This section includes many exotic tropical fruits, some of which may need different methods of preparation than those required for familiar, home-grown fruits. Many tropical fruits are in fact best served simply to show off their vibrant colors and delicate, scented flesh.
Serving Fruits Simply
• Strawberries: Bring out the delicious flavor of fresh strawberries by tossing them together with fresh, juicy segments of pink grapefruit.
• Figs: To serve figs whole, cut a deep cross about two- thirds of the way through the fruit from the stem end. Squeeze the fruits gently to open them out ready to eat.
• Papaya: Present papaya simply, like an avocado, as an appetizer. Cut the papaya in half or in quarters, and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Serve with a slice of lime. Alternatively, serve slices of papaya sprinkled with lime juice as an appetizer or dessert.
Preparing Kiwi Fruit
Instead of peeling kiwi fruit, cut a slice from the top, and scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon as you would with a soft-boiled egg. For packed lunches or picnics, slice off the top, and wrap the whole fruit in plastic.
Coring a pear half Cut a pear in half before removing the core, rather than coring it whole. This makes it easy to see the core, and will ensure that no flesh is wasted.
Using a Melon Bailer
If you plan to cook and serve pears whole, remove the cores from the underside of each fruit by scooping out with a small melon bailer or the pointed tip of a vegetable peeler. This way, the pears will keep their shape.
Leveling the base Before serving a melon half or slice, cut a thin slice from the base of the fruit so that it sits firmly on the serving plate, making the cutting steady and easy.
When scooping out melon seeds, hold the melon above a sieve placed over a bowl so that none of the juice is wasted. Spoon the melon juice over the melon to serve. Alternatively, add it to fruit salads or drinks.
Trimming & Peeling
• Star fruit: To remove the brown, damaged edges that can spoil the appearance of a ripe star fruit, run a vegetable peeler quickly down the point of each ridge before slicing and serving the fruit.
• Pomegranate: Make slits in the skin of a pomegranate, dividing it into segments. Peel each segment back, and remove with the pith.
• Dates: If dates have become dull in color, or if sugar has crystallized on the surfaces, rinse them quickly under hot water. Then dry the dates thoroughly before serving. G Tamarillos Always peel tamarillos thinly before serving, since the peel has an unpleasant, bitter taste.
• Kiwi fruit: If the skin of a kiwi fruit is difficult to peel, plunge the fruit into boiling water for about 30 seconds, then try peeling it again.
• Dried fruits are a concentrated source of nutrients, with apricots and peaches, in particular, being rich in iron and vitamin A.
• Many are ready to eat, but some need soaking, which provides an opportunity to add flavor by using fruit juice, tea, brandy, or wine.
• Chilling fruits: Chop dried fruits easily by freezing them for one hour before use.
• Making a breakfast compote: Place dried fruit in a thermos, and top off with boiling water. Cap, let stand overnight and serve warm for breakfast.
• Saving time: To speed up soaking, put fruits in a bowl and cover with water. Cover the bowl, and microwave on high for 90 seconds. Let stand five minutes before use.
• Using a food processor: Chop dried fruit with a little granulated sugar so that the fruits do not stick to the blades.
Plumping up with tea: To plump up dried fruit for adding to cakes or quick breads, soak in tea instead of water. Choose a tea with a distinctive flavor, such as Earl Grey.
Preventing sticking:To chop sticky dried fruits, such as apricots, without the fruits sticking to the blades, cut with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife dipped frequently in hot water.
Nuts are a versatile, highly nutritious food, useful in both sweet and savory dishes. Use fresh, whole nuts, with or without shells, and take the time to crack, chop, blanch, or grind them before adding to a dish, since their flavor is far better than ready-prepared nuts.
Using Hazelnuts: Grinding Grind whole, fresh hazelnuts in a food processor, and use them as a lower-fat alternative to ground almonds.
Removing skins: To remove the fine skins from hazelnuts easily, toast them lightly under a hot broiler until they are pale golden, then pour onto a clean dish towel. Fold the towel over the nuts, and rub them firmly. The skins will fall off.
Using Fresh Coconut: Extracting milk Pierce two of the eyes at one end of a fresh coconut with a skewer, and pour out the milk.
Opening the shell: Crack a whole, fresh coconut by tapping around the widest part with a small hammer to find the nut’s natural fault line. Once a crack appears in the shell, continue turning and tapping the coconut to make a clean break.
Shelling & Blanching
• Cracking brazil nuts: To make brazil-nut shells easy to crack, place the nuts in the freezer for about six hours, or bake them for 15 minutes at 400°F (200°C). Let them cool before cracking.
• Preventing breakage: To keep nut kernels whole and undamaged, press the middle of each shell gently with a nutcracker, turning the nut so that it cracks evenly.
• Slitting chestnut skins: Before roasting or toasting whole chestnuts, cut a cross in each skin with a sharp knife to prevent them from exploding.
• Microwave blanching: To blanch almonds, place them in boiling water, and microwave on High for two minutes. Drain, and peel off the skins.