White food, coming through! Sorry, friends; this is just one of those things which will forever keep me out of “professional food photographer” territory; my inability to photograph pale food well. It’s like a curse.
The August Feast is here! It was here almost a week ago, but who’s counting? I’ve been busy poring over each page, as it’s the magazine’s annual bear hug to the best St. Louis has to offer, culinarily speaking. Not an awkward hug, either: St. Louis bear-hugs right back, and it’s something to behold, especially if you’ve lived here all your life as I have. And while all this food love happens, while gorgeous plates of food are styled and captured on film, I get to work with…paste!
(crickets. somewhere in the distance, a tumbleweed blows by.)
Paste, ladies and gentleman!
It’s my win, though – seriously – because it’s guava paste, an ingredient which will carry you off to distant, sun-drenched beaches south of the equator the minute you smell it. It’s weird like that. I can’t complain anyway, because I pick my ingredients, and I made no mistake here with this one.
Full disclosure: guava paste is an ingredient which is embarrassing to love. It’s like the friend you have in elementary school who’s constantly picking her nose and pulling her dress over her head at birthday parties; she’s so great when no one’s watching, but a hot mess in public. Because yes, guava paste is made from fresh guava, and yes, fresh guava is a fruit; a wonderful, floral-scented, tropical fruit at that. I’d love to tell you that guava paste was simply concentrated guava, much in the way that pomegranate molasses is basically cooked-down pomegranate juice.
Sorry, people: it’s not. It’s guava cooked down with a dizzying amount of sugar and corn syrup until it becomes basically a huge slab of Turkish delight. If you wanted to build a gummy house for the bears? This would be your ideal building material. It’s dense, sturdy, and although it carries an expiration date on the package, I have a difficult time believing it ever expires.
This should not in any way deter you from rushing out to get the guava paste, however: those things I said? That’s sort of my way of telling you how much I adore guava paste. Much like the friend example above, there’s something endearing about food like this: it’s unapologetically sweet, brightly colored, and has a texture which makes you want to laugh right out loud at it, but still…it’s so, so awesome once you get to know it. And once you get to know it, and know what it can do, you’ll begin to love it for all that it is and all that it isn’t.
What it is: well, okay, so I answer this in the article, but it’s basically what I said above: guava pulp simmered down with loads of sugar until it’s thick at room temperature to maintain a shape without budging, similar in texture to the inside of a gum drop. There’s a candy-like sweetness to it, but it’s not in any way a false flavor: the fresh guava still shines through in both flavor and scent.
What it’s not: healthy, which is precisely why I housed it in the most entertaining paletas you will make this summer. First, you do this whole thing where you steep toasted coconut chips and vanilla beans in a coconut cream, milk, and heavy cream mixture (!) and let it sit for a while. Then you strain everything out and layer the base into popsicle molds with fresh pineapple (!!) and tiny guava paste cubes (!!!). You may be wondering how guava paste cubes react when frozen inside dessert; very well, as a matter of fact. The thing about guava paste is that is has enough corn syrup in it to prevent it from becoming solid, even when frozen, which means you have perfect jelly-like cubes floating around in your paleta. Texturally, it’s a carnival: frozen coconut-vanilla base, chilly crisp pineapple, and soft, pliable guava paste. Way too much fun for one person, so make a batch and share them with people you really like. We’re seeing the last gasps here of summer berries and some of the produce we all hate to say goodbye to, and this little treat is a great way to usher in late summer before everything goes all apple pear pumpkin-spicy haywire.
If you’re local and haven’t picked up your copy of Feast, I’d get on it. It’s one I tend to keep (lie: I keep all of them) to use for reference for where I’d like to eat in the near future. Always reliable. And this issue will go fast; not only are there tons of amazing things inside, there’s giant ice cream sandwiches on the outside. If you miss it (and for the non-locals), here’s the link to the digital issue.
BUT GUESS WHAT!?! I know I’ve mailed several of you copies of Feast in the past, often requested, sometimes just because. Now, I don’t have to argue with the Post Office over mailing options: you can get a shiny new Feast Magazine delivered to your door monthly by subscribing. I may actually subscribe just so I don’t have to circle the guy who drops them off at the newsstand each month. What? Can’t a girl just hang out in the entryway of her favorite grocery store for long periods of time? Jeez.
And, as always, if you’re aching to turn your coconut vanilla guava paste pineapple dreams into reality, check out my recipe for Guava-Pineapple Paletas with Coconut Vanilla-Infused Cream. Like that title? I think every time I submit an article, my working title gets longer. They do a great job at editing that down, but I always enjoy seeing how exactly they’re going to do it.
I’m so mad now because I really want to make these paletas again now that I’ve talked about them. They were that delicious, and exceptionally good in hot weather, which is happening right now. Thank goodness I thought to grab an extra slab of it; always be prepared, friends.