Pop goes the.....

Ice Crunch! 

It is that time of the year when licking, biting, slurping cold and frozen things are entirely normal cravings. Along with this seasonal shift of palate comes a change in the colors on our plate. The markets are now overflowing with fruits of every color in the vibrancy range and I am really trying very hard to hold myself back from picking up one of everything! Not that it is a bad idea to eat a lot of fruit, it is simply not realistic that I will. 

Then, my attempts in self-policing are significantly encumbered by the wide variety of food porn I subscribe to. For several weeks, I have been inundated with photos of ice creams and popsicles. Ice creams, I make often but the latter caught my fancy all of a sudden and took me away with it. It may have been due to a prior rubbing of shoulders with these awesome icepops, but I am pretty sure my internet feed is more to blame. It became an obsession. I ogled the photos, browsed a ton of recipes, read reviews of popsicle makers, you know all of that stuff.

It went on for a few days. I kept telling myself, I didn't need to. I could simply stick with my creamy ice creams and so what if I can't eat the sugar cone?! Handheld frozen treats are overhyped anyway. I was doing fine for a couple of days, and then I switched my work spot to the one by the Highline Park. How is it relevant you ask? Well, you see, it happens to be just by Chelsea Market, home of some several food boutiques including People's Pops. Day in and day out I saw people strolling along the Highline and underneath, nonchalantly holding on to popsicle sticks while I gave them withering looks through the glass wall. Slowly, that changed to pressing myself onto the pane so as to somehow transport myself in place of popsicle holder.

Eventually, I realised I simply cannot continue with this masochistic endeavor and had to either change my zoning again or simply succumb to Amazon and get myself a popsicle maker. You can see which won! 

Now on to phase 2, or the agonizing on flavors. Berries, berries, berries. It was like a trance. I could not get away from them and somehow, I managed to get through the clinging tentacles (or rather thorns) of the bright pinks, reds and deep purples and laid eyes on a lovely ripe papaya. It sang to me.

You see, to understand why, I must take you back to my childhood world of India and my grandparents garden. My grand mom was a veritable whiz in all things home. Amongst her several talents was having a green thumb, one that she shared with my grand dad and literally none other in the family (including me. Although, I may be finally seeing some evidence of that genetic trait!). Anyway, their garden was a planned orchard with the sweetest mangoes, delicious sapotas, kefir lime tree (which, passed the same year my grand parents did! It was alive and just fine until then and then poof!) abundantly flowering bushes, banana trees, herbs, this and that vegetables and .... Papaya trees!

Like everything else that grew there, the papayas from the garden were plump, juicy and sweet. Which, given the land's proximity to the sea and a very salty water table is a miracle! And, a true testament to the magic of my grandparents. These were the kind, where you simply sliced and ate. No sprinkle of sugar needed.

Not that I only ate these fruits. Reality is that I got to eat very little of them as we lived far away from them for most of my life in the country. As a little kid, I had access and so have always loved papaya as a fruit, as much as everything else that was grown there. They are all my favorites to this day. And, there was a constant stream of fruits in season at home. Although, with those bought it was hard to find one that did not need the touch of sugar to make it lovely. And, hence my particular nostalgia about those from our garden. 

Needless to say, the papaya is a tropical fruit literally unknown in the North East US. It's sweetness is unique and unlike any Western fruit. So, one day when I found them in my local grocery store brought in from Mexico, I was thrilled. I carried a nice, perfectly rugby ball shaped fruit back home and gently nursed it to ripeness. By which, I told it stories of nostalgia and hoped it would live up to them. Imagine my unabandoned joy, when it actually did!!

The fruit was perfect! Sweet just as is and I ate it for dessert and breakfast and made smoothies with it in between! I revelled in it and felt so much closer to my grand parents. It was inevitable that this fruit then should be honored for the spot of the first popsicle... You see?!

After that, it really was simple. South Indian flavors are what I associate with the fruit and hence the accompaniment were to the traditional homemade yogurt with the quintessential sweetening spice of cardamom. No sweet in the South is made without a hint of cardamom and I find no flaw in that policy, at all! It happens to be one of my favorite spices as well.

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Honey and Cardamom Spiced Yogurt Swirled with Fresh Papaya Puree......

There you have it. Happiness on a stick! :)

There is one caveat I do want to give here. Popsicle making I learnt was as much a science as an art of flavors. Using a popsicle maker is very simple and the joy of creating your own flavors and memories, priceless. These popsicles were really great - a lot of people told me that and how much they appreciated the flavor of the pure fruit and the honesty of homemade everything.

But, it is not perfect. I probably will never get it to be perfect like the ones you get from commercial kitchens made with the input from food scientists. Because they know how to give you a perfect bite straight out of the wrapper that makes you go aaaah! without preceding it with a brain freeze.

What I mean to say is that, these ice pops are a labor of love and even more so when served because you need to let it thaw a little out of the freezer before you can appreciate a bite or lick.

That said, my momentary retail weakness is totally worth it!!! I see more popsicles in the near future!

Yogurt and Papaya Ice Pops

{with Cardamom and Honey}

2 cups diced papaya

1/2 pint homemade yogurt (if using greek yogurt, start with 2/3 the amount and thin with water)

1 T raw honey, melted

3 cardamom pods, seeds crushed

Puree the papaya as smooth as you can. If not ripe enough, add a little honey to sweeten.

Whip together the yogurt, honey and crushed cardamom seeds.

Fill half the popsicle cups with papaya puree and top with the yogurt leaving 1/2 inch room from the top.

Using a stick stir the puree a little into the yogurt. 

Freeze per instructions.

When ready to serve, place them in warm water to loosen the ice pops.

Leave it stay for a couple of minutes in the molds, allowing it to soften a little, before passing them around.