Ripe Quince

April 7, 2008

We arrived at Gualberto’s ramshackle rancho in Noh Bec just after 9 am with rumbling stomachs. We could smell fresh tortillas from the casita. The conversation danced around what he would grow for the restaurant and the quantities, but I couldn’t focus. There were many distractions like purple hued pitaya, a tree full of ripe mango and again the wind tickled the follicles of my nose with the scent of hand made pure corn tortillas.

The closest edible was a fuzzy looking yellow apple dangling to the right just above my head so I pretended to absentmindedly pick it and take a bite while agreeing to a weekly delivery of 1000 kilos of cilantro. The sweet, juicy flesh exploded with a floral bouquet and a slightly tart undertone as I looked longingly at the yellow fruit and swallowed. I agreed to 6000 kilos of tomatoes and picked another.

All the fresh quince I’d ever encountered were rock hard and astringent, much too bitter to eat raw. These were crisp and soft and the flavor filled my palette with fields of flowers. I looked up from the quince to Gualberto’s daughter and winked.

We served a salad of shaved red cabbage with quince and creamy blue goat cheese for first course at the wedding reception.

Serves 2
About a quarter of a goodly sized head of red cabbage shaved on the mandoline
1 Chile Xcatec or Santa Fe deseeded and slivered
1 avocado cut into small cubes
1 ripe Pineapple Quince or a seasonal D’anjou pear if your jet is in the shop and you can’t make it to the Caribbean
A nice hunk of blue goat cheese from Gualberto’s rancho or Blue D’Auver
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, the real thing
A fruity, peppery olive oil
Sea salt

Toss the shaved red cabbage with chile, salt, olive oil and vinegar. Cover and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes while you pour an apertif and chat.

Peel and cube the quince. Feed a morsel to your beloved and hand her the glass of Lillet. Add the avocado and the quince to the cabbage and toss gently.

Plate the salad and top with a thin plank of blue cheese. Talk passionately about the rich black soil from whence the quince came, but be brief. Pour a Cabernet, no oak.