Say "summer fruit" and the salivary juices start bubbling with glee. Peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines, cherries, melons, strawberries, oranges and summer pears. They do have a special ring, don't they? According to Jim Piedlow, assistant officer in charge of fruit and vegetable market news for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Los Angeles, such fruits will be abundant this year and as beautiful as ever, with good quality for the most part--a far cry from the slim pickings in Grandmother's day. That's because of the great strides made by growers, shippers and distributors in bringing improved varieties and more efficient methods ofproduction to the marketplace. What about taste? It is said that most producers strive for a 50/50 ratio between taste and looks. Just about all summer fruits are ready for picking from the counter shelves. Peaches, plums and nectarines are available from mid-May into October. Golden Bartletts, the true summertime pears, are harvested from mid-July and marketed through November.
Although markets today provide good supplies of these fruits the year-round, you'll notice higher quality and more reasonable prices when you buy fruits in season.
It's the perfect time, in fact, to get into the habit of including fruit in the diet, not only because it's so abundant, but because fruit provides high doses of nutrients for few calories. Fruit, like vegetables and grains, is among the foods categorized as carbohydrates--with fewer calories, fats and cholesterol than other categories, such as protein.
Carbohydrates should make up the major portion of the adult diet. Some experts recommend a ratio of 60% carbohydrates to 30% fat (most of it contained naturally in foods you eat, not added on) and 10% protein in the form of meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts or legumes.
The average fruit serving (about five ounces) contains about 65 calories but provides excellent amounts of vitamins A and C, potassium and other trace minerals hard to find in foods. Fruit, like vegetables, is also an excellent natural source of fiber, which health authorities urge Americans to increase in their diets for prevention of cancer. Another healthful plus is that fresh fruit is also very low in sodium and fat.
But nothing will draw a consumer to fruits more than their natural beauty and taste. Good taste and the aesthetic impact of enjoying a beautiful fruit out of hand, or finding a bowl of summer fruit on a table or fruit presented with flair for a delicious dessert, are probably among the primary reasons for choosing fruit.
We give several recipes for using fruits in imaginative ways for summer dining, inspired by various experiences. (See the related story on Page 13 on selecting and handling fruit, including instructions for freezing fresh fruit.)
In one recipe, the fruit was arranged on a bed of gelled fruit juice in an attractive pattern. The idea was brought to our attention by Patrick Healy of Colette at the Beverly Pavilion Hotel.
Another idea originated when there was no dessert to serve some impromptu guests. We used whole oranges with candied peel and served them in a brandied raspberry sauce. Any fruit can be used, however. The sauce can be continuously replenished, as you would any brandied fruit, for a steady supply of dessert anytime.
We also were intrigued with a summery idea of using year-round bananas as prepared by pastry chef Rad Ish at American Sampler restaurant in Los Angeles. Bananas are barbecued on a grill and served on an open banana skin topped with brown sugar and whipped cream.
Fruit mousses or whips are a wonderful way to serve summer fruit, and we give a Peach Mousse recipe here.
Fruit soups also play a wonderful summertime role in dining today, and we give a curried cold soup using nectarines.
For a simple yet glamorous entertaining idea, try dipping summer fruit into chocolate. The tray can be piled with a rainbow of colorful fruits, such as peaches, plums, summer pears or apricots, or stick to a single fruit such as grapes, as in our recipe.
Watermelon, our stereotypic summer fruit, is treated with vodka and triple sec to marinate overnight, then served cut in wedges or slices for a refreshingly spirited dessert.
Is there anything more inviting than a peach cobbler after a hearty patio-style meal?
Here are some fruit recipes.
10 to 12 very small eating oranges
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup grenadine
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries
Peel oranges, leaving them whole and reserving 3 of peels. Cut membrane from peels and slice peels into sliver-thin strips. Place peels in saucepan with water. Add sugar and cook until syrupy. Remove peels and set aside. Reserve syrup.