July 2, 2014 in Food

Cookbook Review: Orchardist’s book highlights fruit from all seasons

By The Spokesman-Review

The balsamic vinegar and black pepper in this strawberry granita add vibrancy to its already bright flavor.
(Full-size photo)

Cookbook review

“Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes,” By Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck (Running Press, $27.50)

Quick look: Three generations have been farming at Red Jacket Orchards in upstate New York for more than 50 years, so they’re experts in the field of tree fruits and fruit juices. This new cookbook spotlights farm-fresh fruit from their orchards in refined family recipes as well as 25 contributions from chefs and eateries in and around New York City.

What’s inside: “When you crunch into a crisp apple on a blustery fall day, or eye a basket of burnished nectarines, part of what you consume is the grower’s story,” third-generation orchardist Brian Nicholson writes in the introduction to the book.

His family founded Red Jacket Orchards in 1958, but fruit had been growing on the site, overlooking Seneca Lake near Geneva, since 1917. After adding a state-of-the-art juicing facility in 2010, the operation now sells juices and pantry items throughout the country.

Nicholson partnered with Brooklyn food writer Sarah Huck on the cookbook, which NPR recently included on a list of 10 summer cookbooks that “will make the good life even better.” But “Fruitful” stretches beyond summer. Recipes are divided by season: spring and early summer, high summer, autumn and (preparing for) winter. They’re further organized by type of fruit – from rhubarb and strawberries to apples, pears, concord grapes and quinces.

“Fruitful” is filled with mouthwatering sweet and savory recipes – from salads, soups, sandwiches and sorbets to cakes, compotes and confits. And, it’s so gorgeous you’ll want to keep it on your coffee table.

There are recipes for entrees, breads, even beverages. Rhubarb Tom Collins, anyone? Maybe a muddled strawberry shandy? Or, perhaps, a peach mint julep? Savory dishes include charred pork chops with apricot-rosemary sauce, slow-baked salmon with plum, cucumber and mint salad, peppery chicken thighs with brandy-roasted grapes, and lamb and quince tagine. The winter prep chapter features jams, jellies, sauces, butters, chutneys, infused alcohols and vinegars, juices, pickles and stomps.

Some recipes present unexpected combinations, like scallop and blueberry ceviche or roasted pear and barley pilaf. The desserts sound particularly delicious: rhubarb-cardamom creme brulee, strawberry olive oil cake, strawberry-black pepper granita, blackberry-orange blossom doughnuts, wine-poached nectarine tart and peach-bourbon gelato with praline swirl.

“Fruitful” is a resource no matter which farmers market or farm you frequent. There are growing tips from family patriarch Joe Nicholson as well as advice for selecting, storing and preserving fruits. Guides chart varieties, appearance, flavors and best uses for plums, pears and apples. Fruit and cheese pairings are also charted. And suggested fruit pie filling combinations are listed. Plus, the close-ups of succulent strawberries, plump blueberries and pickled pears will have you plotting your next trip to the farmers market.

What’s not: A visit to Red Jacket Orchards – or box of its fruit – would make this cookbook even better.

See today’s centerpiece story on granitas for the “Fruitful” recipe for strawberry-black pepper granita.

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