By Barbara Beltrami
Fresh fruit, having been picked and stored for who knows how long, can turn out to be a huge disappointment. How many times have I bought apples, bitten into one and found it tasting more like a potato than an apple? Or pears that have lasted for two weeks without ever ripening or else turning brown right away? Berries? Pretty much tasteless and very expensive, often with several green furry specimens on the bottom of the package. And this goes for shriveled grapes, tasteless tough citrus fruits and even melons that have not survived the long journey from foreign farm to supermarket.
So what’s a cook to do? Chalk up the cost to hope springing eternal in the modern shopper’s breast and convert them into fruit compotes. Simmered in water or wine, some sugar and spice, with maybe some dried fruit too, mixed with a generous shot of liqueur, whiskey or brandy, and served warm over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or baked, then crowned with a creamy sauce makes fresh fruit failures morph into the stuff of which delectable desserts are made. The following recipes are merely suggestions based upon whatever failed fruit you have on hand; they are very adaptable to substitutions.
Baked Fruit Compote
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Nonstick cooking spray
12 crumbled macaroons or ginger snaps
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped pears
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
Half a stick unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 2 1/2 quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle bottom with half the cookie crumbs. In a medium bowl toss together the apples and pears. Lay half the fruit mixture evenly in baking dish; top with remaining cookie crumbs, then remaining half of fruit mixture. Sprinkle top with sugar, sherry and almonds. Dot with butter. Bake until top is slightly golden and inside is bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream.
Stewed Fruit Compote
YIELD: Makes 8 servings.
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1” wedges
2 pears, peeled, cored and sliced into 1” wedges
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried plums, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
Peel from half a lemon
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 bottle dry red wine
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup brandy
In a large saucepan combine all ingredients except the brandy. Stir, bring to a boil over medium high heat, then simmer until fruits are tender and liquid is thick and syrupy, about one hour. Remove lemon peel and cinnamon stick, stir in brandy and simmer one minute more. Serve hot or warm over vanilla ice cream.
Fresh Fruit Compote
YIELD: Makes 6 servings.
2 grapefruits, peeled, seeded, pith removed and chopped
3 oranges, peeled, seeded, pith removed and chopped
1 small bunch seedless grapes, washed
2 cups melon balls
1 peach, peeled and chopped
1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1 pint blueberries, washed
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
12 ounces apple juice or apricot nectar
2 tablespoons diced candied ginger
2 tablespoons brandy or liqueur
In a large bowl thoroughly mix all the fruit with the orange juice; cover and set aside. In a small saucepan, dissolve cornstarch in cold water, then add fruit juice. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add ginger, cool; stir in brandy, cover and chill. Pour over fruit and serve with vanilla yogurt.