Too often the fall and winter seasons get the shaft when it comes to cooking with fresh produce. Summer inspires dishes like grilled fruit and chunky fresh fruit salsas, but winter dishes often fall victim to “the same old routine.” Though apple pie and other fruity desserts are readily available in the winter, we often forget that we can use fresh fruit in more meals than breakfast and dessert.
Winter fruits tend to be firmer in texture than some other season’s picks. The texture of winter fruits enable them to hold up in dishes with the longer cooking time often required of the hearty dishes we lean toward in the cold-weather months.
Seasonal fruits taste better because they are allowed to ripen naturally to their full potential, giving them beautiful color and delicious flavor. The various color and flavor profiles of fruits enhance the dish they are used in—marking these dishes with the fruit’s unique characteristics. The natural sweetness of fruit balances salty, bitter, sour, and umami flavors in the same way as sugar.
Here are a few seasonal picks and how to use them, including must-try cranberry recipes as we go into the holiday season!
Persimmons: Sliced and added to stir fries
Navel Oranges: Season sauces, meats, and grains with orange zest or juice. Sliced oranges pair well with chicken—try placing them inside a whole chicken with onions and herbs and roasting.
Grapefruit: Citrus wedges are excellent added to salads. For a unique breakfast, try Broiled Grapefruit
Apples: Chop them up into breakfast favorites, like Pumpkin Apple Oatmeal, or use them in your Thanksgiving Stuffing.
Pears: Try slices on a grilled cheese and prosciutto sandwich. Both pear and apple slices can be added to roasting vegetables during the last 15 minutes of cooking time.
Versatile Cranberry Balsamic Sauce
This seasonal cranberry balsamic sauce has the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness that pair well with salty, meaty dishes like baked salmon, pork tenderloin, or baked brie (recipes below). This sauce can be used immediately, served hot, room temperature, or cold. The sauce can also be made in advanced and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. This delicious condiment also makes a budget-friendly, thoughtful gift for your various party hosts this holiday season—cool the sauce, package in a cute glass jar, and deliver with a bow!
1 cup water
1-2 Tbs turbinado sugar (aka “Sugar in the Raw”)
¼ tsp salt
1 cup balsamic vinegar
12 oz fresh cranberries
(Makes 3 cups)
Heat medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add water and 1 Tbs sugar and salt, stirring to dissolve.
Add balsamic vinegar and cranberries and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to maintain simmer, stirring frequently throughout. Add additional 1 Tbs turbinado sugar to taste, as desired.
Continue cooking until cranberries are popped and liquid is reduced by half. Serve immediately or store as outlined above.
1 pound salmon fillet, preferably wild-caught
1 Tbs olive oil
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ recipe Cranberry Balsamic Sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Foil baking dish.
Rub salmon with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Bake skin-side down, 12-20 minutes (depending on thickness of salmon). Salmon should be flakey on thin edges and light pink throughout.
Serve with warm or room temperature Cranberry Balsamic Sauce spooned over the top.
4lb pork tenderloin
2 Tbs olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs fresh or dried herbs of choice (like thyme, basil, rosemary)
1 recipe Cranberry Balsamic Sauce
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place pork on rack on roasting pan, or on foil-covered baking sheet.
In small bowl, combine oil, salt, pepper, garlic and herbs. Rub generously over pork.
Roast pork for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees and roast another hour, until internal temperature of pork is 155 degrees. Remove pork from oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
Spoon Cranberry Balsamic Sauce over pork, slice pork, and serve warm.
1 wheel brie
1 frozen puff pastry crust, thawed
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup Cranberry Balsamic sauce
(Serves 12 small party-sized portions)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Foil baking sheet.
Spoon Cranberry Balsamic Sauce onto brie.
Wrap brie with thawed puff pastry, tucking pastry together on the bottom (non-sauced side) of the brie wheel. Use a touch of water to hold pastry together if needed.
Place wrapped brie on baking sheet. Brush top and sides with beaten egg.
Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, place on serving plate, and allow to cool 15 minutes before serving (cooling is a critical step or it will be too runny when sliced).
Slice and serve on its own or with crackers.
(Photography by Haruka Sakaguchi)