While visiting a friend years ago, I was served an unusual dish: slices of fresh orange layered with pieces of red onion. Despite the rather strange combination, the orange slices had an amazing flavor. Somehow the onion complemented the tangy/sweet orange perfectly. Pairing vegetables with fruit was a revelation.
I love fresh fruit. But, unlike many vegetables, fresh fruit can have a short shelf life. Quality deteriorates pretty quickly. I once had a client who told me she’d bought bananas, but was shocked to discover that the bananas went bad after a week. I’m not sure what she was saving them for. Hopefully she learned that fresh fruit has to be eaten in a timely fashion.
We typically think of fruit as something to put on cereal, add to a smoothie or eat as a snack, but many cuisines around the world use fruit in savory dishes. My go-to choices for using up fruit are salads: tossed greens salads and grain-based salads. Fruit adds flavor interest to savory salads, as well as texture and of course nutrients. In my opinion, fruit goes best with greens like arugula or kale; the sweetness of the fruit complements the bitter flavors of these greens. Spicy mixed greens, available in pre-washed packages, would also work well (or grow your own). Grains that go well with fruit include farro, bulgur, quinoa, couscous (not actually a grain) and wheat berries.
Choose fruit that holds its shape well and don’t brown after being sliced. Here are some suggestions:
- pears – slices, peeled or not
- apples – slices or chunks
- strawberries – sliced; nice with tossed greens like spinach or arugula
- grapes (seedless) – I prefer to cut grapes in half for salads, a good choice for large grapes
- apricots – not overripe, halved or quartered. Best in grain salads.
- peaches/nectarines – slices or chunks, not overripe
- kiwi – peeled and sliced
- mango – cut into small slices
- pomegranate seeds
- cherries – seeded and halved
- Asian pear – thin slices of this crunchy fruit go great with tossed greens like arugula or kale
Another benefit of adding fresh fruit to salads: it’s a way to use up fruit, so less food waste. I really dislike food waste, especially when it’s unnecessary. Think of my poor client and her week-old bananas. The thought actually made me sort of sad. She could have made banana bread. Or banana pancakes. Or put them in a smoothie. Or in yogurt.
Take Away Message
Fresh fruit is great! It’s also perishable and pricey, especially lately. Don’t waste it. Avoid fruit boredom by trying something new — add fruit to savory dishes, like salads. Use it in smoothies. Make Aqua Fresca.
Or make salsa. Here’s my favorite way to use up fresh strawberries. You don’t need perfect strawberries for this, since it’s puréed, so who cares what they look like.
This salsa depends on your taste preferences. Like heat? Use more jalapeno. You can add more lime juice if you prefer, or more salt. Depends on the flavor and sweetness of your strawberries.
- 2-3 cups fresh, hulled ripe strawberries
- 1 jalapeño, chopped (more or less depending on jalapeño heat and size)
- juice of 1/2 lime, more to taste (depends on size of the lime, 2-3 tsp)
- 1-2 tsp sugar
- 1/8 - 1/4 tsp salt, to taste (go easy at first)
- Optional: 2 TB minced cilantro
- Step 1 Put the cleaned, hulled strawberries in food processor or blender with the chopped jalapeño.
- Step 2 Pulse, leaving the strawberries a bit chunky, not completely puréed.
- Step 3 Transfer to a bowl and mix in the lime juice, sugar and salt. Taste for seasoning.
- Step 4 Add cilantro if using.
Fear of Fruit (and vegetables)
Last week an organization called the Environmental Working Group published its yearly
fear-mongering screed scary list of the so-called “dirty dozen” foods. The list includes common foods, such as strawberries, that are supposedly going to kill you, or at least create health havoc thanks to pesticide residues. Unless you pay up and buy organic versions of course.
Personally I’m more concerned that the vast majority of people don’t even eat the bare minimum quantities of fruit/vegetables, which are clearly linked to better health, organic or not. Only about 10% of people meet the recommendations. Creating more fear about these foods just gives the fruit and vegetable avoiders another reason not to bother, and that definitely impacts health in a negative way.
I take the common sense approach. If these residues are so dangerous, why haven’t people of all ages been dying at an extraordinary rate over the past few decades since pesticide use became widespread? Last time I looked, the global population is in fact growing at a fast clip, despite pesticides. But if you are afraid of pesticides and prefer organic food, that is certainly your choice. Organic options are plentiful.