One of the many perks of Summer travel season is the opportunity to discover new, unknown foods — and often included in that category are undiscovered fruits and vegetables. Sadly, it's not in my budget to be headed anywhere abroad this year, but I've still had a chance to sample plenty of exotic fruits stateside. After I couldn't stop raving about its feijoas, specialty produce purveyor Frieda's overzealously sent over what seemed like an entire crate of rambutans. I'd only seen pictures of them before, and staring the prickly, dark-pink creatures in the face sent chills down my spine. How did I tackle my initial fear? To find out, read on.

I'd heard that these redheaded spiky spheres were easy to eat, so I started small, grabbing one and prying it open. It had a semifirm shell, but gave in easily to my knife, revealing a translucent white flesh with a sticky floral scent, much like a lychee or a longan. And just like those fruits, this one had a pit on the inside.

Once I embraced the freakish-looking red hair, it was a piece of cake shelling and pitting the rambutans, and they were succulent eaten straight out of hand, albeit messy. I ate most of them, and saved a cup full to make what I'll call a rambutan martini. Have you found yourself intimidated by rambutans — or are you a big fan?