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An elegant dried-fruit compote

(article, Deborah Madison)

I like to be in the kitchen over the holidays as much as the next cook, but it’s always good to have a back-up — something you can count on. 

Salt-roasted almonds, for example, are handy to pull out when people come by for a sip of holiday cheer. A big pot of soup in the fridge is something you can make an impromptu supper from. And a dried-fruit compote can be waiting for you for weeks to bring it out and serve it as dessert.

I have a recipe for just such a compote in my upcoming book, Seasonal Fruit Desserts, but the book won’t be out until April, which is not a good moment to be pitting dried-fruit compotes against the allure of rhubarb and the first strawberries. So I'm going to share it with you now.


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Every time I make this compote, I think, “Oh, this is too simple. Did I forget something?” It consists, after all, only of dried fruits, honey, a vanilla bean, and water. 

My usual penchant for adding cloves, cardamom, and citrus to dried fruits is absent here, but I remind myself, “It is good. It does work. Nothing is missing.” 

And one of the reasons this compote is not done up with sugar and spice is that I really wanted this trio of fruit, honey, and vanilla to shine. 

[%image compote float=right width=350 caption="This compote keeps well in the refrigerator."] 

I first started making this compote with fruits that could be found only in farmers' markets: dried pluots, white nectarines, pears, plums (not prunes), cherries, and peaches. 

The appearance of these dried fruits, especially the larger peaches and nectarines and pears, is arresting, and their flavors testify to the season of summer. Why add anything to that? 

Not that you couldn’t. You can and so you might, especially since today many of these dried fruits can be found outside of farmers' markets.

My holiday plan includes making a batch of compote to stash in the refrigerator until needed, over a period of a month or more. 

One need might be for a small bite of cold, honey-poached pear with a bit of creamy yogurt for a weeknight dessert for two. Another might be to arrange a variety of fruits on a plate for a company dinner. 

Sometimes I extract a favored piece of fruit, dice it if it’s a large one, and add it to a pound cake, a fruit galette, or a rice or quinoa pudding. Other times I serve the compote with cream, or crème fraîche, or a Muscat sabayon. A plate of cookies is good alongside, or a slice of un-iced almond cake. 

However you serve it, when you make it, put together the fruits you love. One of my new favorite fruits are tiny green raisins, which are especially gorgeous with the pears. 

Is there some special dried fruit from your farmers' market? Here’s a way to show it off, time and again, and with perfect ease.

p(bio). Deborah Madison is the author of numerous award-winning cookbooks, including Local Flavors. She lives in New Mexico.

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