Warm Fruit Stew

One of my favorite modernizations of a timeless classic dish (and one that you can cook in ten minutes) is this inevitable crowd-pleaser of fruit warmed slightly in sugar syrup and served with ice cream.

It is a dish for all seasons, using whatever ripe fruit is available, such as mangoes, papayas, figs, peaches, plums, nectarines, all kinds of berries including ripe green and pink gooseberries, cherries, and so on. But it does seem to reach its apotheosis with summer berries. If you include raspberries, throw them in only for the last minute of cooking.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup strawberries, rinsed, cut in half
  • 1 cup blueberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • ¼ cup light syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sweet butter, cut into cubes or softened
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream

Method

Put the strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries in a frying pan and add the syrup. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, shaking the pan gently to coat the berries with syrup. Add the butter, a pinch of salt, and the lemon juice, and continue to cook, swirling the berries and butter around in the pan, another minute, or until the butter is melted.

Spoon the fruit compote onto four plates and place scoops of ice cream in the center of each serving.

Variations

To make an uncooked compote out of tropical fruits, peel and cut up a ripe mango and a ripe papaya. Put in a bowl and add 1 cup of warm medium sugar syrup and the juices/pulp of two ripe passion fruits. Mix in a pinch of salt and chill for 1 hour. Serve with coconut ice cream, or plain in a hollowed-out meringue. For a warm compote put all the fruit in the syrup as above and cook in the same way as the berry compote, then serve on polenta pound cake.

For other fruit compotes, use white “mango” and “honeydew” nectarines, or three different kinds of yellow and white peaches. In 1983, at Phelps Vineyards, we poached fresh apricots in sweet Riesling from the vineyard, and served them to great effect with a hazelnut sabayon.

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