My great-grandfather came to the USA from Sweden to work building the Ford plant in Flint, Michigan. After about two years he sent for his wife and five children to come here to live. My great-grandmother left Sweden with the children and “a cheese ball as big as your head”. By the time they got to Ellis Island the cheese ball was gone. They traveled to Flint and shortly after setting up the household, my great-grandmother died, leaving my Great-grandfather with all those children.
After a series of “housekeepers” who were tormented by the children, my great-grandfather wrote to his brother in Sweden and asked him to send him a wife. His brother told him he had found one, but she was “not so pretty, but pretty nice”. She must have been pretty enough, because they went on to have four more children.
I thought of this story in relation to an article that I read in Cooking Light about wasting less produce. Tip number five was “Give ugly produce some love”
Buy misshapen “ugly” fruits and vegetables whenever you can. While not exactly ready for their close-up, they’re just as tasty as their comelier counterpoints. Think big picture. The more they sell, the less they’ll be wasted nationwide. That’s no small potatoes. (Tim Cebula, Cooking Light, May 2017, pg 141)
This got me to thinking about ugly produce and I wondered if there truly were ugly fruits and vegetables. I was not thinking about “good looking” produce that had gone bad, but produce that had been ugly from birth. I decided to go to the supermarket and look for “less comely” vegetables or fruits.
The first time I noticed an ugli fruit in the grocery store, I thought someone had mistakenly put a vegetable in the fruit section. It was a bit bigger than a grapefruit, mottled yellow and looked like it had the “warts” that are found on some squash. In this picture it is next to a lime.
According to Wikipedia, an Ugli is a Jamaican form of tangelo, a citrus fruit created by hybridizing a grapefruit, an orange and a tangerine. It is described as being characterized by thick skin and a flavor that is more sour than an orange and less bitter than a grapefruit. It can be eaten like a grapefruit, squeezed for juice for hot or cold drinks and the segments can be added to salads or deserts. Possibilities are only limited by the imagination.
For my three variations on ungli fruit, I chose to adapt recipes for lemons, anticipating that it would be quite tart. To my surprise, when I cut my ugli fruit open, the flavor was mildly sweet, less acidic than an orange and definitely less bitter than a grapefruit. The segments were huge and had heavy membranes and lots of pith. There was also a large hole in the middle.
Cut horizontally, it looked like a really big grapefruit.
Cut vertically it was slightly tear-drop shaped and the segments looked like big ears.
I made three dishes with my ugli fruit. For my first recipe, I re-visited the beet salad that didn’t go so well last week I put ugli segments into a salad of beets to replace the lemons in the original recipe.
Recipe One: Beet and Ugli Salad
- One quarter of an ugli fruit
- Four large beets, roasted and peeled (about five ounces each) (Two yellow and two red)
- One fourth cup loosely packed beet leaves (thoroughly washed and chopped)
- Two tablespoons olive oil
- Salt to taste
- One fourth teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Optional, chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc.)
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil. Roast for about 50-60 minutes. They are ready when a knife slips easily into the flesh. Re-wrap each beet and cool until they can be handled comfortably.
- Cut the ugli fruit in half horizontally. Then cut one half vertically. Fold back the skin so that the segments fan out. Remove the segments and remove the membranes and pith from each segment.
- Thinly slice roasted beets crosswise into one-eighth-inch-thick rounds.
- Arrange beet slices, ugli segments, and beet greens on a large platter. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired.
This was good but I almost wished that it had been a bit more tart. This would be a fun dish for a Gopher football party because there was nice contrast between the maroon beets and gold beets.
I also made “ugli marmalade” which is a condiment for meat and poultry. The lemon version of the recipe was designed for use on “more gamy meats”. While not particularly attractive it did have good flavor once I added some ginger. I think if I make it again I will use white or yellow unions instead of the red onions.
Recipe Two: UGLI & Onion Marmalade
1 tablespoon butter
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2.5 oz white sugar
Fresh black pepper
- Heat the butter and olive oil gently in a large pan, add the onions, cover with a lid and simmer on low heat for ten minutes.
- Meanwhile, use a potato peeler to peel the rind of 1 UGLI®.
- Slice the rind thinly and add to the onions once they have cooked for ten minutes.
- Cook for a further ten minutes.
- Using a sharp knife, cut off all the pith from the UGLI® and segment the flesh into a bowl.
- Add this to the onion along with the vinegar, sugar and black pepper.
- Boil on a high heat for about 15 minutes.
