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Carambola! A star shines on the winter produce counter


Quite literally the star of the winter produce counter is carambola, or star fruit, an exotic, golden fruit native to the tropics but recently under cultivation in Florida. Star fruit has an elongated shape with five ribs, or fins; when sliced crosswise the pieces appear star-shaped. Star fruit are ripe when the ribs are dark golden or brown, and the flesh is deep golden and somewhat soft. Green or light golden fruit needs to be left out to ripen. Star fruit are low in calories, according to Elizabeth Schneider's "Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide," (Harper & Row, 1986), with about 40 in each medium-sized fruit. They're also a good source of vitamins A and C, plus potassium and fiber. Some varieties are sweeter than others; the produce manager at the grocery may be able to tell you what variety the store is offering.

Star fruit can be used as simply as a garnish, or in fruit salads. Trim off the ends, and slice the rest of the fruit thinly. In fact, it

lends itself to simple preparations. This recipe from "Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables;" good accompaniments might be rice and a green salad:

Sauteed shrimps and carambola Makes 2 servings.

1 pound shrimp, preferably small

3 small carambolas (star fruit), preferably medium-sweet, about 2 ounces each

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

salt and white pepper to taste

pinch sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice, approximate

Shell shrimp; devein. If they are not small, halve lengthwise. Cut tips off carambolas, then slice 1/8 inch thick.

Heat two tablespoons butter over moderately high heat in large, nonaluminum saute pan. Add shrimp, carambola slices, salt, pepper and sugar. Saute for a minute or two, until shrimp are pink. Add lemon juice and toss.

Off heat, stir in remaining butter. Taste and season. Serve at once.

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