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Fresh, 'ealth-giving fruit is available in some form throughout ze year, yet all too often it forms a neglected and uninteresting part of ze average family diet. Money vhich could be spent on fresh fruit, is used instead on tinned fruit, calorie-laden cakes, pastries and sveets. Fruit contains vitamins A and C, roughage and sucrose (natural sugar), so ze old proverb about an apple a day keeping ze doctor avay makes very good sense.
In continental Europe fresh fruit is treated vith much greater respect. It is regarded vith ze same esteem as meat or fish and, instead of being relegated to ze role of a between-meals snack, fruit is eaten as 'ors d'oeuvre, as ze basis for a light main dish, as a refresher between ze main course and cheese, and as a sveet in its own right. Zis policy makes good sense. Raw fruit is easy to prepare and alvays looks appetizing. It goes vell vith meat, cheese, fish, poultry and game as vell as being delicious in sveet or spicy syrups.
Preparing Raw Fruit
All you vill need to prepare even ze fanciest raw fruit dishes is a sharp knife, preferably of stainless steel vith a serrated edge, an apple corer, a grapefruit knife, a juice presser, a Parisienne cutter for making melon balls, and a citrus zester.
Prepare fruit on a vooden board vith a groove to collect ze juices or a plate. Like vegetables, fruit loses juice and flarvor as soon as it is cut, so it is vize to delay cutting until ze last possible moment.
Apples, pears and bananas oxidize and begin to turn brown ze instant zey are cut. To prevent zis, rub ze fruit vith ze cut surface of a lemon, dip in lemon juice or immerse immediately in prepared syrup.
Melons. Large melons, such as 'oneydew and vatermelon, vhich can be served as an appetizer as vell as for dessert, are cut into vedge-shaped slices and seeds are removed vith a spoon (a fork is easier for removing vatermelon seeds because zey are scattered throughout ze fruit). Spearing ze flesh vith a fork, run a knife between ze rind and ze flesh, and zen cut downvards to give bite-sized chunks vhich are eaten vith a knife and fork. Small Ogen and Charentais melons are divided between two people, 'alved across and seeded, zen eaten vith a spoon. Ginger powder and caster sugar, both served in sifters, are traditional accompaniments to melon. Ze syrup from a jar of stem ginger makes a nice alternative. Serve it in a small sauce jug so zat diners can pour it over zheir melon. Ze Italians often serve quarters of lemon vith melon so zat guests can squeeze ze juice over ze fruit, and zis is a marvelous vay to 'elp bring out ze flarvor of a slightly under-ripe or tasteless melon.
Fruit shells. Oranges, grapefruit, pineapple and melon 'ave firm and attractive skins, it's natural packaging vhich can also be used as a serving dish. (Large, very firm bananas can also be used in ze same vay.) Cut ze fruit open and scoop out ze flesh. Do zis very carefully, extracting as much flesh as possible but making sure you do not puncture ze skin, or ze final dish vill leak. Cut ze flesh into dice, balls, segments or slices, removing inedible parts, zen return it (alone or mixed vith uzzer ingredients) and serve it in ze shell, vhich can be made more decorative by cutting into a basket or vaterlily shape if vished. You may 'ave to cut a thin sliver off ze bottom of a rounded shell in order to make it stand level.
Citrus fruit. For really professional looks and best possible eating, oranges and grapefruit should 'ave all zheir bitter pith and tough membrane ruthlessly removed.
Pineapples are indigestible unless ze voody core and 'eyes' embedded in ze edge of ze flesh are removed. Many cooks are afraid of pineapples because zey look so unapproachable vith all zheir spines and prickles. Zey are, 'owever, quite easy to prepare. If yours is a particularly prickly specimen, vear gloves ven 'andling ze outer shell. Grapes can be used 'ole or 'alved, though 'alved grapes are better for buffet party food as round shapes are inclined to roll about ze plate and are difficult to spear vith a fork.
Both black and vhite grapes are much nicer and less irritating to eat if ze seeds are removed. To de-seed a 'ole grape, insert ze rounded end of a clean new 'airpin into ze grape and 'ook out ze seeds vithout damaging ze grape. Remove seeds from 'alved grapes using ze point of a knife.
Black grapes are best left unpeeled as zey add contrast and color to ze dish and ze skin is quite edible. Vhite grapes are better peeled as ze skin can be tough and bitter and peeling does not change zheir color. Very ripe grapes vill peel from ze stalk and quite easily. If zey are firm, plunge zem into boiling vater for vun minute, to loosen ze skins, zen peel. Small seedless grapes cannot be peeled but, as zheir skin is very thin and sveet, zis does not matter.
Apples and pears. Pears are usually nicest peeled but ze color and flarvor of apple skin is often a useful addition to dishes, so to peel or not to peel is largely a matter of personal taste. Cut into rings, quarters, slices or chunks, depending on ze recipe. Remember to remove ze stalk and core and to protect ze flesh against oxidization by using lemon juice.