Kiwi fruit adds an exotic touch to simple desserts

March 4, 2022

At the start of the pandemic, we changed our approach to grocery shopping. Instead of pushing a cart up and down the aisles, trying to recall what was on the grocery list still sitting on the kitchen counter, we placed our order online each week. On the selected day and time, we drove to the store and waited in a parking space while the friendly staff loaded the bags they’d packed into the trunk of our car.

Occasionally, there are missing items or less-than-ideal substitutions. For example, oatmeal is not a reasonable replacement for cracked wheat (bulgur). But, the one aspect I find most challenging is the sense we’re “buying blind.” It’s not an issue with mayonnaise (jars of Duke’s regularly appear on the list of options) but more of a challenge with meat and produce, where you can’t see the specific item and have to make do with what arrives.

This is especially true of fresh fruit and vegetables. No one can tell that the tomato sitting in a green cardboard tray hides a deep gash on its underside, and only the very picky shopper will examine the box of mushrooms to see how close they were to rotting. This was a recent experience with my order of kiwi. I’d specified a quantity of four fuzzy fruits and wasn’t expecting them prepackaged in a tray covered with plastic wrap.

For those of you unfamiliar with kiwi, also known as Chinese gooseberry, it’s a fruit the size of a large egg with a thin, edible, tan-colored skin. The flesh is light green or golden and studded with rows of tiny, edible black seeds. Kiwi were recorded as long ago as the 12th century in China, and cultivation spread to New Zealand in the early 20th century. During World War II, British and American soldiers discovered the fruit, which finally arrived in Great Britain and California in the 1960s.

Around the same time, growers in New Zealand starting calling it “kiwifruit” for the way its fuzzy skin resembled the feathered body of the local kiwi bird. As a rule, the fruit isn’t called kiwi in New Zealand, where the term is reserved for the bird or as a nickname for New Zealanders. Today, China remains the largest producer of kiwi, with Italy in second and New Zealand a close third in production volume.

The Italian connection came as a surprise, until I learned that the Italian growers adapted the infrastructure and techniques they’d developed for grape production to successfully cultivate kiwi. As it happened, the package of kiwi in my grocery sack was labeled as a product of Italy, distributed by an LLC out of Salisbury, N.C. – no wonder they were overripe by the time they reached my kitchen.

I’d planned to make a vanilla custard tart and use kiwi slices for a decorative topping. However, after peeling away the skin and unhappy bits of flesh, there wasn’t quite enough to cover the tart, so I filled in the blanks with strawberry slices. If I’d had berries or bananas on hand, they would have also aided the decoration.

I never know what the editor will choose to title one of my columns, but for this one, I might suggest “Your Cheatin’ Tart.” The crust is a store-bought chocolate-graham one and the filling is vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt, which had just the right texture to masquerade as custard.

Another filling “cheat” was printed on the pie-shell label. This one used instant pudding mix combined with milk and a tub of non-dairy whipped topping (the kind sold in the freezer aisle). I’ll include instructions for these fast and easy cheats, as well as a baked key lime custard that offers a sweet contrast to the slightly tart kiwi fruit.

Greek Yogurt Kiwi Tart*

1 graham-cracker pie shell

3 to 4 C vanilla Greek yogurt

4 peeled, sliced kiwi fruit

crumbled graham cracker (optional)

Spoon yogurt into pie shell and smooth the top with a spatula. Arrange kiwi slices in a circular pattern, overlapping to create concentric circles. Reserve one or two slices for the center. If desired, sprinkle the top with graham cracker crumbs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: 8 slices. *Note: this will become soggy as the liquid separates from the solids in the yogurt.

Vanilla Pudding Kiwi Tart*

1 graham cracker pie shell

1 1/3 C milk

2 4-oz pkgs vanilla instant pudding

8-oz tub non-dairy whipped topping

4 peeled, sliced kiwi fruit

In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk and contents of both boxes of pudding mix. Add half the whipped topping; whisk to combine. Spread pudding mixture in the pie shell. Top with remaining whipped topping and smooth with a spatula. Arrange kiwi slices in an overlapping circular pattern. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: 8 slices. *Note: you can substitute homemade whipped cream for the topping.

Key Lime Kiwi Tart

1 graham cracker pie shell

4 egg yolks

14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 C key lime juice

4 peeled, sliced kiwi fruit

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake pie shell until golden, about 10 minutes; cool to room temperature. In a mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and condensed milk until smooth. Add key lime juice and stir just until combined. Pour filling into crust and bake 15 minutes. Cool on a rack 10 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Before serving, arrange kiwi slices in a concentric pattern on the top of the tart. Yield: 8 slices.


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