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Flavor that is exotic with a passion


Food entrepreneurs have found a way to inject a little bit of the South Pacific into familiar foods and beverages for an exotic blend that seems to be popping up everywhere.

Goodbye, strawberry and kiwi -- hello, passion fruit.

Also known as granadilla, passion fruit is a purple, yellow or orange fruit with a yellow interior and edible seeds. It is 2 to 3 inches wide, has leathery skin that is often shriveled and is native to tropical regions that include the West Indies, Australia and Malaysia. It is also cultivated in parts of Hawaii, Florida, California and New Zealand.

With its sweet-tart taste, passion fruit has found its way into offerings of chefs and food and beverage companies, including pastry chef Jacques Torres and Malibu Rum. Both are using the fruit's pulp and juices to give their products a passionate twist.

"Passion fruit is a dynamic flavor to use in chocolate because the flavor really packs a punch," said Torres, who owns two New York chocolate stores and first began using passion fruit in 2001. "It can stand up to the taste of chocolate and cream when used in a truffle," he added.

The Alize Heart of Passion is a popular flavor in a line of 32 flavored chocolates available at Torres' New York City and Brooklyn stores, he said. It is a chocolate bonbon with a fresh passion-fruit puree and Alize Passion liqueur filling.

"We have learned that customers want a clean-label product. They want products made with fresh ingredients that provide true flavors," Torres said.

Malibu Rum recently launched Malibu Passion, a passion-fruit-flavored rum that is available at about 300 bars and stores in the Baltimore area, including Turner's, which offers a passion-fruit martini, and Crazy Lil's, which offers a passion-fruit and ginger-ale blend. Both bars are located in the Federal Hill area.

According to Izzy Wysk at Crazy Lil's, people are not too familiar with the bar's passion-fruit beverage yet, but the summer is only beginning.

"Consumers are looking to experiment with new, more exotic flavors," said Scott Ortega, the vice president of new product development at Allied Domecq, the maker of Malibu Rum.

"Rum is from the islands and passion fruit is from the islands," Ortega said. "The decision to use passion fruit as an ingredient involves making sure the flavor matches the brand."

Meanwhile, Minute Maid recently unveiled Raspberry Passion, a combination of raspberry and passion-fruit juices, and the newest addition to the company's light-juice line, while Hershey's created the Kit Kat Edition Passion Fruit, which is trendy in the United Kingdom and Japan, but has yet to be released in the United States.

In addition to Minute Maid and Kit Kat, Kobrand, the Alize distributor, continues to excite the mature population's taste buds with its passion-fruit flavors that include Red Passion, Gold Passion, Wild Passion and Bleu.

But while passion fruit is cropping up in cocktails and candies, it is scarce this year on grocery-store shelves.

Melanie Bysouth, the marketing coordinator for Friedas.com, an online specialty produce company, said supplies are low because bad weather in New Zealand cut the growing season short. The price of one passion fruit ranges from $2.49 to $4.79.

For those looking to try their own exotic creations, select passion fruit that is heavy for its size, with purple-brown or yellow-orange skin. Avoid selections that are green or cracked. Remember that while this fruit can be stored whole or as pulp in the freezer for several months, it will last only about one week in the refrigerator.

Passion-Fruit Sorbet

Makes 1 quart

3 1/2 cups water

2 cups sugar

10 passion fruit

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Boil and simmer until mixture dissolves and is clear. Remove from heat and cool. Cut passion fruit in half and remove pulp and seeds. Use a strainer to remove the seeds from the pulp.

Add the passion-fruit juice to the sugar syrup. Chill 4 hours in refrigerator. Pour chilled mixture into ice-cream machine and freeze according to directions.

- Chef Ida Rodriguez, courtesy of www.melissas.com

Per 1/2 -cup serving: 215 calories; 1 gram protein; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 55 grams carbohydrate; 2 grams fiber; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 6 milligrams sodium

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