July 27, 2009
Overripe Fruits and Veggies?
Just moments ago, I got back from a nice 5-mile jog. My apartment is hot, even with the box fan in the window, and I really wanted something nice and cold. I opened my fridge looking for my big tupperware container of chopped watermelon. Before I opened the door, I could feel the icy, watery flesh of the melon on my teeth, and I looked forward to feeling cooled-off and quenched after having a cup or two of my favorite summer fruit.
But what happens to fresh, ripe produce in the fridge when you've had a busy weekend and have hardly been home to eat? Yeah, that watermelon was soft and swimming in water. It wasn't rotten, not at all. It just was far from the crisp, crunchy fruit it had been when I cut it up last week.
But instead of throwing it away, I spooned about a cup of the chunks into the blender, added a cup of seltzer, and hit "puree." Right now, I'm sipping on the most refreshing drink I've made in a while. And adding vodka, champagne or Malibu would definitely improve it.
The point here is that some produce can be salvaged when you've taken too long to eat it, like I frequently do. I'm not saying anyone should be eating a moldy pear, but even if the item isn't tasty on its own, getting creative with it can lead to some great meal/snack ideas. Here are some uses I've found for overripe fruits and vegetables:
Bruised apples: Slice what's left of good apple, and eat it with some peanut or almond butter; cut it into slivers and put it in a salad; slice it and add it to a wrap with turkey, lettuce and gorgonzola; sprinkle the slices with cinnamon and sugar, and microwave them - it'll taste like pie filling.
Brown, spotty bananas: The more overripe the banana, the better the bread. Find a recipe online and enjoy for breakfast! You could also put the banana in the blender with some strawberries and skim milk for a smoothie; stir it into nonfat Greek yogurt (I like Chobani) with a little splenda; make a PB&Banana sandwich, and let it take you back to 3rd grade.
Overripe tomatos: Aside from making tomato sauce, you can make a delicious bruschetta: cut the tomato in halves or quarters, and squeeze or scoop out the pulp. Dice the tomatos nice and small, then stir with garlic and basil to taste. Set out the bowl of bruschetta with toasted bread, pitas or bagel flats and enjoy with some pino grigio.
Overripe cantaloupe: Slice it and wrap it in prosciutto. Everything tastes great when wrapped in cured meat, plus the sweet/salty combination makes a great appetizer.
Bruised/Overripe pears: Try using some of the apple techniques, or prepare this amazing Parisian dessert I made for Christmas, poached pears in red wine sauce: Peel and core the pears, leaving the stems on, and cut a bit off the bottom so the pear stands on its own. Poach the pears in 1 bottle of beaujolais over medium heat, and add a couple of tablespoons of brandy or cognac to the mix. Turn the pears so they absorb the wine and turn red, and add 1/2c sugar. Once the pears are bright red and poached (about 10min), remove from the pot and place standing on the serving plate. Reduce the wine into a syrupy sauce (up to 5min), and pour over the pears. Serve warm. You can also slice the pears and pour the sauce over the slices. Amazing!
Figs past their prime: Mix a few spoonfuls of gorgonzola cheese with 1/2tsp cinnamon. Slice the figs lengthwise and stuff the halves with the cheese mixture. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes and prepare to be amazed.
Overripe pineapple: Chop the good fruit, and put it in the blender with orange juice, then freeze the mixture in an ice tray or popsicle molds. Or, take that mixture and blend with champagne or rum for a great summer cocktail.
Overripe broccoli: chop into florets and saute with olive oil and diced garlic; or throw it in a casserole dish with a whole lot of cheese and butter, and make Paula Deen's Broccoli Cheese Casserole! Delicious and deadly.
Softened onions: Cut the onion in half and slice thinly. Caramelize in a pan by cooking the onions in a pan over medium-low heat with a tablespoon of sugar and a bit of water. Serve the caramelized onions over brie warmed in the oven and French bread or crackers.
Some produce, like carrots, lettuce and cucumbers, are much harder to salvage past a certain point. But before you chuck it, think and get creative in the kitchen. Remember:
- sweet goes well with salty
- the blender can save almost anything
- the produce needs another flavor to make up for freshness