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Savory and Sweet Summer Fruit Guide + 3 Delicious Recipes
Some might say that the best part of summer is the longer days, or the warm temperatures, or the trips to the beach. But I respectfully disagree. My favorite part of summer is the ripe, flavorful fruits that will be in season from now until the fall.
They're delicious on their own, but don't overlook how wonderfully summer fruits can be integrated into nearly any meal. Here are a few ideas to get you going.
Salsas and Compotes: Stone fruits like peaches, plums and cherries can be combined with savory ingredients like onions and fresh herbs to make a fresh salsa or cooked compote that's an unexpected topper for grilled fish or chicken. To make a compote, sauté onions or shallots in a little bit of olive oil, add diced fruit and herbs, and cook until the fruit is softened and syrupy.
Grilling: Grilling caramelizes the sugars in peaches and plums and adds a whole new dimension of flavor. Cut the fruit in half or quarters, brush the pieces with melted butter or neutral-flavored oil (such as canola oil), then grill them on a very clean grill grate for 6 to 10 minutes, or until softened. Serve them as a side dish, or alongside some blue cheese or goat cheese on a cheese plate, or top them with ice cream or whipped cream for dessert.
Seasoning: Most people think of fruit as being solely for dessert, but serving fruit with savory seasonings can really bring out the sweetness in unexpected ways. Try drizzling watermelon cubes with a little really good olive oil and sprinkling with sea salt and shredded fresh mint or basil. Or toss fresh berries like strawberries or blackberries with a little balsamic vinegar and sprinkle them with a grind or two of fresh black pepper. The unexpected combination of these sweet and savory flavors makes for an intriguing meal.
Here are a few favorites to look for at your farmers’ market or produce section in the coming months:
Look for plump, uniformly dark berries during their growing season of May through August. Blackberries are high in anthocyanin, a phytochemical that is believed to help reduce the risk of cancer and also may prevent urinary tract infections.
Choose blueberries that are uniformly dark blue — reddish ones are unripe and will be sour. They're at their peak in July. Nutritionists call blueberries a "superfood" because they're rich in antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, nutrients that are anti-inflammatories and can help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. They're also high in potassium and vitamin C.
At its best June through August, cantaloupe is at its ripest when it is a creamy yellow color, heavy for its size, and very fragrant. Cantaloupes are high in vision-protecting antioxidants and Vitamin A.
When they're at their peak in July and August, look for large, firm, glossy cherries, with their stems intact. Cherries are low in calories but high in vitamin C and fiber.
Pick honeydew melons that have pale, yellow-green rinds and are heavy for their size. You'll find them at their peak in the late summer. Honeydews are high in vitamins C and B6, as well as folate and potassium.
Ripe peaches will be yellow, with a reddish blush where they were touched by sunlight while on the tree, and will have a slight "give" when squeezed. They also will have a strong peachy fragrance when they're ripe. You'll find the best peaches from mid-May until August. Peaches are a good source of vitamins C and A, and they're high in fiber and potassium.
Look for plums that are slightly soft, but with taut, unwrinkled skin. The chalky white "bloom" is a good sign—it means the plums haven't been overhandled. The plum-growing season is long — from May to October — with different types peaking at different points of the summer, so be sure to taste all of the varieties throughout the season. Plums are rich in Vitamins C, A and B2, and are a good source of potassium and fiber.
One of the first fruits to ripen in the late spring and early summer, the tastiest, ripest strawberries will be fragrant, firm and uniformly red, with a bright green cap. High in polyphenols (an antioxidant), strawberries are also rich in vitamin C—one serving (about eight berries) will give you more vitamin C than an orange.
A ripe watermelon should sound hollow when you thump the rind and should be heavy for its size. Another sign of a ripe watermelon is that the "belly spot," or the part where it rested on the ground, is cream-colored or yellowish, rather than white. Domestically grown watermelons can be found from May through October. Like tomatoes, watermelons are rich in lycopene, which some studies show might prevent some types of cancers.
Soy-Glazed Peach and Tofu Kebabs
The saltiness of soy sauce brings out the sweetness of grilled peaches in these easy kebabs. You can use chicken instead of the tofu; see the note below.
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
10 ounces cremini or button mushrooms
2 medium red peppers, cut into wedges
1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
4 small peaches, quartered
10 ounces baked tofu, cut into 2-inch squares
8 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 1 hour
Prepare grill for direct grilling, high heat. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, oyster sauce and sesame oil, stirring with a whisk.
Thread mushrooms, peppers, peaches and tofu onto skewers, using about 2 pieces of each ingredient on each skewer, beginning and ending with a mushroom to keep everything from sliding off. You should end up with 8 skewers of ingredients. Using a pastry brush, brush sauce over fruits, vegetables and tofu. Turn skewers over to brush sauce over the other side.
When grill is hot, grill skewers for about 10 minutes, turning over with tongs halfway through cooking, until peaches and vegetables are soft and grill marks appear.
Serve on a bed of brown or basmati rice.
Note: to make this dish with chicken instead of tofu, make two separate batches of the sauce and marinate one pound of chicken breast, cut into 2-inch chunks, in one batch of the sauce for about 20 minutes before grilling.
Serves 4 (2 skewers each)
Per Serving: 157 Calories; 3g Fat; 10g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 624mg Sodium
Watermelon puts a refreshing twist on this classic chilled summer soup.
2 pounds seedless watermelon, cubed
1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/2 cup roughly chopped red bell pepper
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño, veins and seeds removed
1 small shallot, peeled, root and stem ends removed
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor or blender, puree the watermelon until smooth. Add the cucumber, red bell pepper, jalapeño, shallot and mint, and pulse until ingredients are chopped—the mixture should remain a little chunky. Add vinegar, salt and pepper, pulsing to combine. Chill completely before serving. If desired, garnish with a sprig of mint or a lime wedge.
Serves 6 (portion size: 6 ounces)
Per Serving: 55 Calories; 0g Fat; 1g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 19mg Sodium
Individual Summer Berry Crumbles
Use whatever berries are plentiful, in whatever combination you'd like. Sliced peaches or apricots would also work, as would apples. If your fruit is very tart, you might want to mix it with a little more sugar.
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 cups berries and/or sliced fruit
1/2 cup oats (regular or quick-cooking)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flax meal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons Balance buttery spread or butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Place berries in a large bowl and sprinkle with sugar-cornstarch mixture, tossing the berries with your hands to coat berries completely with the mixture. Divide berries among four shallow 1-cup ramekins.
In a bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flax meal, cinnamon and salt. Add butter or spread and combine with a fork or your fingers, working the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is evenly distributed. Sprinkle mixture evenly over berries in ramekins.
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes, or until topping is browned and berries are bubbling.
Serve warm or at room temperature; top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.
Per Serving: 286 Calories; 8g Fat; 6g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 73mg Sodium