Excerpt from The Bon Appétit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook
Season: Late summer and fall.
Selecting: There are thousands of varieties of apples, with colors varying from deep green to rosy pink to dark burgundy. Each variety has its own flavor and texture, so it's important to use the type of apple called for in a recipe. Choose firm, heavy fruit without any wrinkles or bruises. Avoid any apples with tears or holes in the skin.
Storing: Apples will last for several weeks stored unwrapped in the refrigerator.
Using: Apples tend to brown quickly once exposed to the air, so cut them up just before using.
Season: Fall and winter.
Selecting: Perfectly ripe bananas are firm with yellow skin. Don't worry if there are only green bananas at the market. They will ripen when allowed to stand at room temperature for a few days.
Storing: Keep bananas in a well-ventilated spot at room temperature.
Using: If bananas are being used in baked goods like banana bread, use overripe bananas or bananas with lots of brown spots all over them. They will be very soft and sweet, and will impart the deep banana flavor desired in baked goods. Peeled overripe bananas can be stored in the freezer in resealable plastic bags for later use.
Season: Spring (strawberries), summer into fall (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries).
Selecting: The freshest berries will have a deeply sweet and floral aroma and look like they are bursting with juices. Avoid any with green on them—they're underripe.
Storing: Store berries in the refrigerator. If you need to hold them for more than a day, line an airtight container with paper towels, add unrinsed berries in a single layer, and top with another paper towel or two to absorb additional moisture and prevent molding. Seal the container and chill; the berries should last up to five days.
Using: Rinse berries just before using, not before storing, to help prevent mold from developing. Remove the hull, if necessary, before using.
Season: Late spring and summer (limes), year-round (oranges, lemons, grapefruit).
Selecting: Select fruit that feels heavy for its size—a sure sign that it is fresh and packed with juice. The fruit should be firm, especially if the peel is being used in a recipe. Softer fruits are difficult to grate and peel, but may be perfect for juicing.
Storing: Citrus fruits can be stored uncovered at room temperature for several days or can last for several weeks when stored uncovered in the refrigerator.
Using: Scrub the fruit if using the peel in a recipe. When the peel is required, use only the colored part, leaving the bitter white pith behind.
Selecting: Color will vary in this classic holiday fruit. The whiter berries tend to be a bit milder, while the dark red ones have a deep cranberry flavor. Cranberries should be full and firm, and show no signs of brown or soft spots. Fresh cranberries will bounce when dropped.
Storing: Store cranberries in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Using: This is one fruit that freezes beautifully. Keep the fruit frozen and use as directed in the recipe.
Season: Late summer to mid-fall, year-round for dried dates.
Selecting: There are many varieties of dates, but the Medjool (large and very moist) and the Deglet Noor (medium size, slightly firm, with drier skin) are the most common. There are many other varieties available, especially if you visit a Middle Eastern market or a farmers' market.
Storing: Fresh dates, wrapped in plastic, can last in the refrigerator for about two weeks. The more commonly found dried dates can be stored in a cool dry place for about one month or in the refrigerator for several months.
Using: Remove the pit before using.
Season: Summer and fall, year-round for dried figs.
Selecting: Fresh figs have a sweet scent and should feel soft when they are pressed with your fingertip. The best dried figs are sticky and moist.
Storing: Fresh figs can be stored at room temperature for a few days and up to a week in the refrigerator. Dried figs can be stored tightly wrapped at room temperature for several months.
Using: Trim the stem before using. Except for the stem, the entire fruit is edible.
Season: Summer and fall.
Selecting: Check grapes where the stems and the fruit meet: There should be no wrinkling or browning. Avoid any bunches with brown or mushy grapes attached.
Storing: Place the grapes in plastic bags and store them in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Using: Remove the stems before using.
Selecting: Ripe kiwis should be firm without any soft spots, but should yield slightly when pressed gently with your thumb.
Storing: If the kiwis are still a bit firm, let them stand at room temperature for a few days or until ripe. Once ripe, store kiwis in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Using: Peel the fuzzy skin from the kiwi before using. Or for a quick snack, cut the kiwi in half crosswise and scoop out the green flesh with a spoon.
