Everyone has experienced the disappointment of buying a lovely looking piece of fruit only to discover it is as appetizing as cardboard. Deborah Madison hopes to redeem the paradise-lost pleasures of truly ripe fruit. The cookbook guru has written a bit of a love letter to summer’s jewels with her new “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” (Broadway Books, $32.50). A perusal of the gorgeous photos alone will prompt you to rush to your nearest Farmers’ Market and load up your canvas shopping bags.
Madison wants us to rededicate ourselves to the fleeting joys of locally grown, seasonal fruit – even if it requires the discipline of putting those well-traveled strawberries back on the shelf in mid-December. Whether it is figs and raspberries elegantly presented unadorned or a recipe for a compote, “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” advises even as it tempts. “Don’t assume that everything from the farmers’ market or farm stand is stellar,” she cautions. “Be watchful, asks for tastes, sniff, ask questions, and be prepared to say, ‘No, thanks.'”
I was delighted that Madison includes a mention of pawpaws, a fruit native to the Midwest that some say should replace the carbon-footprint-ladened banana of the tropics. In fact, the pawpaw is a distant cousin of the banana. “Its bananalike notes are probably what account for its other names – prairie banana, Hoosier banana – and other banana appellations for every state where the pawpaw grows,” writes Madison. “[T]he pawpaw is the only member of the [Annonaceae] genus that doesn’t require a tropical climate to survive.”
How about them apples – er – pawpaws?
As always, Madison offers tips for preparing fruit, techniques for coaxing the best flavors out of your dishes, and advice on the best kitchen equipment to have on hand. “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” will set you up perfectly to enjoy the sweetness of slow summer evenings.
Read my article about shopping at Farmers’ Markets and listen to my interview with Deborah Madison by clicking here.