The marmalade can be made a couple days in advance. It can be served cold or reheated just before serving (simply put a little water in a pan with the marmalade to stop it from drying out in the pan). It is delicious served with roast pork, duck, venison or any gamey meats
Recipe Three: Ugli Sorbet
My final dish was “Ugli sorbet”. By now I had figured out that I didn’t need the “heavy syrup” that was called for in the recipe. The juice of the fruit was more than adequate. I don’t have an ice cream maker, so I used the second technique (see Recipe Note below). The result was more like shaved ice, but was very refreshing and definitely worth trying again
Makes 1 pint, or about 1.25 cups
1 cups water
1 cups sugar (or less)
1 cups freshly squeezed Ugli juice
½ tablespoons freshly grated ugli zest
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and sugar, and boil until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in the ugli juice and zest, then pour into the bowl of an ice cream maker. Churn according to manufacturer instructions. When the sorbet has frozen into ice crystals (it will still seem quite soft), transfer to a storage container, cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve. The sorbet will solidify in the freezer.
- Sorbet Without an Ice Cream Maker: If you do not have an ice cream maker, you can transfer mixture to a 9×13 metal baking pan. Freeze until firm (about 2 to 3 hours), stirring with a fork every half hour.
I think ugli is a fruit that more people should try. The membranes are quite thick but they are fairly easy to remove so making segments for a salad was easy. The flavor is sweetly mild and would be good for people who are bothered by the acidity of orange or grapefruit juice. The segments are quite large so would be easy for a person with vision issues. They are very easy to peel and would be good for someone with arthritic hands.
When I was looking for ugly produce I came across the Celeriac Root. My first thought was that it looked like a little hairy shrunken head. It was not a bit “comely”.
Celeriac is not really the root of the celery plant, but looks like one. The plant is evidently more floppy and the stalks are closed rather than semi-circular. Here is a cross-section of the stalk of my celeriac root. This is shown next to a cherry tomato so that you can get a sense of size.
I have also included a picture of a cross section of the root. Note the interesting marbling affect within the root
Celeriac is known to have a subtle flavor and a slightly crunchy texture. It is quite popular in French cooking. I had imagined something like a jicama, which I like very much. I found the celeriac root to be very fibrous, so it is possible that it was because it was out of season.
Recipe 4: Celeriac Apple Slaw
The first recipe that I tried was for Celeriac/Apple slaw. This consisted of julienned pieces of Granny Smith apple and celeriac root in a mayonnaise dressing. The original recipe did not include the pepper flakes, but the dish looked a little boring without a little more color. Also it add a spark of flavor to an otherwise neutral dish.
On the day that I made it, the celeriac was very “woody” and I almost threw it out. I did wait until the next day and it was somewhat more crunchy than “woody”, so the root must have absorbed some moisture from the mayonnaise. The flavor wasn’t bad, but this definitely was a “prepare ahead” dish. I think I might have enjoyed it more in a vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar
Recipe 5: Celeriac Pasta with Puttanesca Sauce
1 lb. / 500g celeriac
1. Slice off the knobby exterior of the celeriac – this may leave you with only ¾ of the original vegetable. Slice the root into half-inch (1.25cm) sections. Using a mandoline slicer, run the celeriac slices lengthwise to create ribbons. I recommend a 1mm thickness.
2. Place celeriac ribbons in a large bowl and toss with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to prevent browning. Set aside until ready to use.
¼ cup /60ml high-quality olive oil
2 small red onions, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp. crushed chili flakes (more or less according to taste)
2 cans (14oz/400g) organic crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp. capers, plus more for garnish
5 oz. /150g high-quality black olives / 1 cup (purchase them with pits. I like Kalamata olives best), plus more for garnish
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
a couple pinches of salt, to taste
caper berries for garnish (optional)
flat-leaf parsley for garnish
1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on low heat. Add the crushed chili flakes and let steep as the oil warms up. When the oil is hot add the garlic and let fry gently for 1-2 minutes, then add the onion and cook until translucent, 5 minutes or so. Watch that the oil doesn’t get too hot – use a thermometer if needed and remove it from the burner if necessary (olive burns around 320°F / 160°C).
2. While the onions are cooking, pit the olives by lining several up on a cutting board and smashing them with the flat side of a knife blade. The pits are now easily removed. Roughly chop once or twice.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to the oil, stir well, and cover to simmer for as long as you have (minimum 10 minutes). If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little water until the desired consistency is reached.
4. Place desired servings of celeriac pasta in each bowl. Serve with the hot sauce on top, and garnish with a few extra olives, capers and caper berries. Drizzle with olive oil and chopped parsley. Enjoy.
Puttanesca means “Italian ladies of the night” and this dish was reportedly used to entice men to come to visit the ladies. Despite its disreputable name, however, I must admit that it was a very tasty tomato sauce and I will make it again.
The Celeriac “pasta” , on the other hand, was not a success. As I struggled to shave the root with the vegetable peeler I came perilously close to skinning the knuckles of my non-dominant hand. The best I could do was “celeriac chips” I quickly decided to switch to normal pasta.
Recipe 6: Smashed Celeriac Root
The third dish will be mashed celeriac with potatoes. I haven’t made this dish yet but it appears to be prepared much the same way as regular mashed potatoes. I think I will soak it over night before cooking, however, since moisture seems to temper its texture.