Fresh Fruits of Summer

It is summertime and all the glorious fresh fruits are showing up in the various farmers’ markets, roadside fruit stands, and at “pick-your-own” farms. So what better time to revel in all the ways the best Italian home cook will use them?

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Photo by Lum3n:


Apricots to me cry out for deep-dish apricot cobbler, and I mean really deep-dish, as in: use a souffle dish! Put two or three inches of cut apricots in the souffle dish, some sugar, nutmeg, rum, brandy or amaretto, top with a sweet drop of biscuit dough (such as Bisquick), and bake. Let cool and then serve topped with gelato. Yum.


Have you ever considered roasting meats with ripe apricots? Take a pork loin or leg of lamb and rest it on a bed of apricot halves. Season Moroccan-style with cumin, paprika and saffron. Cinnamon also works well to add another layer of flavor. Pour some apricot brandy into the bottom of the roasting pan and roast covered until done. You will have both wonderful flavor in your meat and a wonderful sauce to spoon over the top. Plums and prunes (prunes in winter when fresh fruit is not as available) also make wonderful renditions of this dish. With prunes it is recommended to use a full-bodied red wine or even a port wine as the liquid in the dish.



The classic cherry dessert in France or Italy is not cherry pie, it is clafoutis (sometimes spelled “clafouti” in English). Clafoutis is made by taking fresh-picked, de-stemmed cherries and densely lining the bottom of a pie or tart pan with them, then covering them with a light pancake-type batter. We love to put powdered cardamon (or cardamon liqueur) into the batter. Bake and serve. Be careful to spit out the pits as you enjoy this dessert and don’t bite into one and break a tooth! You can also use apricot halves, pear halves, or plum halves to make a wonderful clafoutis. Look up the recipe for the clafoutis batter in Julia Child’s books.


My nonno used to put the cherries in a canning jar, unwashed and stem on (if washed the moisture could cause deterioration in the fruit and removing the stem could let air into the fruit bearing bacteria or yeasts or other undesirables). Fill the jar to the top with cherries and then pour brandy to the top of the jar, covering all the cherries. You don’t need to use expensive cognacs or other expensive brandy. A good quality American brandy such as E & J Gallo or Christian Brothers works just fine. Close the jar and put away in a cool dark place for three or four months until you have the most wonderful cherry brandy and brandied cherries. Use as a delightful aperitif when guests come on cold nights, or take three or four cherries in a small whisk- tasting glass to bed, covered with some brandy, as a wonderful nightcap. You will sleep well!



I’ll bet you were just waiting for us to get to figs in this article! What is our favorite fig preparation with figs just picked off of our trees? Pizza! There really is no better pizza than one made by topping the dough with sliced figs, bleu cheese and chopped leaves from the rosemary plant.  Just roast and enjoy.



A perfectly ripe melon full of flavor just cries out to be wrapped with fresh prosciutto and served. A squeeze of lemon or lime juice to bring out some flavors to perfection and then call it a day. But if by chance you grow your own melons and get some overripe ones, make your own sorbet or gelato before they become too soft and spoiled.



We are also starting peach season. My nonna used to marinate white peaches in sweet white wine (Riesling or sauterne) with some added sugar, and spoon them over gelato. For yellow peaches you can also use sweetened red wine as the marinade. But if you have ever been to Harry’s Bar in Venice where the classic “bellini” was invented, you will want to purée some white peaches and protect the color with some citric or ascorbic acid, freeze the purée, and defrost when you need a base to which you will add Prosecco. The purée is best made with a really ripe peach, a peach still “hard to the touch” won’t purée properly. Use peaches with some soft flesh, not bruised or spoiling, just soft.


When pears are in season we often see them making a salad with pecans and arugula. But a wonderful dessert is made by peeling the pears, removing the core with a coring tool (don’t cut the pears in half to remove the core, the presentation won’t work) and poach the pears in red or white wine, cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg. Cool and serve. Poached pears make a marriage in heaven if served over a bed of homemade zabaglione (a light custard). If you don’t want to stand at the stove over a double-boiler try using a rum custard as the base upon which to rest the poached pears



Yes the tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable, and as soon as the first vine-ripened tomatoes show up in the markets our taste buds begin to tingle in the anticipation of beautiful full-flavored vine-ripened tomatoes sliced and topped with fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese, a leaf or two of fresh basil and some balsamic glaze. Or cut the tomatoes into wedges and top with sliced bell peppers, thinly sliced red onions, and some tuna or anchovies or canned sardines for a delightful light lunch. Dress with oil and vinegar or oil and lemon juice. Some dried oregano sprinkled on top also adds a layer of flavor. A favorite in our house for these tomatoes is to coarsely dice them, add them to a bowl with finely diced garlic and onion, top with olive oil, sprinkle a liberal dose of salt, and let them marinate for several hours in the fridge. This mixture then is used to make panzanella salad, or pasta ala panzanella (torn basil leaves as a base, pour the hot, cooked pasta over that, and top with the tomato mixture; quickly toss, and the flavors will explode). This mixture also makes wonderful bruschetta on top of some toasted slices of ciabatta bread.


The Wonders of Fruit

With all of the spectacular fruit we have coming into season now, it is a shame to relegate it to just a topping for breakfast granola and yogurt. Of course it is fair to simply eat fresh fruit on its own as a dessert, often done in Europe. But the point here is that there are so many ways to use fruit in cooking. Fruit as a condiment or as a base for sweet and savory dishes provides adds intensity and nuance, adding even more layers of flavors. Enjoy!

Contributor: © Ronald Fenolio, CEO, Veedercrest Estates

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