If you've been developing an inferiority complex at the produce counter lately, take heart. You are not alone. Faced with the proliferation of curiously contoured fruits and oddly visaged vegetables that appear on the produce racks, the average consumer needs a book of knowledge or an encyclopedia just to do the food shopping.
Luckier than most, I am prepared in that department. I never enter a supermarket or even a corner vegetable store without an informative book on food stashed in the bottom of my shopping cart
"Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables--A Commonsense Guide" by Elizabeth Schneider (Harper & Row: $25, 1986) is a must for anyone who has ever been in a quandary about when to buy and how to cook the crop of exotic vegetables that is changing America's gastronomic landscape.
Recently, Schneider and I were guests at the Miami Book Fair. We came there ostensibly to talk about our respective books. But while I rested after an exhausting plane trip, she spent the afternoon visiting the farms of the Florida countryside so she could produce prime examples for her seminar. CHICKEN BASTED WITH QUINCES
4 medium quinces, about 2 pounds, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
1 cup apple juice
1 cup fruity, aromatic white wine
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, about
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Ground white pepper
Place quinces in medium non-aluminum saucepan. Add apple juice and wine. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender, 15 to 30 minutes. Add brown sugar to taste. Simmer, uncovered, until pan liquid reduces to about 3/4 cup, 5 to 10 minutes.
Combine flour and salt in shallow bowl. Roll chicken pieces in flour until well coated.
Melt butter with oil in large skillet. Saute chicken over medium-high heat until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Place chicken in wide baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coriander, turn over and sprinkle with remaining coriander. Season to taste with white pepper.
Pour off excess fat from skillet and add quince liquid. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Pour over chicken. Add quinces and cover. Bake at 375 degrees in upper level of oven 15 minutes. Uncover and bake, basting occasionally, 15 minutes longer. Baste once more and place under broiler until glazed and golden. Makes 4 servings.