Something more than a hundred million years ago plants discovered that they could increase their range by getting animals to carry around their seeds, and they invented fruit. Fruit, then, is designed by nature to appeal to the primal instincts of animals. And except for animals that consume only meat, fruit appeals to almost every member of the animal kingdom.
Fruit is designed to be an edible body of flesh that surrounds ( or in the case of strawberries is surrounded by ) seeds. The seeds, generally, are inedible. And they are frequently protected by some sort of indigestible covering. The fruit, in turn, is often covered by a skin of some sort to keep out insects that would benefit from the fruit, but not serve the purpose for which fruit was designed.
In culinary and nutritional terms, fruits feature oversize amounts of sugar, fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. They generally have some amount of tartness which will increase their appeal. Because fruit is designed by nature to appeal to the diner, it is frequently best served much as nature designed it. A few fruits are best used as condiments - lemons and limes for example.
Occasionally cooking can improve fruit by intensifing flavors or getting rid of seeds as is the case for raspberries and strawberries and some other fruits. We would like to suggest that Americans oversweeten fruit products by a significant amount. When fruit is oversweetened the sugar overpowers the subtle and delicious flavors and fragrances of the fruit, making it less enjoyable. Try less sugar with the fruit. Once you get used to it, you will be glad you did!
Some of the more popular cultivated fruits are listed below:
Fruits are used in a wide variety of dishes: jams, pies, sauces, cobblers, salads, desserts, sorbets, icecreams, and fruit ices, smoothies, and so on. And much fruit is eaten raw because it just tastes good that way. It also pairs very well with dairy products. Dried fruits work well in baked goods. And rarely on will see fruits paired with meats as in mince meat pie or pork chops with sauteed apples. Most fruits are not well suited to pair with vegetables except sometimes apples work with carrots and/or walnuts in salads. And pears work with lettuce and cheese in certain salads. One will sometimes see fruit used as a garnish to salads.
Place in a blender:
blend until smooth.
There are all sorts of variations to the smoothie; many do not even involve fruit. But the fundamental flavor and texture comes from the frozen (peeled!) ripe banana. The banana must be frozen after all the green is gone from the peel and after at least some brown spots appear, otherwise it will give the smoothie a wierd 'green banana' taste that is quite unappealing. Freezing is a good way to rescue bananas before they go bad, simply peel them, put them in a freezer bag, and put in the freezer.
Strawberries are the classic 'go-with' flavor for bananas, but most other berries will make good smoothies. Raspberries might not because of their seeds.
This is a favorite that is prepared in this household a dozen weeks in a row while peaches are in season. The topping may be varied. Sometimes the nuts might be almonds and there will be some almond extract in it. Sometimes cinnamon is part of the mix. Occasionally raisins or dried cranberries will be added to the peaches.
Once peach season is over, this cobbler recipe above is easily adapted for apple cobbler. Substitute baking apples such as Cortland or Granny Smith for peaches, and use apple cider mixed with two teaspoons of arrowroot or cornstarch instead of orange juice. Be sure to add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the sugar sprinkled over the apples.
My one or two tries with the basic flaky crust met with failure. So I set out to make crustmaking easy. This pie has the great advantage that it can be prepared with as little as 15 minutes of labor and in as little as 45 minutes of clock time.
One can, of course use a prefabricated shell. This recipe was written to be made with a mix of barley and rice flour which produces a delightful, crumbly crust ( not flaky ) The great advantage of fresh-baked is that one can really smell and taste the butter and lemon in the crust, and that adds a real home-baked sensibility to it. The strange high-heat treatment of the blueberries, though it is a little scary, brings out a dimension of their flavor missing from less severe methods.
If one is willing to put two recipes together, one might use the shell of the blueberry pie and the contents of the apple cobbler to make a sort of French apple pie - remember to cut the filling ingredients all by half. And substitute walnuts for pecans.
This is another great way to use old bananas.
Hypothetically, if one knew the volume of five ripe bananas one could substitute other ingredients. For instance, one might assume that 5 ripe bananas would measure about 3 cups. Then one could use applesauce, shredded carrots, and raisins to total the same amount - perhaps 1 1/2 c. : 1 c. : 1/2 c., and make applesauce muffins or carrot muffins. Or one might use 3 cups of cooked, canned pumpkin ( not the pie mix! just the canned pumpkin ) and make pumpkin muffins. I have not tested these recipes, but they will probably provide a reasonable first start (edible, if not delicious.)
Eat well and prosper
Copyright S.R. Brubaker 2002 - 2006.