Fruits should have a prominent place in seasonal fare, even if they can’t compete with vegetables for sheer variety. Because of their natural sugars, fruits are second to vegetables as the kind produce you should aim to consume most.
Even so, fruits often get short shrift. Set an array of whole fruits in a bowl on the table, and the members of your household are more likely to regard it as a still life than as food. I’ve always found that, whether for my family or guests, fruit needs to be cut up, releasing its subtle scents and showing off its lovely colors. Served like this, even with no further embellishment, fruit is likely to be devoured on the spot.
Imported fruits have helped expand seasonality and variety, but in general, strawberries are best in June, blueberries in July, and peaches in August. Pears are available most any time of year, but the palate seems to welcome their comforting flavor in the late fall and winter.
Fruits, as with vegetables, are best consumed in organic form whenever possible. Some fruits are safer than others if you must buy nonorganic. Strawberries, for example, nearly always top the Environmental Working Group’s annual list of produce that contains the most pesticide.
Here are a few ways to inspire you and yours to eat more fruit, all year round.
COOL-WEATHER IDEAS FOR ENJOYING FRUIT
Add fruits to green salads: And adding small amounts of fruit to otherwise simple green salads is downright delicious. Consider the addition of crisp diced apple or pear to mixed green salad instead of blah winter tomatoes. Small orange sections make a great addition to winter salads, too.
Serve as a side dish: In some ethnic cuisines, fruit is served with the main part of the meal, as well as after it. Think of fruity pilafs in Indian cuisines, or mango salsa served with Mexican-style meals. Fruits add a refreshing note and a surprising flavor note when served with savory fare.I also enjoy serving sliced oranges with Asian or Thai-style stir-fries.
Orange and Pineapple Ambrosia: This fruit combo can be enjoyed when there’s a dearth of other fruits. Combine 2 cups or so of pineapple chunks (fresh or canned, drained) with 3 or 4 small oranges (peeled and sectioned). Toss with a few dried cranberries or raisins. If you want to make this more like a dessert, or even breakfast, stir in a small container of vanilla coconut yogurt and top with a few toasted almonds or a handful of granola. This makes about 4 servings.
Sautéed Pears with Chocolate Drizzle: Allow one pear per person. Cut firm pears into quarters lengthwise and core them.Then, cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Heat a little fruit juice and maple syrup in a medium skillet. Steam the pears over medium heat covered, until they become a little more tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and transfer the pears to a serving plate, and drizzle with melted chocolate chips. For the very lazy, use organic chocolate syrup. Finished with a sprinkling of toasted almonds.
Skillet Cinnamon Apples: Use firm sweet or tart apples — your choice! Figure on 1 apple per serving; most medium skillets will comfortably hold 4 or 5. Peel apples, then quarter and seed them. Cut each quarter into three or so slices. Heat just enough apple juice to coat the bottom of a medium nonstick skillet.
Steam the apple slices over medium heat until just tender, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you started with tart apples, stir in maple syrup or agave to taste. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Transfer to a serving container. Let cool until just warm or room temperature. In addition to being a tasty snack, served alone or with a dollop of nondairy vanilla yogurt or ice cream. Garnish with a sprinkling of granola, if you’d like.
SUMMER FRUIT COMBOS
With such a dearth of fruit varieties in the cooler months, summer is the time to take full advantage of vitamin-rich fruits. Berries, in particular, are one of the most antioxidant-rich fruits on the planet. Just a little thought to their presentation makes all the difference between their languishing in the refrigerator or being devoured, as they should be.
Composed Fruit Platters: When spring and summer roll around, fruit platters are the best kind of dessert, or, they can be a show-stopping feature of weekend brunches. Quantities aren’t so important as arrangement; the fruit should be ripe and luscious. Vary the kind of fruit used according to what’s available. With this kind of platter, you can serve small bowls of toasted sliced or slivered almonds and nondairy yogurt for dressing up individual portions of fruit, as shown in the photo. Here are some fruits to choose from:
- Blueberries or blackberries
- Strawberries, hulled and halved
- Melons — cantaloupe, honeydew, and/or watermelon, peeled and cut into wedges
- Mango or papaya, peeled and sliced
- Peaches or nectarines, sliced
- Grapes — green and/or red, cut into small bunches
- Kiwifruits, peeled and sliced
Melon Cups with Strawberries and Blueberries: The presentation of this medley of common summer fruits is incredibly appealing. Again, no need to follow an exact recipe.
Use small cantaloupes if you can find them; each half cantaloupe makes a generous serving. Scoop the flesh out of them using the small end of a melon baller, leaving a shell about 1/4 inch thick. You can cut a nice zigzag pattern around the perimeter of the cantaloupe as shown in the photo, but that’s entirely optional. Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each melon so that it will stand more securely.
Combine the melon balls with chopped strawberries and whole blueberries (or other berries) and stir together. Divide the fruit mixture among the shells. Garnish with mint leaves, if you’d like.
Fruity Parfaits: Parfaits might look fancy, but they’re so simple that a formal recipe is really not required! Layering nondairy yogurt with seasonal fruits takes almost no effort, creating a treat that looks as appealing as it tastes. It makes a good breakfast as well as dessert.
For each serving, use a 6- to 8-ounce container vanilla, lemon, or pineapple nondairy yogurt (coconut or soy) and 1/2 to 1 cup fruit. See suggestions following. Use medium-sized glass tumblers. layer half of the yogurt, then half of the fruit in glass; repeat each layer.
For a breakfast parfait, top with a little granola; if it’s more of a dessert, top with vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips and/or toasted sliced almonds. To make it even more of a dessert, use vanilla nondairy ice cream instead of yogurt. Here are some ideas for fruits to use, and to combine:
- Sliced strawberries
- Sliced strawberries and blueberries
- Sliced peaches or nectarines with any type of berries
- Diced mango and berries
- Berries and sliced banana
Summer Fruit Duos: Often, a simple pairing of two contrasting fruits makes them far more interesting than serving them alone. Honestly, you don’t need a formal recipe or even quantities, but I give some only as a guideline in the ideas that follow.
- Mango and blueberries: Depending on how many you’re serving, combine 1 or 2 peeled, diced mangos (large chunks are fine) with 1 to 2 cups blueberries.
- Strawberries and blueberries or blackberries: Hull about 1 pint sweet, ripe strawberries. Cut them in half and combine with 1 cup or so of blueberries or blackberries.
- Honeydew and raspberries: The pretty red of raspberries adds a decorative touch to the pale green of honeydew. Cut up half of a large, lush honeydew into bite-sized chunks and combine with about a cup of raspberries, or more, if you’d like.
- Peaches or nectarines and berries: If the fruit is perfectly ripe, this is heavenly. Use late-summer peaches or nectarines from a farmers market, not those that arrive at the supermarket as hard as stones. Use about 4 to 6 peaches or nectarines, pitted and diced, and a cup or two of whatever late summer berry you can find — blueberries, blackberries, etc.
- Cantaloupe and black plums: Combine a lush cantaloupe, cut into bite-sized chunks, with a few pitted and diced black plums — the kind that are super-sweet and deep red inside.
- Cantaloupe or watermelon, and blueberries: Here’s a classic duo for midsummer. For ease, I like to use seedless watermelon. Use about half of a lush cantaloupe or a quarter of a good-sized watermelon, both cut into large, bite-sized chunks, and a cup or so of blueberries. Of course, if you’d like to use both cantaloupe as well as watermelon, feel free to do so.
Photos by Hannah Kaminsky
Adapted from Plant Power by Nava Atlas
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