When the chill weather comes, old-fashioned dried fruit compotes are the classic finish to simple Sabbath dinners. Light and wholesome, they taste of deep flavors and contain no milk products to compromise the dietary laws.
But there’s the rub. Without the tart dairy tang of sour cream, crème fraîche, or yogurt as complement, the meltingly silky fruit turns cloyingly sugary after just a few bites. A sweet compote needs a bright acidic sparkle to pull its flavors into balance.
Fresh ripe pineapple is the answer. Its brash tart-sweetness is not overwhelmed by the dark-winy dried fruit. Simmered in tea that’s been infused with orange and spices, the dried fruit matures in the refrigerator for a day or two—three or four is even better (the compote will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator). Just before serving, I stir in chunks of sassy-sweet, beautifully perfumed pineapple, a crunch of pistachios or almonds, and chopped fresh mint.
If avoiding dairy is not a concern, serve the compote—with or without the pineapple—with sour cream, crème fraîche, yogurt cream, or labneh, for dessert or a delightful breakfast. The compote also makes a wonderful companion to cheese blintzes.
Add the dried fruit to the pan, stir well, cover, and simmer gently for 30 to 35 minutes, until the fruit is very tender. Lift out the orange zest and discard it. Find the vanilla bean and either discard it or rinse it so it can be reused. Stir in the juice from the reserved ½ orange and the lemon juice.
Cool the compote to room temperature, then cover it tightly. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours. But the compote tastes best if prepared a day or two before you plan to serve it, so the flavors can fully unfold, mingle, and mature.
Just before serving, gently toss the pineapple with the compote and spoon the mixture into pretty glass bowls or large stemmed glasses. (If you don’t plan to serve all of the compote at one meal, toss only part of the pineapple with the compote in the serving bowls, reserving the remaining pineapple to be added just before serving the rest of the compote). Top with pistachios or almonds and a sprinkle of fresh mint.
© 2008 Jayne Cohen. All rights reserved.