A Guide to Improvising
Ripe fruit gently cooked with a small amount of sugar and a little water releases its juices and melts slightly. A vanilla bean amplifies the fruit's own sweetness and perfume. The effect is like a pie filling and has many uses, both as filling and as sauce. The fruit is delicious served warm, with or without a small scoop of ice cream or a tablespoon of crème fraîche. It can be spooned into a wide shallow bowl and topped with a baked pastry "lid" or used as a rustic sauce for Roasted Fruit (see the book) and plain cakes.
This method works wonderfully for many kinds of fruits, including pears, apples, peaches, nectarines, mangoes, plums, cherries, and berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
3 cups fresh fruit (peeled, pitted, and/or
sliced 1/2 inch thick, as appropriate), singly
or in combination, such as strawberries, raspberries,
blackberries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, or plums
2 tablespoons water
1 to 4 tablespoons sugar, honey,
or maple syrup (depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
1 vanilla bean
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 3 teaspoons eau-de-vie, such as kirsch, framboise,
or Poire William (optional)
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the fruit, water, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. With a thin sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half. Scrape out the seeds and add the seeds and bean to the pan. Cover and cook over moderate heat until the fruit releases its juices, 2 to 4 minutes.
2. Taste the fruit for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Stir in the lemon juice. Uncover and cook over high heat until the fruit is tender and the juices are syrupy, about 2 minutes longer. Discard the vanilla bean and stir in the eau-de-vie, if desired. Serve warm.
Warm Fresh Cherries with Kirsch
Pitting cherries seems like such a daunting task that people rarely eat fresh cherries these days any way other than out of hand. So we miss the extraordinary pleasure of cooked fresh cherries, when their fragrance is released in all its glory.
In this warm compote, pitted cherries are cooked with a vanilla bean and sugar just until they release their juices. A drizzle of kirsch (cherry brandy) accentuates their marvelous flavor. They are best eaten warm, spooned into shallow soup bowls, with a Scented Custard Sauce, Real Whipped Cream or Crème Fraîche (see the book), ice cream, ice milk, or frozen yogurt. They also make an extraordinary sauce for plain cakes such as Fresh Lemon Cake or Pistachio and Almond Cake (see the book).
Follow the Guide in the book using 3 cups pitted fresh cherries and 3 tablespoons sugar or honey. When the cherries are tender, discard the vanilla bean and stir in 2 to 3 teaspoons kirsch, rum, or cognac.
Inside a Blueberry Pie
This wonderful stew of blueberries is indeed like the inside of a blueberry pie. Sprigs of fresh thyme make the blueberries taste like wild ones. Served warm, the sauce is particularly good with baked fruits such as Slow-Roasted Peaches or Caramelized Roasted Pears (see the book) or with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. The sauce can also be made with black or red raspberries or blackberries. (The frozen sugarless blackberries available in supermarkets work wonderfully.)
Follow the Guide in the book using fresh or frozen unsweetened blueberries, 1-1/2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon water, and 1/2 vanilla bean. Add 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme, cover, and cook over moderate heat until the berries have released their juices but are still whole, about 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.
A New Way to Cook
by Sally Schneider
Photographs by Maria Robledo
$40 (U.S.); hardcover
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created June 2002
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