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Fruit

 

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Fruit

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.

Basic Fruit Smoothie - Dairy Free

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.

Peach Cobbler
  1. Wash and cut up 12 ripe peaches into a glass bowl.
    • If you buy peaches that are not ripe, wait until they are. You will be able to smell them from at least an arm's length away.
    • Also, be sure to wash carefully, no commercial food item is more likely to be more heavily laden with pesticides and fungicides than the peach. If pregnant or lactating or feeding young children, you may want to blanch them and peel them before slicing.
  2. Drizzle them with the juice of 1 lemon. Sprinkle with 3 teaspoons sugar. Toss.
  3. Place in a 9x13 pyrex pan, pat them gently into place.
  4. Add 1/2 cup orange juice, pouring it in at the corner.
  5. In a food processor place:
    • 1 1/2 cup rolled oats ( not instant )
    • 1 1/2 cup pecans
    • 1/2 cup oat bran
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 4 tablespoons butter
  6. Pulse the food processor for as much as 20-30 seconds total. While it is running add up to 1/2 cup water - just enough to make the mixture cohesive but crumbly.
  7. Spread the topping over the peaches, allowing it to clump into pieces as large as a peach pit here and there.
  8. Bake uncovered in an oven set to 325 F for 45 to 60 minutes. Remove when the topping is darkly browned in a few places and it smells "browned."

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.

Apple Cobbler

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.

Speedy Blueberry Pie

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.

  1. Place in a food processor
    • 2 cups pastry flour
    • 1 stick cold butter, sliced into at least 15 pieces, distributed.
    • zest of 1 lemon (just the zest, no pith - about a teaspoon.)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
  2. Place in a 1/2 cup measure 1 ice cube, 3 tablespoons water.
  3. Pulse the food processor two or three quick pulses
  4. Run the processor, drizzling in the water, but not the ice, until the dough spontaneously forms a heap.
  5. Remove the dough. Roll it and place it in a pie pan, or press it into a pie pan.
  6. Bake the pie shell for 10 minutes at 35oF
  7. While it is baking juice two lemons, about 1/4 cup. And measure 1/2 cup sugar.
  8. Place one quart of fresh blueberries into a 2 quart sauce pan and cook at high heat, stirring continuously with a silicone spatula. After a minute or two after some of the berries have popped and it is hard to prevent sticking, add the sugar and continue on high heat for half a minute more.
  9. Reduce the heat to medium, add the lemon juice , continue stirring with a silicone spatula.
  10. Keep stirring the berries continuously or on 20 second intervals until the pie shell is ready. This will involve two or three minutes of simmering.
  11. Add 1/2 tsp ceylon cinnamon.
  12. Place the blueberries in the pie shell and bake for 30 minutes.
  13. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

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.

Apple Pie

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.

Banana Muffins

This is another great way to use old bananas.

  1. Select 5 very ripe bananas. Typically, much of the yellow will have vanished from the peel, the banana will be giving of its typical 'ripe banana' smell. But none of the flesh will have turned transparent yet.
  2. Place in a bowl and mash with a fork
  3. Add
    • 1 cups flour, total ( Rice, Barley, Pastry)
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon allspice
    • 1 teaspoon mace
    • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
    • 12 cardamom pods finely pulverized in a mortar & pestle
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 4 eggs
  4. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Place in a dozen greased muffin tins, and bake at 425F for 18 to 25 minutes - remove when a toothpick comes out dry.

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.