If presentation counts for anything, the fruit cup at one of New York’s fanciest restaurants was a stunner. There was nothing on the menu that indicated it was anything more than fruit in a dish, but it sounded like a good way to wind up a meal that had more than its share of butter and cream. So we ordered it.
What came next was practically the gourmet equivalent of the crown jewels being brought to the table. It took two waiters to pull it off; one to announce its arrival and sweep away any lingering crumbs and another to put the dish down. The dish, actually a parfait glass so tall it came with an extra-long spoon, was perched on smaller dish, known in the trade as an “underliner.” From where we sat, the top of the glass was a long reach away. At any other place we might have asked for a boost from a Manhattan telephone book, but this was not that kind of place. And so, while everyone dug into their creme brulee and chocolate mousse, we went to work on the fruit.
As desserts go, fruit is easy and versatile, and even the smallest of extra steps gives an added dimension. This spring fruit compote, for instance, is a combination of dried apricots, orange, pineapple and fresh berries. But before the berries are added, the ingredients are marinated in an orangy mixture of Grand Marnier and marmalade. It comes to the table in ordinary stemmed glasses—no team of waiters, no special spoons, just a deliciously simple fruit cup that can be adapted to include anything in season.
Spring Fruit Compote
1/2 cup Grand Marnier (orange liqueur) or orange juice
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1/2 cup quartered dried apricots
Grated zest and sectioned fruit of 1 navel orange
1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cubed
4 pints fresh berries: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
1. Combine Grand Marnier, marmalade, dried apricots, orange zest and sections, and pineapple up to 24 hours in advance.
2. Up to 1 hour before serving, rinse berries. Hull strawberries and slice. Halve blackberries if they are large. Leave blueberries and raspberries whole. Toss berries, as gently as possible, with marinated fruit. Serves 8 to 10.
Recipe by Crescent Dragonwagon.
Per serving: 120 calories, 1g fat, 2g prot., 31g carbs., 5g fiber, 5mg sodium.
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Photo credit: Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn