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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cookbook Spotlight Roundup & Interview with Deborah Madison

Remember this Huckleberry Cream Tart I made from Deborah Madison's Seasonal Fruit Desserts book? I just wanted to let you know that the round-up of all the fabulous creations the other participants in the latest Cookbook Spotlight over at A Blithe Palate is posted.

So, don't miss out on seeing all those other creations - make sure to check out the round-up! Before you go, Deborah was kind enough to answer some questions for me that I had about her new book. You can read the whole interview below. Deborah is definitely one intelligent and inspiring lady - it makes reading the book and learning from her truly a joy and inspiration.

PheMOM: What inspired you to write a book that focuses so distinctly about fruit desserts?

Deborah: I love desserts, I started out in pastry, and I've always included desserts in my cookbooks so I finally I wanted to focus on desserts, particularly fruit based desserts. To me fruits are like vegetables —both are plant foods and both can be cooked with— or not. But fruit is so compromised by the requirements put on it for travel and storage I'm concerned for its future. Good fruit is pure pleasure and not a lot has to be done with it, but we're losing touch with that as we eat unripe fruit shipped long distances.

I wanted to bring fruit, and the pleasures it offers for the last course of the meal, into focus. I'd love to be able to do for a peach what's been done for a Brandywine tomato.

I also wanted to write a dessert book that wasn't intimidating, that wasn't about difficult techniques but was more about cooking, and of course, fruit lends itself perfectly to that.

PheMOM: If you had to sum up exactly what you hoped people would learn from this book, what would it be?

Deborah: I would hope that they discover some new approaches to fruit desserts and, of course, enjoy their tastes and the fact that they are so straightforward to make.

I would want them to discover that fruit desserts are gorgeous and satisfying, and that our farmers markets produce other foods that enhance fruit as well, such as cheeses and nuts, jams and syrups, even grains.

But I would also hope that readers would start to think about how the future of fruit rests in part on our willingness to search out good fruit that's most likely going to have been grown close to where you live because the old, wonderful varieties just don't travel. Picked green, they have no flavor; picked ripe, they bruise. You have to be where the fruit is, so look around, try things you haven't tried before, ask questions, and don't feel you have to have strawberries year around. Wait for the rosy little ones that might not be huge but whose flavor will knock you off your feet!

PheMOM: I won't ask you to narrow it down to one recipe in the book, but if you could only eat one fruit from each season for the rest of your life, what fruits would they be and why?

Deborah: Thank you for not asking me to narrow it down to one recipe - impossible, to be sure! This is about fruit and its season and so that would be very hard.

Spring: There isn't a lot to choose from, actually—it's the leanest season because we're tired of dried fruits, apples and pears but we're months away from soft fruits.

I'd say Pixie tangerines because the Pixies are so sweet and juicy and they're one of the last citrus to come into season. Their juice also makes a very good pudding, one of my winter-spring standbys, which is in the book. I'd also choose rhubarb because it's the first fresh spring fruit (vegetable, actually) and it is very lovely seasoned with the juice of the Pixies and other citrus, including grapefruit.

Summer: Artic Rose Nectarines. Actually, any white nectarine or peach is pretty much perfumed and divine and you just slice them and eat them. A truly ripe melon.

Fall: Quince, because I absolutely adore their aromatic quality and their color once cooked, and Concord grapes because they're a "family food" for me and I love to make a Concord grape pie.

Winter: All dried fruits, especially prunes and Medjool dates, because they are luscious and soft and endlessly versatile. I would make mixed fruit compotes with the mixed fruits, a Not so Sticky Pudding, with the dates when I wanted a really rich over-the-top dessert. But more often, I'd make a platter of dates with a tangy goat cheese from the farmers market and some wonderful nut, like Shagbark hickory nuts from a Wisconsin farmers market, maybe a piece of dark chocolate. I do this all winter long, actually, varying the components as citrus move through their season. It's a dessert that you can put together at the last minute and need never be the same twice.

PheMOM: How did you learn so much about all the fruits to share all that amazing and useful information in the book?

Deborah: I visited with lots of farmers and fruit growers. I shopped in farmers markets and orchards all over the country and asked questions. And I read books on botany and fruit.

PheMOM: With such an already amazing array of cookbooks under your belt, what direction do you see yourself heading in if you decide to write another one?

Deborah: I don't think it would be a cookbook per se. I'm not sure I can, or should, write more recipes at this point, but there are other areas I'm interested in exploring around food that have more to do with farming, farmers, and plant life itself. I've a few ideas but they're in their infant stage right now —a little too tender to go out in the world. In the meantime, I'm going to plant a few apricot trees, though, because that's a fruit I adore and it will grow where I live, even if the crop often freezes. When it doesn't, it's heaven!

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