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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Simple Food, Great Taste

Sometimes, in our search to be creative in the kitchen, we tend to mask the flavor of food rather than enhance it. And in our rush at the table, many times we tend to eat, rather than truly taste. Summer is a great time to reintroduce our palates to the simple flavors of fresh fruit.

The produce section of the supermarkets runneth over in August — blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes, and plums — all in season and easy to enjoy. I like to avoid turning the oven on during the summer, and nothing is more refreshing than a cool, colorful serving of chilled fruit salad.

Buying fresh, whole fruit can be challenging because you never know what you’re going to get. Is the watermelon going to be red, juicy and crisp inside or is it going to be pale pink, dry and mealy? It can be hit or miss, but over time and with a few helpful hints it can be rewarding.

First and foremost, buy in season. Quality is usually higher and prices are more reasonable when fruit is in season. Out-of-season produce is generally more expensive. But by the same token, do not buy just because of low price. Sometimes prices are low because the fruit is in season, but sometimes the prices are low because there is an overabundance of the fruit and the produce is on the verge of spoiling. Also, even if the price is right and you have plenty of room in your refrigerator, buy only what you need.

Watch out for deterioration because fruit that is on display has often been squeezed, sniffed, and juggled by other shoppers. If you handle a fruit to judge its quality–which I always do–use care to prevent damage to the fruit. Rough handling will cause spoilage and waste. We generally associate appearance with quality, but this is not always the case. Often the taste of a beautiful piece of fruit is a huge disappointment. On the other hand, a piece of fruit with poor color or blemishes on the surface may be delicious. When in doubt, ask the person working in the produce department, and do not be afraid to ask for a taste of the fruit you’re considering.

Ordering fruit salad in a restaurant can be risky in that the definition of “fresh” sometimes gets lost in translation. At home, however, we are in control of the freshness of the fruit salad. Buy a chunk of watermelon or cantaloupe, peel and seed, then cut into bite-size pieces and put in a container in the refrigerator so it’s ready for the family to devour after a hot summer day. For added flavor and crunch, crumble some amaretti cookies or gingersnaps and sprinkle over the fruit just before eating.

Fruit salsas are incredibly delicious and easy to make, and are a delightful topping for grilled fish, chicken, and pork. Try watermelon and cucumber salsa with grilled fish, or try a fresh mango salsa with grilled chicken, or try an avocado and orange salsa with pork tenderloin — there are endless fruit salsa possibilities. No matter how you slice it, fresh fruit tastes good and is good for you.

Fresh Fruit Salad
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 cups cantaloupe chunks
2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut in half
2 cups watermelon chunks
2 cups honeydew chunks
1 cup seedless grapes

In a large bowl, whisk lime juice and honey until blended, stir in mint, add fruit, and toss gently to combine. Let stand 15 minutes for flavors to blend, then serve. Refreshing and delicious.

Mango Salsa
2 cups diced mango
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 papaya, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together and chill. Serve with grilled chicken, pork, or fish. Fabulous.

Avocado & Orange Salsa
1 large avocado, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp lime juice
zest of one lime
zest of one orange
Sections from one large orange, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
Salt and pepper to taste

Fruit Salsa Sundaes
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup diced fresh strawberries
1 nectarine, peeled & diced
1 Tbsp. Sugar in the raw
1 Tbsp. Crystallized ginger, chopped fine
1 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
1 pint vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

Crush raspberries in a bowl, add all other ingredients, stir and let stand 5 minutes. Scoop ice cream or frozen yogurt into 4 sundae dishes and spoon salsa over. Yum.


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