Ess Gezint: Fruit, Southern Comfort Edible Jewels

Aug 30, 2017 by

A cookbook entitled Fruit has every right to set kosher cooks hearts aflutter, and a new one by Nancie McDermott, part of a series entitled “Savor the South” from The University of North Carolina Press, does its job well.

A cooking teacher and author of 13 cookbooks, most of them celebrating southern cooking, Ms. McDermott sees southern fruits as “an essential, beloved gift of the hot sticky weather and fertile soil of the region.” In the dozen sections devoted separately to easy-to-find fruits (blackberries, cantaloupe, figs, grapes, peaches, strawberries, and watermelon) as well as those a bit more challenging (Damson plums, mayhaws, pawpaws, persimmons, and quince), Ms. McDermott describes the fruit and the recipes to follow and gives a bit of fascinating history.

While she recommends full dairy products, such as butter and milk, parve alternatives, including margarine and almond or soy milk, work just as well. Enjoy!



Vimala Rajendran’s Fig Compote

1 lb fresh, ripe figs (about 14 medium-sized figs)

¼ cup dark or light brown sugar, lightly packed

1 cup kosher dry sherry (or dry red or white wine)

1 lemon, quartered and thinly sliced, seeds removed

½ tsp salt

Remove and discard the stem from each fig. Quarter the figs lengthwise and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, sherry, and lemon slices. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until the mixture becomes a thin syrup. Add the figs, reduce the heat to maintain a lively simmer, and cook until the figs are glossy and the syrup thickens a bit, about 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the salt, and transfer the compote to a medium bowl to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. To store, cool the compote completely, place it in a container, cover, and refrigerate for up to three days.

The compote can be served with sliced tomatoes, corn on the cob, green beans, or potatoes. Its sweetness can be celebrated by spooning some over vanilla ice cream, yogurt, or oatmeal.


Green Peach Salad

2½ lbs unripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into wedges

½ cup sugar

½ tsp salt

2 Tbs fresh mint leaves

3 Tbs freshly ground black or white pepper

2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, preferably a flavorful one

In a medium bowl, toss the peaches with the sugar and salt. Let them sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stack the mint leaves up in little piles and cut them crosswise into long, slender strips. Set aside until the peaches and sugar have become shiny and give off a little syrup. Add the pepper, olive oil, and mint leaves, and stir to mix them well. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Serve cold or at room temperature.


Fresh Strawberry Bread

2 cups whole strawberries

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups plus 1 Tbs sugar

1 Tbs ground cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1¼ cups chopped pecans or walnuts

1¼ cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs, beaten well

Preheat oven to 350⁰. Coarsely chop the strawberries and place them in a large bowl. Sprinkle them with 1 Tbs of the sugar and set aside. Generously grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, the remaining sugar, the cinnamon, the salt, and the baking soda. Mix them together well. Add the pecans or walnuts, and toss to coat them with the flour. Stir the strawberries, and then add the oil and the eggs. Stir to combine everything evenly. Add the flour mixture to the strawberries and stir just until the flour is incorporated. Quickly divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until the loaves have risen and browned nicely and a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaves comes out clean. Set the loaves on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel to cool to room temperature before turning them out of the pans.

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