Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Fall from Fruit

I love fall. Aside from the return of football (whew! made it through another summer!), I love the cool crisp nights. The bright colors of leaves. The proliferation of birds on their way south. The way everything seems to sort of settle down into its blanket of fallen foliage, pulling it up tight to ward off the oncoming winter chill.

But mostly I love the fall fruit. Perfectly ripe pears. Crisp fresh apples. Grapes just in from harvest on their way to becoming wine. Plus pomegranates, quinces and a fresh crop of oranges. To name just a few. So I sort of have had fruit on the mind lately.

I had been thinking for a while on ways to get more flavor into all these whole grains we are eating lately. Imagine health and flavor in one dish! Would be quite a combination.

One thing I thought about would be to cook the grains in chicken broth instead of water. Even better, herb infused chicken broth.

But the main thing I have been thinking about is adding fruit somehow. Fall fruit. Letting the fruit bring out some of the natural sweetness of the grains.

The fruit I have on hand at the moment, this being fall, are quince.

The quince have to be cooked somehow before serving, as they are hard as rocks. I chose to roast them in the oven. I think they also could have been diced raw and sautéed in a skillet, maybe with a little juice of some sort. Either way would work.

I think pears or apples would work just as well. If it was me, I would roast the pears or apples as well. Just because I like that roasted flavor.

This salad combines the nutty flavor of the whole wheat spelt berries with the subtle fruity flavors of roasted quince. Everything infused with some fresh herbs.

Since spelt is just a type of wheat, I think almost any wheat berry could be used to a similar effect. For example soft wheat, buckwheat, etc.

Per a recent suggestion regarding whole grains, I added some orange juice, and then some orange zest as well, to the salad. The intent here is to balance out the rough whole wheat berry flavor a bit with a little citrus acid.

The salad is easy to make, though it does take time to roast the quince. The flavors are wonderful, the delicate sweetness of the quince combining perfectly with the nutty grains and the woodsy herbs. The orange flavor adds a real brightness to the taste. The texture moist from both the chicken broth as well as the orange juice and broth. I think this salad pairs well with any sort of roasted fowl or pan roasted fish.

To me, it has the quintessential taste of fall.

Spelt Salad with Roasted Quince
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4 as a side dish

4 whole quince, peeled, cut in half, and core removed
olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups spelt berries (or other whole grain berries)
fresh thyme
fresh rosemary
juice from ½ orange
zest from 1 orange
½ cup chopped parsley
Salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Rub quince halves with olive oil, and place in a roasting pan, covered with tin foil. Roast for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until very tender. Remove from oven. Let cool. When cool, cut quince halves into a small dice. Reserve.

Combine chicken broth, spelt berries, thyme sprigs, rosemary sprigs, orange juice and orange zest in a heavy pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes, until almost all liquid is absorbed. Remove from pot to a heat proof serving bowl, and let cool. When cool, combine with diced quince, parsley, and additional fresh thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve. Enjoy!

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