If you mention cooked fruit to folks of my generation often stewed prunes come to mind. While there is nothing wrong with these, they don't exactly make the taste buds tingle! Today if you watch the cooking shows or check out recipes in the latest cooking magazines you see fruit prepared and featured in many different ways. Even when eating out you may have noticed a variety of salad offerings featuring fresh and dried fruits. So as you think about your family meals think about going beyond the typical dish of applesauce or peaches and kick it up a notch with cooked fruits.
Cooking intensifies the flavor of fruit and creates an appealing texture especially in unripe fruit. The two methods of cooking use either moist or dry heat. Poaching, stewing, sauces or compotes (fruit cooked in a sugar syrup with spices) are examples of moist cooking. Fruits most commonly cooked using these methods are pears, apples, peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots. Figs, grapes, quinces and bananas also lend themselves to moist heat preparation. If you are poaching or stewing, use just enough liquid to cover the fruit which should be cut into uniform sizes for even cooking. Once cooked let the fruit rest in the liquid for 20 minutes to help the fruit absorb the flavor of the liquid.
Dry heat methods of cooking include grilling, broiling, roasting, baking or sautéing. Quick cooking is needed otherwise you can end up with a mushy product as the cell walls break down and there is increased water loss. Popular fruits for dry heat cooking include apples, apricots, bananas, pineapple, peaches, plums, pears, cherries and figs.
The next step is to think about other ingredients you want to include. Think beyond the traditional use of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Consider star anise, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, vanilla and saffron. Herbs such as mint, rosemary, sage, lemon verbena, lavender and thyme add some unique flavors, especially when combining fruit with meat dishes. Some examples may be oranges combined with thyme, peaches with rosemary or strawberries with sage served with chicken, pork or fish.
When using moist heat consider using wines, rum, whiskey, fruit brandies or juices in combination with the water and sugar. Poaching liquid should have a ratio of 1/3 cup - ½ cup sugar to 1 cup liquid or for a lighter liquid ¼ cup sugar to 1 cup liquid. The sugar helps the fruit retain its shape so while you can go without adding sugar the end result may be a mushier piece of fruit. Sugar substitutes, while providing sweetness, will not maintain the texture of the fruit. With dry heat methods of cooking, sugar is added mainly for sweetness.
Besides dessert, fruit can be served as a side dish, as a sauce on foods, compote or as a main dish component. Here are some serving ideas:
- Roasted cherries over frozen yogurt or ice cream
- Peaches poached in lemon verbena and lavender
- Whole grain pancakes with fruit compote
- Pork chops with apple-raisin cinnamon compote
- Citrus chicken with grilled tropical fruit
- Fish with orange and fennel compote
- Pizza topped with pears or figs
Try this stir fry recipe with an ingredient you might not think to include, apples. With local apples readily available this is a great way to try a new use for fruits.
Chicken Stir Fry with Apples
- 1 lb. cubed boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- ½ cup onion, vertically sliced
- 1 ¾ cup carrots, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
- 1 cup fresh or frozen Chinese pea pods
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 1 medium baking apple, cored and thinly sliced
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
Stir fry cubed chicken breast in 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in non-stick skillet until cooked. Remove from skillet. Stir fry onions, carrots and basil in 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in same skillet until carrots are tender. Stir in pea pods, add water. Stir fry 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in apples. Add chicken, serve hot over cooked rice.
Provides 1 cup of fruit and vegetable serving. 330 calories, 7.7 grams fat, 30 grams carbohydrate (5 grams fiber), 29 grams protein and 117 mg sodium.
Recipe from Produce for Better Health Foundation.
- Powers, C. (Nov/Dec 2013). Cooking with Fruit. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food & Nutrition, 2,14-15.