Food & Drink

Reviewer: ‘Fruit’ plants a seed of intrigue, but leaves the reader hanging

As we get ready for fruit season, this year our excitement is tinged by the sorrow brought on by frosty day in March just when the buds were setting for delicate peaches and blueberries. These two wonderful summer fruits, one deemed by the Savor the South series as iconic ally southern (peaches), has been negatively affected.

McDermott’s book opened up my appreciation of southern fruits to many others — to lesser-known, but very southern, paw paw, Muscadine, and mayhaw, a fruit entirely new to me. She is also to be lauded for including how-to-use directions and recipes for fruits I do not normally use in cooking like quince and cantaloupe.

This volume is different from many others in the series in that it encompasses a variety of fruits instead of focusing on one topic or subject food. Considerations of what was in the series already and what the author considers “ representatively southern” drove McDermott’s selection of fruits to include blackberries, cantaloupe, watermelon and strawberries, although they are also grown elsewhere in the country and leave out the blueberry.

Arranged in alphabetical order, each fruit receives the treatment known to readers of the series of a cultural explication including how to select and use the fruit, and more followed by recipes.

Unfortunately, because there are so many fruits included, the explanations are brief and only three or four recipes for each item could be included.

That is understandable. However, I do wish that the author would have included more information on where to find some of the rarer varieties — for sale. I do not see myself combing the riverbanks of private property to look for mayhaws. She does note that there are festivals devoted to this fruit in Georgia, Texas and elsewhere, but for those of us in the Carolinas there are no suggestions on how to find the fruit or products containing it. Neither are there photos or even drawings of these items. Even for some of the other better-known fruits like quince and in particular, the Damson plum — I want to be able to distinguish it from other similar fruits, and for the Damson from other plums, by sight and to know some particular places where I can find it.

I know that the series calls for only one color photo on the cover, but it is really too bad they did not make an exception in this case and at least put a thumbnail of each of the other fruits on the back cover. Or, perhaps they could have included a map showing where these fruits grow and a black and white drawing of the fruit in the cultural section? Yes, I can “Google” each fruit, but it would have been nice to have everything in one place.

McDermott’s efforts are admirable but, I feel, fall short of what I want in a cookbook, simply because she was trying to convey too much information within the constraints of a small space and set format. The writing is good. The histories are interesting, The few recipes given are interesting. McDermott is a seasoned cookbook author and cooking instructor. Having seen other of her books, I feel her talents are not well showcased in this example.

However, if you collect the series you will want this one. Or, if you are very, very curious about some of these lesser-known fruits, like the mayhaw and paw paw (which does grow here on the coast), you might find the book interesting.

One of the recipes that the publisher gave permission to quote is one that was my favorite — it uses the quince, an iconic southern fruit that is also prized in Turkey and North Africa for its versatility in both sweet and savory dishes. I look forward to trying it in this season of lamb availability. Mc Dermott recommends using lamb shoulder.

At a glance

Title: Fruit

Series: A Savor the South cookbook

Author: Nancie McDermott

Publisher: University of North Carolina Press

ISBN: 978-1469632513

Cost: $20

Moroccan – Inspired Lamb Stew with Quince

Makes 4 servings

From Fruit by Nancie McDermott, reprinted with permission of North Carolina University Press

Ingredients

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 ½ pounds lamb should or lamb stew meat, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper

2 cups chopped onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

3 ½ cups chicken broth or water

2-3 medium quinces (about 1 ½ pounds) quince

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup chopped cilantro or flat leaf or curly parsley

Method

In a small bowl, combine the ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cayenne. Use a fork to mix them together well, and set aside.

In a large, heavy Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until a bit of onion added to it sizzles at once., Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, scatter in about half of the lamb and let it cook undisturbed on one side until nicely browned (about 1-2 minutes) . Then turn the lamb pieces and cook until the other side browns (1-2minutes more). Transfer the meat to a large bowl and continue until you have browned all of the meat.

Add the onions to the pan and stir to mix them in with the oil. Cook until fragrant, about one minute. Sitr in the garlic, and when you catch its aroma in the pan, add the spice mixture and toss to mix everything well., Cook, tossing and stirring often until the onions are shiny and tender and the spices , fragrant, (2-3 m minutes more)

Return the meat to the pot along with all of the juices in the bowl and toss to mix everything evenly, Increase the heat to high, add the chicken broth and bring to a lively boil. Sitr well, reduce the heat to maintain an active but gentle simmer and cook, stirring now and then until the meat is tender and the sauce is thickened and has developed a spiced hearty7 flavor, a out 45-55 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the quinces, Gently wash th4m and rum them with a soft kitchen towel to remove any fuzz, Peel them and halve them lengthwise and cut away their cores, stems, and blossom ends. Cut each half lengthwise into three pieces and set aside,

When the lamb is tender, add the quinces to the Dutch oven and stir well. Cook, stirring occasionally until the quince is fork tender, about 30 minutes more, Add the honey, lemon juice, and parsley and stir well. Serve hot or warm.

(Note from Joan—when adding the onion , after browning the meat, turn the heat down a little bit or the onion will burn—McDermott does not specific this, but I do not like burnt onion. It will take the onion a little longer to cook at the lower heat,)

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