Cooking with Fruits and Vegetables

In the introduction to Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables (Running Press, 2011; $25), author Cheryl Sternman Rule offers readers an upfront description of exactly what to expect: ?What you?ll find in these pages is sensory, pretty, practical, and fun. Why? Because those other, more serious books have already been written, and written quite well?Instead, I want to excite you and show you a good time.?

And it?s hard not to be excited about this cookbook, which so vibrantly celebrates fruits and vegetables and offers delectable recipes that put flavor front and center. The luscious, color-saturated photographs by Paulette Phlipot provide rich, sensory detail, tempting the reader to take a bite and inhale the fresh or savory flavor. Organized by color (red, orange, yellow, green, purple, and white), each fruit or vegetable is accompanied by a recipe and a selection of ?Simple Uses,? which Sternman describes as ?quick-hit ingredient combos? to inspire other creative culinary uses for the produce.

The recipes, text, and photos excerpted from Ripe in the following pages provide a glimpse of the book?s many mouthwatering possibilities and a sense of the powerful role that Phlipot?s beautiful photographs play in paying homage to all things ripe and wonderful.

Avocado Tangerine Salsa

Is it a salsa or a guacamole? Questions like this give me a headache. Here is what?s important: it?s a vivid amalgamation of the two, with bright, citrusy flavors and a swift chile kick. The proportions are completely flexible and may be modified to suit your taste. You can also swap blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges, or even navel oranges for the tangerines?but no tomatoes! Double, triple, or sextuple the recipe to feed a crowd.

4 small seedless tangerines, peeled and white pith removed
1 avocado, diced
¼ cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1½ teaspoons minced jalapeño or red chile, or to taste
1 teaspoon lime juice
Sea salt
Tortilla chips, for serving
Dice the tangerines. In a small bowl, gently combine the tangerines, avocado, onion, cilantro, chile, and lime juice. Season with sea salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.
Makes about 2 cups

Polenta-Stuffed Chard with Bubbly Parmesan

These gorgeous green parcels, best eaten on a Sunday night in front of a fire, are both dramatic and comforting (think lasagna but without the pasta, ricotta, or mozzarella). Buy the largest Swiss chard leaves you can find, and keep in mind that the polenta takes an hour to chill.

Kosher salt
¾ cup dry polenta (coarse cornmeal)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup packed grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Black pepper
1¼ cups your favorite marinara or tomato sauce, divided
8 very large leaves Swiss chard, swished in cool water
Coat a 9½-inch square pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment.

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and reduce the heat to allow a gentle gurgle. Cook until thick and porridgelike, 10 to 15 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, half the cheese, and a generous pinch of pepper.

Scrape the polenta into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Cool for 15 minutes at room temperature, then refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour. (After 1 hour, cover with plastic wrap.) Unmold and cut into eight 4-by-2-inch rectangles. Wipe the baking pan dry and spread ½ cup of marinara along the bottom.

Preheat oven to 400° and bring a kettle of water to a boil. Have several layers of paper towels on hand.

Make a narrow, upside-down V-shaped cut about halfway down each chard leaf to remove the thick central steam. Place the leaves in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soften for 6 minutes. Remove to the paper towels and pat very dry.

To form the rolls, lay 1 chard leaf on a cutting board. Lay 1 polenta rectangle horizontally along the bottom of the leaf and spoon 1 teaspoon of marinara on top. Roll the leaf upward?burritolike?encasing the polenta, and transfer to the baking pan seam side down. Repeat, nestling the rolls next to one other. Spoon the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Take for 10 minutes and then slip under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes to brown the cheese. Serve hot.

Blackberry-Lime Cornmeal Shortcakes

Juicy blackberries, fluffy cream, and tender shortcakes collide in this cornmeal and lime-flecked twist on a summer classic.

1 cup all-purpose flour ? cup medium-grind cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen until hard
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon cold heavy cream
1½ teaspoons demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Filling:

4 cups fresh blackberries
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 cup cold heavy cream
Additional lime zest, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar, and zest. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter over the dry ingredients. Fluff gently with a fork. Drizzle with the ½ cup of cream.

Stir with a wooden spoon just until the ingredients cohere and no visible floury bits remain.

Transfer the dough to a floured board and form into a 4½-inch diameter, 1-inch-high disc. Cut into quarters and transfer to baking sheet. Brush with the remaining tablespoon of cream and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake until golden, risen, and firm to the touch, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Cut in half horizontally.

Toss the blackberries with the ¼ cup of sugar and the lime juice. Transfer half of this mixture to a small bowl and set aside. Take a potato masher to the remaining blackberry mixture and mash until pulpy. In a large bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks with the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar.

To assemble, lay 1 shortcake bottom on a plate. Dollop with some whipped cream, top with a few whole berries, replace the shortcake top, and spoon some of the mashed blackberry pulp on top. Garnish with lime zest. Repeat with the remaining shortcakes, berries, cream, and zest. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Tip: Grating frozen butter into the dry ingredients yields flaky shortcakes without the need for a pastry blender.