When comes to healthful eating, dieticians like to tout the saying “Eat the Rainbow of Colors” in fruits and vegetables to ensure the intake of vitamins and antioxidants. Some of my favorite purple and dark red colored fruits are Plums, Blackberries, Figs. They are all delicious and easy to pair with other foods to create tasty healthy dishes if you know how to use them and get them at their peak.
Plums can range from the color purple to dark red and in some cases green such as in the Mirabelle variety. One of my favorite ways to serve them is in a salad with Goat Cheese, Arugula, Red Onions and candied Pecans laced with a red wine vinaigrette.
The technique that I would like to share in this post is that of roasting the plums. To do this the washed plums are cut in half and then de-stoned, after which they are tossed with a five spice flavored cinnamon sugar and then roasted until soft. When cooled they are used to top the salad. This gives the plums a sweet and exotic flavor that goes perfectly with the bitter arugula greens and creamy earthy taste of goat cheese.
For those of you unfamiliar with Chinese Five Spice it is an ancient spice blend that is made with a combination of spices which can include Anise, Cinnamon, Cloves, Szechuan Peppercorns, Ginger, Fennel, and Star Anise, depending on who makes it. It can be purchased pre-made and is used in many Chinese and Asian inspired dishes.
Candied Pecans are easy to make in just a few steps:
Candied Pecans – Yield 1 cup
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup pecan pieces
2 TBL sugar
- Mix the water, sugar, and pecans in a small pot
- Bring to a boil over high heat (blanch)
- Pour off the water through a strainer
- Toss the blanched pecans in a bowl with the sugar
- Spread out onto a baking sheet on a nonstick silicone mat
- Bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally until dry and golden brown
- Cool and use or store at room temperature in an airtight jar.
Blackberries are most notably served in jams and jellies. Due to their large seeds, they are not as popular as their cousins, Raspberries. This unusually shaped berry is scientifically known as drupelet because it is actually a cluster of small fruits grouped together in one berry. The taste of the juice from blackberries makes great sauces and is full of the powerful antioxidant pigment anthocyanin which is prevalent in all of the purple fruits and vegetables. Here is my recipe for Blackberry Molasses Whiskey Sauce that goes great with duck or pork.
Blackberry Molasses Sauce
By Chef Daniel Pliska
Yield 3 cups
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Red wine vinegar
4 cups Blackberries
¼ cup Whiskey
¼ teaspoon Cinnamon
¼ teaspoon Cumin, ground
½ cup Molasses
2 cups Rich Duck stock or Chicken Stock
- Mix the sugar and vinegar together in a sauce pot and cook until caramelized (gastrique)
- Add the blackberries and flambé with the whiskey
- Add the molasses, spices, and stock
- Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer
- Puree with an emersion blender
- Simmer for 10 minutes and strain
- Return to heat and thicken with a small amount of cornstarch slurry
- Strain and serve.
Figs which many people would consider to be an exotic fruit make great tarts and also pair well with another blueish purple food: blue cheese. I like to wrap the figs and blue cheese up into small bites with thinly sliced prosciutto ham. The technique that works well for pears and figs alike is to poach the figs in a port wine syrup and then reduce the syrup after the fruit is poached to a thick glaze. This can then be drizzled over the prosciutto wrapped figs and blue cheese bites once cooled. To add texture and crunch to the bite I sprinkle the bites with candied walnuts or pecans before skewering them so they can be eaten easily in one bite.
All of these purple foods were served at the University Club of MU and can be made at home for unique dishes that will surely create a wonderful experience for your family and guests. Enjoy the color purple.