"The Fruit Cookbook," Nicole Routhier

Pros: Gazillions of delicious non-dessert fruit recipes
Cons: Imperfect layout
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 9/15/2000

Several years ago I bought this book for my fiancee because I knew he loved fresh fruit, and he was just getting into cooking. I didn’t actually have a chance to look at the cookbook before I got it (often a recipe for disaster, pardon the pun), but despite that, it has worked out fabulously.

Unlike some other fruit cookbooks I could review, this one doesn’t just cover desserts. Not at all, in fact. It goes from appetizers to soups, salads to pasta and grains, seafood, birds, meat, side dishes, chutneys jams and relishes, breads, breakfasts, smoothies, sorbet and ice cream, pies cakes tarts and cookies, and “soothing fruit desserts.” I know, you’re probably thinking, “okay, so there are what, five seafood recipes? Four pasta recipes? The desserts have to be most of the cookbook.” Not so, my friend. Even if you consider the smoothies to be part of the desserts section, desserts don’t start until page 341 of a more-than-450-page cookbook. You’ll even find a chart of which fruits are in season during which months.

Strawberry Summer Soup

You’ll find everything in here. Homemade tortilla chips with Strawberry Salsa. Curried Crab Dip (with pear). Creamy Raspberry Dip. Grilled Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto. One recipe that we loved: Chilled Melon and Prosciutto. There’s a Strawberry-Mustard Sauce that’s absolutely fantastic over Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing – we make it every year.

There’s a Mexican Lime Soup, and a fantastic Chilled Fruit Borscht made with plums and blueberries. The Pina Colada Soup is quite good (although it needs a little extra sugar), and the Summer Strawberry Soup…well, it’s divine. I recommend a little extra sugar (1/2 cup instead of 1/3), and a little less balsamic vinegar (2T instead of 2.5T). Otherwise, it’s perfect – buttermilk, Grand Marnier, and so on. Wow. Easy, quick, impressive, and SO delicious.

You’ll discover the wonderful Sicilian Orange Salad, made with both navel oranges and blood oranges. You’ll also find little side-bars strewn throughout the book that talk about where fruits come from, when they’re in season, and what they’re useful for. There’s a Big Apple Waldorf salad that’s quite delicious, complete with toasted walnuts. There’s a salad of Scallops with Cantaloupe and Cucumber, and a Tropical Lobster Salad that includes apple and pineapple.

The Summer Pasta with Three-Fruit Vinaigrette is out of this world; use extra pineapple. There’s a Wild Mushroom Risotto with Apples. The Risotto with Prosciutto and Raisins is good, but not great, and it’s definitely best fresh. Then there’s Baked Halibut in Cider Broth, or Salmon with Pineapple-Tomato Vinaigrette. Then there’s Sesame Duck with Litchees, and Roast Duck with Blueberry Sauce. There is a definite Oriental flair to some of these recipes, and it works quite well. The Applesauced Meat Loaf (made with a homemade Gingered Applesauce) is one of the best meat loafs we’ve ever had, and we’ve made it repeatedly! There are Tea-Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Tangerine Glaze, and Baked Acorn Squash with Peach Butter.

What about Grilled Banana Pizza? Fig, Prosciutto, and Pepper Bread? Hot Strawberry Biscuits? There’s a Tangerine Sorbet in here that’s so worth the effort of zesting and juicing a bunch of tangerines – better than any orange sorbet.

Honestly, we’ve made far more recipes from the non-dessert chapters of this book than from the dessert chapters. I guess it’s because there are already plenty of books out there that cover fruit desserts, and so few that go into lots of non-dessert fruit recipes. Not every recipe is perfect, but nothing in here has come out badly. It’s just been a matter of degrees of deliciousness.

Style and Details

My only real complaint is that in the rush to fit so many recipes in, the layout got short shrift. Lots of recipes run from one page onto the back of the same page, so you can’t just lay out the cookbook under a cookbook shield and go. On the other hand, this is an awfully minor complaint. I don’t think I’d give up any of the recipes to fix it.

The lovely little info, tip, and hint sections would also be easier to find if they were compiled somewhere or at least indexed. On the other hand, they’re usually near the recipes that include the relevant fruit, so finding them isn’t too difficult. Some of the recipes do call for unusual fruits that you won’t be able to find everywhere, but the majority of them use fruits you’ll find in any grocery store or farmer’s market.

So buy this book if you like fruit – you’ll use it over and over for years. Just make sure to try the Strawberry Summer Soup, especially if you’re having company over. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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