Selecting: Mangoes should give just a bit when pressed with your thumb and should feel heavy for their size when held in your hand. The green-and-orange variety most commonly available in stores can often be stringy, but many supermarkets now carry other varieties, such as Champagne and Honey, which are worth trying.
Storing: Store mangoes at room temperature until ripe, then refrigerate for up to five days.
Using: Cut the flesh away from the large narrow pit in the center of the fruit, then peel and use as directed.
Season: Summer into fall.
Selecting: There are two different types of melons, and each has its own test for ripeness. The ribbed or scaly skin varieties, such as cantaloupe, have net-like or scaly ridges that cover the skin. These melons are the easiest to choose because they will smell sweet when fully ripe. The stem end of the melon should give slightly when pressed with your thumb. With smooth-skinned melons, such as watermelon and crenshaw, the best bet is to pick one that is heavy for its size, and to listen for a hollow sound (not a dull thud) when you thump it. For both types, check for a yellow (not white) spot on one side of the melon. This shows that the melon rested longer on the ground, indicating that it had a chance to ripen on the vine.
Storing: Melons can be stored at room temperature for a few days to ripen. When ripe, transfer to the refrigerator. If you'd like, cut up the melon before refrigerating it, place melon pieces in a bowl, then cover and chill for a day or two.
Using: Except for watermelon, scoop out the seeds from the center of the melon before using. Remove the peel before eating.
Season: Spring and fall.
Selecting: Ripe papayas give slightly when pressed at the narrow end of the fruit, or the whole fruit may give slightly when squeezed. The skin will be yellow and may have a few small brown spots on it.
Storing: Store papayas at room temperature until ripe. Once ripe, they can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two.
Using: Cut the papaya in half and scoop out the small round black seeds. Remove the skin before eating.
Season: Late summer through early spring.
Selecting: There are many varieties of pears, each with its own distinct beauty, flavor, and season. Choose pears with a delicate aroma and no blemishes or soft spots. The skin should be taut without any wrinkling around the stem end. Ripe pears feel heavy for their size and give slightly when pressure is applied to the stem end.
Storing: Pears can be stored at room temperature until ripe and then transferred to the refrigerator for a few days.
Using: Remove the core before using. Peeling is optional.
Season: Winter to midsummer.
Selecting: A ripe pineapple has a splendid aroma and yellow skin with tinges of brown, along with green leaves.
Storing: Store pineapples at room temperature to ripen if necessary.
Using: Cut away the thick skin and remove the core before using. Fresh pineapple chunks can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few days.
Selecting: Since some varieties of pomegranate have pink skin and others have deep red skin, and because they don't smell sweet when they are ripe, it can be tricky to pick out a ripe one. The best method is to select fruit that is heavy for its size. Pomegranates do not ripen after being picked.
Storing: Whole pomegranates can be stored in a cool dry place for up to one month or in the refrigerator for up to two months. The seeds can be removed and frozen for several months.
Using: The seeds are the only edible part of the pomegranate. The skin is tough and leathery, and the white membrane that covers the seeds is bitter and astringent. Wear an apron and gloves when removing seeds from a pomegranate—the juices can stain clothes and skin. Prepackaged seeds are available at many supermarkets and are a great time-saver.
Season: Late spring into midsummer (apricots), summer (cherries, nectarines, peaches).
Selecting: Stone fruits should be firm and plump with juices and feel heavy. They should smell sweet and floral. Look for deep rich color. Cherries should have supple stems attached. Peaches, nectarines, and apricots should not have any green spots on them, even at the stem end; this is a sign that the fruit was picked too early and may never ripen properly.
Storing: Store stone fruits at room temperature for a day or two if not completely ripe, then refrigerate for up to three days.
Using: Remove the pits before using. Peeling is optional.
The Bon Appétit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook
- 1100 Quick Dishes For Every Night Cooking
- by Barbara Fairchild
- Wiley 2008
- Hardcover; $34.95; 768 pages
- ISBN-10: 0470226307
- ISBN-13: 978-0-470-22630-8
- Reprinted by permission.
This page created March 2009