Tapioca-Coconut Cream

Be sure to use unsweetened coconut milk, available at Asian markets, as are many of the fruits. All fruits, especially mango and papaya, need to be fully ripened. Exact ingredients are not as important as is the presentation.

This may be the time to try out some of those strange-looking fruits at your grocery store. Fresh lychees would be a wonderful addition, if available. You could substitute kiwi fruit for the carambola (star fruit), or include a few slices of each. Carambola are simply sliced before serving. No need to peel or seed them.

6 tablespoons small-pearl tapioca

1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

1 small mango, peeled, seeded, and cut in diamond shapes

1/2 banana, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 papaya peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced

4 large strawberries, halved

1 small star fruit thinly sliced, or 1 kiwi fruit peeled and sliced

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Boil 1-1/2 quarts of water in a saucepan. Rinse tapioca under cold water and add to boiling water. When tapioca begins to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered until translucent - about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the tapioca and reserve it in a bowl.

In a large saucepan, boil the unsweetened coconut milk. In another bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks until light and lemony in color. Gradually add hot coconut milk to the sugar-egg mixture while whisking. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and simmer until the custard coats the back of a spoon (about 12 minutes). Be sure custard does not boil.

Add the custard to the tapioca, stir, and refrigerate until cold.

Pour a small amount of tapioca on chilled plates, and arrange most of the fruits decoratively on tapioca. Add more tapioca, a few more pieces of fruit, and garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serves 2.

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