The market is filling with the wonderful fruits of summer—first the strawberries, then the apricots, followed by melons, berries of all kinds, peaches, nectarines, plums—what have I left out? Fruit is healthful, beautiful and delicious—and relatively inexpensive, especially if you buy in season and locally, if possible.
Fruit has been so revered throughout history that painters and poets have immortalized it—perhaps none better than Andrew Marvell (1621-1678).
What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass…
There are so many things you can do with fruit, it’s hard to know where to start—and certainly one of the best and easiest is to eat it fresh, out-of-hand. To show off fruit’s spectacular beauty, however, it is fun to display several kinds in a fruit bowl, plate or salad. You hardly need any further adornment—except perhaps a simple dressing served in a sauceboat on the side. Another attractive way to serve plain fruit is in the fruit itself. Pineapples and melons make their own bowls to hold a combination of summer fruits.
Here’s an attractive fruit salad from the past—still sounds, looks and tastes fantastic. This would make a good supper on a scorching day served with some delicious rolls or bread from the bakery. It even includes enough protein to satisfy the appetite.
Fruit Basket Salad (Better Homes & Gardens, July 1947)
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup chopped pecans or walnut meats
1 cup chopped ripe olives
1 tsp. minced parsley
½ tsp. salt
3 to 4 bananas
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Assorted melon balls
Wedges or slices of fresh pineapple
Pare avocados; halve. Fill halves with cottage cheese combined with nut meats, olives, parsley and salt. Press two halves together; sprinkle with lemon juice; wrap in waxed paper; twisting ends firmly. Chill thoroughly. Before serving, unwrap; slice crosswise. Cut bananas; sprinkle with lemon juice. Arrange fruits on water cress. Pass Fruit Dressing (recipe below).
½ cup sugar or light corn syrup
4 tsp. flour
½ cup vinegar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. onion, finely minced
2 tsp. celery seed
¾ cup salad oil
Combine sugar or syrup and flour; gradually add vinegar. Cook over low heat until smooth and thick, stirring constantly. Add salt, celery seed and mix. Pour salad oil into mixture very slowly, beating constantly with rotary beater. (Or use blender: after cooking, pour sugar mixture into blender container, take off middle section from cover and while motor is running, pour salad oil very slowly, but steadily into blender).
Another composed salad plate from the forties is this Salad plate sundae—really beautiful and refreshing:
A circle of cool green honeydew melon filled with a double dip of lime sherbet. Around the sundae are watermelon and cantaloupe balls, frosted grape clusters (you dip the grapes in egg white, then in granulated sugar and let dry on cake rack for 30 minutes), peach slices and watercress. Place a lime wedge on the side to squirt over the melon. Crescent rolls from a tube or crackers, ice tea and perhaps a cheese tray would round out the meal.
A more sophisticated and modern recipe for summer fruits comes from the June 1992 Bon Appetit.
Summer Fruit Compote with Bourbon and Mint (6-8 servings)
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
¾ cup chopped fresh mint
¼ cup bourbon
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ large honeydew melon, seeded (or you may use any variety or a mixture of melons)
8 ounces dark sweet cherries, pitted
3 nectarines, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh mint
Fresh mint sprigs
For syrup: Stir 1 cup water and sugar in heavy saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Add chopped fresh mint. Boil over medium heat 5 minutes. Cool completely. Strain into small bowl, pressing firmly on mint. Mix bourbon and lemon juice into syrup.
For compote: Scoop honeydew with melon baller. Combine melon balls, pitted cherries, sliced nectarines and sliced fresh mint in large bowl. Add syrup and toss thoroughly to combine. Refrigerate compote at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. Garnish compote with mint sprigs.