One of my favorite modernizations of a timeless classic dish (and one you can cook in ten minutes) is this inevitable crowd pleaser of fruit warmed slightly in sugar syrup and served with ice cream. It is a dish for all seasons, using whatever ripe fruit is available, such as mangoes, papayas, figs, peaches, plums, nectarines, all kinds of berries including ripe green and pink gooseberries, cherries, and so on. But it does seem to reach its apotheosis with summer berries. If you include raspberries, throw them in for only the last minute of cooking. For other fruit compotes, use white "mango" and "honeydew" nectarines, or three different kinds of yellow and white peaches. In 1983, at Phelps Vineyards, we poached fresh apricots in sweet Riesling from the vineyard, and served them to great effect with a hazelnut sabayon.
Put the fruit in a frying pan and add the syrup. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, shaking the pan gently to coat the fruit with syrup. Add the butter, a pinch of salt, and the lemon juice, and continue to cook, swirling the fruit and butter around in the pan, another minute, or until the butter has melted.
Spoon the fruit compote onto 4 plates and place scoops of raspberry sorbet in the center of each serving.
Variation: To make an uncooked compote of tropical fruits, peel and cup up a ripe mango and a ripe papaya. Put in a bowl and add 1 cup of warm medium sugar syrup and the juices/pulp of 2 ripe passion fruits. Mix in a pinch of salt and chill for 1 hour. Serve with coconut ice cream, or plain in a hollowed-out meringue. For a warm compote put all the fruit in the syrup as above and cook in the same way as the berry compote, then serve on polenta pound cake.
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
Put the sugar and water in a pan. Bring the water to a boil, stirring constantly, until all the sugar is dissolved. Simmer 5 minutes, then let the syrup cool. Use as needed.
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Recipe courtesy of Jeremiah Tower, Jeremiah Tower Cooks, Stewart Tabori and Chang, 2002
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