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Published: Tuesday, 8/5/2008

Fresh fruit: use seasonal favorites in contemporary salads and desserts

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Blueberry Waldorf Salad. Blueberry Waldorf Salad.
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There is no time like the summer to get your fill of fresh fruit.

Not only is fresh fruit a wonderful dessert for any meal, you can also pair it with other ingredients to make incredible salads.

The classic Waldorf Salad with apples, celery, and mayonnaise was created at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in the 1890s. More than a century later, it is as dearly loved yet rarely found in restaurants.

One exception is Maggie's Family Restaurant in Perrysburg, where reader Marilyn Dubielak of Tiffin loves the Waldorf Salad with the outstanding ingredients. Maggie's Waldorf is made with apples, celery, pineapple tidbits, nuts, and raisins, and has the restaurant's signature mayonnaise-based dressing. It is served on Thursday nights and on the Sunday salad bar, which comes with entrees, according to general manager and chef Michael Dyer.

Mini Vanilla-Almond Peach Cupcakes with Fresh Peach Frosting. Mini Vanilla-Almond Peach Cupcakes with Fresh Peach Frosting.
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A contemporary version of the classic salad is the Blueberry Waldorf Salad, a good, easy, and pretty salad. Its thick blueberry dressing is drizzled over the fresh blueberries and apples, baby spinach, celery, and pecan or walnut halves.

Blueberries, which are still in season, are only 80 calories per cup. Right now Lodi apples, a tart, summer fruit, are in season locally. Jersey Mac is another summer tart apple, but it is sweeter than Lodi, according to Marlene MacQueen of MacQueen Orchards in Holland. She told me the apple crop is lighter than last year but good.

The Blade also used Lodi apples when we tested the Fresh Apple and Carrot Cake for the story below.

Sometimes you don't know whether a fruit salad is salad or a dessert. Nectarine Salad with Blue Cheese and Raspberry Vinaigrette is from Salad Makes the Meal by Wiley Mullins, a.k.a. the Salad Man (Rodale, $17.95). Made with radicchio separated into whole leaves, ripe nectarines, seedless green grapes, blue cheese, and raspberry vinaigrette garnished with walnuts, this is a very pretty salad with different flavors.

It's perfect to serve company.

The raspberry vinaigrette is simple to make. "You may want to double or triple the vinaigrette ingredients for later use," says recipe tester Kay Lynne Schaller. "The blue cheese mixes in nicely with all the other vinaigrette ingredients."

Fresh peach slices. Fresh peach slices.
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We found the raspberry vinegar at Giant Eagle, but you can also make your own. In Vinegar: Over 400 Various, Versatile & Very Good Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of (Book Peddlers, $8.95), author Vicki Lansky recommends a quick fruit-flavored vinegar by adding 2 tablespoons preserves or jam to 1 cup red or white wine vinegar. Let stand 1 week before using. There is no need to strain it.

Different salads

Tomatoes, which are a fruit of the vine, are one of America's favorite "vegetables" thanks to a government classification dated from 1893 for trade purposes, according to The Food Lover's Companion.

A twist on the traditional tomato salad is the unique recipe from Mr. Mullins in Salad Makes the Meal for Fried Green Tomato Salad. Green tomatoes aren't often found in the supermarket. They are more likely from your garden or the farmers market. Slice green tomatoes and coat each in cornmeal and then fry in batches in a little canola oil. Place a wedge of lettuce on each of 4 plates. Lean tomato slices against the wedges alternating with green and red slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with Buttermilk dressing and garnish with mint.

Peaches, plums, and nectarines are good sources of vitamin C. Naturally sweet and juicy, peaches are growing in orchards all around us. Picked from the tree, they ripen beautifully on your kitchen counter in a bowl of basket. Don't let them sit in a paper bag or plastic, and don't refrigerate until they are ripe. Chances all they'll be eaten or used by then.

Grilling fruit is a summer trend. Top grilled peaches, plums, or nectarine halves with low-fat frozen yogurt. Or glaze grilled peaches with a glaze of balsamic vinegar and a little sugar. Remove from the grill and top with goat cheese and drizzle a little more balsamic vinegar glaze.

Peaches are great for including in a picnic basket or to make a juicy salsa with some diced onion, fresh cilantro, and lime juice. Savor with baked tortilla chips or grilled chicken.

Fruit in desserts

Here's a great peach dessert perfect for picnic baskets. Mini Vanilla-Almond Peach Cupcakes with Fresh Peach Frosting is a fabulous recipe that kids (and adults) will love.

Peach season is beginning locally. Flamin' Fury is among the first of the crop. By the end of the week, Red Haven peaches will begin, according to Mrs. MacQueen, who says they have a good peach crop. A half-peck is $7.95.

We are also in the midst of fresh California fig season. Fresh figs will be plentiful until mid-December. Brown Turkey and Black Mission Figs with a robust sweet flavor will be available until late fall. Then Amber-colored, delicately sweet Kadota figs will be abundant through October, while the fresh Calimyrnas, known for pale yellow skin and nutty, sweet flavor, are available July through September.

When ripe, fresh figs don't have to be cooked. When my daughter's girlfriend had an August wedding there were fresh fig halves on the appetizer table in a fruit display; it was delicious and refreshing.

Note that figs are great in salads with greens and blue cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

When purchasing figs, look for the softest figs but avoid figs with fermentation odor, as they are overripe. Fresh figs are delicate and should be kept refrigerated. Eat as soon as possible. Figs hold in the refrigerator for up to five to seven days.

Upside Down Fresh Fig Cake is a fabulous and beautiful cake from Outstanding In the Field by Jim Denevan with Marah Stets (Potter, $32.50). The week we tested the recipe, figs were 8 to a package for $5 at Meijers. The recipe is a twist on the classic pineapple-upside down cake. When figs are not in season, you can use dried figs by reconstituting them in warm water or red or white wine for 30 minutes.

But trust me, buy and enjoy fresh figs now.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor. Contact her at food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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