The photography, by Laurie Smith, is really outstanding. Her shots draw you in, creating a strong desire to have some, of whatever it is. And, you have to appreciate that wherever there is a photograph, the recipe is on the opposite page, for easy reference, thoughtfully produced, so when you have the book open, it stays that way, lying flat while you're cooking with those floury hands.
Deborah Madison, as founding chef of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, an expert on local produce, and an award-winning author of nine cookbooks, brings well informed background to this book. She covers a wide variety, everything from pawpaws to lychees, all types of berries, as well as a good section on dried and preserved fruits, making her book truly seasonal. She also has chapters on cakes, cookies, pastries and lovely accompaniments to go with fruit, such as Sabayon and Almond Frangipane. So, for purposes of this review I selected three desserts to sample. Hard work.
We grow almost all of our own fruit here, so recipes often involve improvisation. I use what we have, and aside from eating fresh, there's always freezing, drying, making jam or syrup, chutney or wine. Thus, for obvious reasons, I liked the way Deborah encourages us to use her recipes as a source of inspiration, for suggestions, to get creative with.
My first trial in what will be, I'm sure, a long and delicious relationship, was not a recipe, but one of her many wonderful flavor pairing ideas, for serving fresh fruit. I had never tried Pomegranate Molasses or even heard of it, for that matter, though it sounded intriguing, especially matched with grapefruit. When I went on a search at our Market, all prepared not to find it, and to do my own reduction of pomegranate juice, I was surprised to discover it there, imported all the way from Lebanon, hummmmm. But, the outrageous flavor zap made the purchase justifiable, at least in my own mind. And, what an incredible taste juxtaposition with the grapefruit (which at least was local). An unqualified success, I would say.
Even though this is Hawaii, and usually we have fruit in abundance, right now it is between seasons on most things. So, I decided the next test would be one of Madison's dried fruit compotes. Specifically, the Small Dried Light Fruit, paired with her Almond-Corn Cake. This had the dual purpose of clearing out a few items that didn't seem to be moving, if you know what I mean. Particularly the Fuyu persimmons. Okay dried, but not spectacular. This turned out to be a definite improvement, especially with added dried bananas and golden raisins.
The tangy, sweet compote was just the right accent with that rich, dense almond cake. My taste testers all agreed, it was delicious. And, I couldn't resist a reprise, next morning for breakfast with my few strawberries and some mango from Kona. I could do this kind of work a lot. Without complaint. Eat cake and fruit.
For research purposes only, of course, I next gave Deborah's Souffleéd Pancake a try. She pours the batter over caramelized tart apples, but lacking those (not a tropical fruit), I used mangoes, only beginning to ripen, which provide the tartness called for here. Just wonderful, with sweetness countering a bit of tang, and the buttery, crunchy edges of the pancake off-setting a moist interior. We polished the whole thing off very quickly.
To sum up, Deborah Madison's, Seasonal Fruit Desserts, was quite well done, a good addition to any cookbook collection. Not every recipe includes fruit, a minor point, as they all sound enticing, and the challenge to try each one is calling me.