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Food Prep 101: working with fruits, salads
February 12, 2013 - Anita Hanaburgh
Did you read last week’s column? Another name for a chef’s knife is “French knife.”
“An apple a day, keeps the doctor away,” according to the old wives’ tale.
This quote drives home the point that fruit is good for you. Keep that in mind always.
Ah, fruit. Like a vegetable, fruit is the edible part of the plant that adds flavor, sweetness, color and crispness to our diet. It bears the seeds of the plant. As fruits and vegetables ripen, starch turns to natural sugar called fructose. The seed vegetables that have the most sugar are called fruits. In fruits, the fibrous pulp is used to surround the seeds with nutrients and water to start the seed growth. There is little or no fat. Fruits are very good for us —?they are high in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. (For more information, see www.health-alternatives.com/fruit-nutrition-chart.html.)
Fruits are handled much the same way as vegetables but are more perishable. They loose flavor, color, vitamins and texture quickly. During ripening and beyond, fruit goes from firm to soft to mushy. Cooking caramelizes the sugars, breaks down the fruit’s texture and releases the juices. Sugar can be used to keep fruit’s shape when it is cooked or frozen. Acid helps keeps fresh fruit from browning and perks up the flavor.
By the miracle of rapid transit, many fresh fruits are available year round. Care must be used when selecting fruits; look for firmness, good color and pieces free of blemishes. With modern technology, off-season fruits (strawberries) can look good but may not taste good. It is important to know the signs of the fruits you purchase so that you know what you pay for.
Fruits can be purchased fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juiced. Dried fruits are lower in the water-soluble vitamins, they but can be higher in sugar, minerals such as iron, and fiber.
Fruit is categorized in the following general way: Citrus: Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes. These have a heavy skin with an interior made up of hundreds of juicy sacs in crescent circles. It keeps well but breaks down when frozen or heated. Best in juices.
Core: Apples, pears. Great eaten whole. The skin is firm and edible. The inside is firm and moist. Acid, such as citrus juice, keeps the fresh fruit from browning. These fruits stand up to heat and freeze well. They are popular in juice and pies.
Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, pineapple. This category has the seeds on the outside of the plant. They can come in clusters. They are soft, juicy fruits that hold their shape until punctured, so don’t stir a lot. They do not keep well but can be frozen and dried.
Melon: Watermelon, cantaloupe. These fruits are grown on vines, with protective skin and a hollow juicy interior. The skin typically is not eaten. Usually eaten only fresh, they keep well until cut.
Pit: Peach, plum, cherry. These fruits have one pit or stone in the center, with a strong skin and juicy center. Like their core cousins, these fruits stand up well when cooked. Some, not all, can be frozen.
Bananas: These fruits are highest in calories but also high in nutrition. They can be used in cooking, are rarely frozen but dry well. They keep for a small while until peeled, as they darken and soften easily.
There are tons of fruit recipes, but fruits salads are a popular way to display this elegant food.
Salads are basically a medley of fresh fruits or vegetables, combined creatively in their own juice or with added dressing. Salads add bulk and color to a meal, increasing the enjoyment value of the rest of the foods. Salads add texture and nutrition.
The categories of salads include tossed, layered, fruit, bound (such as chicken salad), and gelatin. They can be used as an appetizer, main dish or dessert. Most salads contain a base, such as lettuce, a body such as cut-up vegetables, a sauce such as juice or dressing, and a garnish such as scallions, croutons or cherries.
Salads should be made as close to serving time as possible, using the very best food that is clean and bruise-free. Dressing and sauces can be absorbed by the fruit or vegetable and cause wilting, so they should be applied just before serving. The final appearance of the salad should be planned, cutting each item in uniform shapes before assembly, to make it look attractive and neat.
2 Empire or tart apples, unpeeled
½ cup “U” sliced celery
1 cup seedless or seeded grapes
½ cup pineapple tidbits, fresh or frozen. Reserve some juice.
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup roughly chopped walnuts
Lettuce leaves (optional)
1. Remove the core and cut apples into uniform chunks. Slice bananas. Sprinkle both with pineapple juice to prevent browning.
2. Stir mayo until smooth; add a sprinkle of pineapple juice if necessary.
3. Mix together the apples, celery, pineapple, grapes and mayonnaise, mix in banana slices last to prevent “mushing.”
4. Sprinkle with walnuts, Serve on lettuce cups.
To learn more, see http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/how-to-prepare-fruit.htm.
Quiz: Acids such as tomato sauce and lemon juice keep cellulose from breaking down. Vegetables cooked in an acid sauce will A) get very mushy B) turn a bright green C) lose a lot of vitamins D) take a long time to soften.
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