Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Fruits of Summer

My peach tree.
Right now the apple and peach trees are heavy with fruit, the pears are coming along beautifully, and the cherries have already come and gone!  With such a bounty of summer fruit coming in all season long, I can definitely see some lip-smacking Afternoon Tea pies and tarts in our very near future.

When we lived in Florida, we grew mangoes, giant Florida avocados, achiote, dwarf bananas, papaya and sour oranges (just perfect for cooking) in our yard.  My mother kept a tomato plant under the outside faucet, so that it would get watered every time it was turned on, keeping the juicy tomatoes on our dining table coming.  My father would not live in a house without a mango tree in the backyard, period.  That's just how it was.

Blueberries tossed into a kale salad.
When we moved to Colorado, I was immediately taken with the blueberry and raspberry bushes growing along the fenceline of the backyard, as well as the crabapple tree in front, and the fact that the climate was perfect for the cherry tree I always wanted.  We went from the tropics to colder climes, from sea level to a Mile High, but one thing remained the same ... we would enjoy the fruits of the seasons straight from our backyard no matter where we were.

Even while I loved the fact that we always had these magnificent fruit trees and enjoyed all of the wonderful pies I could make with them, loved the jams and preserves I have made, and dreamed of all the other wonderful desserts I would use them in, I've never really been much of a fresh fruit eater.  I'll admit that there is nothing quite like biting into a tender, luscious peach or pear straight from your own backyard.  But I rarely craved fresh fruit nor ever really snacked on them.

Then I went to one of Emeril Lagasse's restaurants in New Orleans and ordered a salad with my dinner.  O-M-G!  The mix of greens tossed with bites of pear and candied pecans in a pear vinaigrette made my mouth absolutely sing!  His menu has changed over the years, but my sister, Ana, was determined to replicate that delicious salad and she totally nailed it.  We've enjoyed this tasty combination many times since then.  Thank you, Emeril!

Strawberries are yummy in any salad.
Having been introduced to how amazing fruit can be in a green salad, I decided to throw in some sliced strawberries with lettuce, tomatoes, pepitas and baked soy nuts (for crunch), and tossed it all with a raspberry vinaigrette.  It was absolutely fabulous!  The combination of sweet and tart, with just the right amount of crunch, made this one of my favorite salads ever!  Now I totally enjoy eating fresh fruit in my salad every chance I get.

Apples add a sweet crunch to salad.
Ever since discovering these delicious flavor combinations, I almost always throw some fresh fruit into any salad I'm making.  Fresh apples, pears, peaches, grapes, berries of every kind, or watermelon all taste fantastic in a green salad with a splash of lemon juice or a little balsamic and olive oil, or your favorite vinaigrette.

My mother always used to dice a large, sweet apple and throw it into her potato salad.  Little did I know that years later I would be following her lead in adding a little bit of sweetness into just about every salad I make, and enjoying every last bit of it.

You can officially count me in as a fresh fruit eater now.

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