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Let custard nourish a passion for fruit

Most Americans have tasted forbidden fruits of a carnal nature long before they desert the parental roofs for their own be-it-ever-so humble homes. First love is often consummated under said parental roofs, as in Goodbye, Columbus , Philip Roth's first novel. Neil, the young inner-city hero from Newark, makes love to Brenda for the first time in the basement of her affluent family's Short Hills home on a sofa beside the fruit refrigerator.

Because it was summer, the family's auxiliary refrigerator was stocked with "green-gage plums, black plums, red plums, apricots, nectarines, peaches, long horns of grapes, black, yellow, red and cherries, cherries flowing out of boxes and staining everything scarlet. And there were melons _ cantaloupes and honeydews _ and on the top shelf, half of a huge watermelon, a thin sheet of wax paper clinging to its bare red face like a wet lip."

Thereafter, the young couple spent their evenings eating fruit and making love to the flickering gray light of a black and white TV.

Now that you're on your own, not much is forbidden as long as you don't make too much racket and upset the neighbors, and, while I hate to spoil your delight in eating fruit by telling you the medicos and nutritionists want you to help yourself, I think you should know that they recommend up to four servings a day.

So all summer, while prices are at their lowest, stock that one and only refrigerator with seasonal fresh peaches, cherries, melons, whatever, for uninhibited snacking and also for breakfasts, desserts and light lunches or suppers with cottage cheese or ricotta.

I wish you a some-time companion to share these unforbidden fruits, but, if you have no companion and feel that something is missing in your life, comfort yourself with bowls of peaches or plums, cherries or berries, drowned in Old-Fashioned Custard Sauce made painlessly, a cup at a time, in your microwave oven.

(Save the recipe. Come winter, custard is grand all by itself or over stewed fruits such as apricots or puddings such as bread.)

Another summer diversion is Ginger-Honey Dressing. The custard base of honey, minced ginger root, lemon juice and egg can be made ahead and stored in that friendly refrigerator up to a week.

When you're in the mood for fruit in a salad or dessert, whisk a tablespoon or so of base with nonfat yogurt or that forbidden pleasure, unsweetened whipped cream, or even whipped topping, if that's your bag.

Old-Fashioned Custard Sauce

} cup milk or half and half

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

{ teaspoon vanilla

In 2-cup microwave-safe glass measure, combine milk with sugar. Microwave on high 2 minutes or until bubbles begin to form around edge of milk's surface.

Meanwhile, beat egg with vanilla in small bowl until foamy throughout. Gradually beat in a third of hot milk, then vigorously beat egg mixture into remaining hot milk. Microwave on high 20 seconds; stir well and microwave on high another 20 seconds. Stir vigorously, then pour into refrigerator container. Custard will thicken further on standing.

Cool to room temperature uncovered, then cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled, over fresh or stewed fruits, puddings and plain cake. Makes about four (\ cup) servings of 74 calories each, including 19 fat calories with 1 percent milk. Hands on and microwaving times: 5 minutes.

Ginger-Honey Dressing

Base:

1 egg

\ cup honey

Juice of 1 small lemon

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Finishing touch:

2 cups nonfat yogurt OR 1 cup ({ pint) heavy cream, whipped

In top of double boiler, beat egg until foamy. Stir in honey, lemon juice and ginger; cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat; pour in refrigerator container and cool, uncovered, to room temperature. Cover tightly and refrigerate up to one week.

For one serving, blend 1 tablespoon Ginger-Honey base with 3 tablespoons nonfat yogurt, unsweetened whipped cream or whipped topping. For 12 servings, blend all of Ginger-Honey base into 2 cups nonfat yogurt or 1 cup heavy cream, whipped. Use as dip or salad dressing for fresh fruits. Makes 12 (\ cup) servings of 50 calories each, including 5 fat calories with yogurt; with whipped cream, 92 calories including 60 fat calories.

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