an ice cream maker until you reach a sorbet consistency. It wont take too long to churn, so check often. I use cuisinart model 21. If you don't have an ice cream maker you can freeze the puree in a tray until it is partially frozen. Scrape the sides with a spatula and freeze again - it will be more icy, like an Italian Granita, but still good! Serve in the hollowed out peel of the pitaya and enjoy!