Fruit Can Add Depth to Almost Any Savory Dish
Including Fruit to a Savory Dish Can Add Sweetness and More
If the thought of adding fruit to a savory recipe on your menu makes you scratch your head, perhaps it's time to start thinking differently. Why? Because fruit, although sweet, can add so many layers to a dish and help not only bring out unexpected flavors, but can help cut through the heaviness of certain dishes, especially those with more fat or oils from meat, seafood or butter to help achieve proper balance.
Balance Fruit with Salt & Acidity
"The key to using fruit with savory dishes is to balance the fruit with salt and acidity," said Jamie Lynch, executive chef and partner at 5Church in Charlotte, N.C., which also has locations in Atlanta and Charleston, S.C. "Anything can be used if paired and adjusted appropriately through seasoning. Fruits provide natural sweetness, acidity, and tartness in balancing savory components."
Lynch said watermelon works well with anything salty, like feta cheese. That combination, along with cucumbers, fresh mint (or basil), olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh lime juice makes a deliciously refreshing summer salad. He also said pairing scallops with blood orange works well, as does tuna and pineapple, which due to high acidity balances the oiliness of the fish.
But fruit in a dish doesn't actually have to lend sweetness. You can add savoriness to the fruit through a variety of techniques ranging from fermentation to grilling.
"You have to play around with different techniques to see what flavors you can get from your produce," said Bryce Gilmore, chef/owner of Odd Duck and Barley Swine restaurants in Austin, Texas. "We can do salted strawberries that are slightly fermented to give a salty broth like soy sauce. Gamey meats go well with fruit and they don't have to be sweet. They can be sweet-sour, grilled, salted. We grill peaches, figs, citrus and apples, which is one of our favorites."
Another technique that has gained favor among chefs over the last few years is pickling. Not only does it add a different flavor profile, it also lets you use spring and summer produce in fall and winter when they're not readily available locally.
"When you pickle, you're getting acidity and sweetness, but you're already melding savory and sweet together from the pickling process," said Chris Curren, executive chef at Chicago's Fulton Market Kitchen. "We do a pickled pear on a sweetbread dish. It's a sweet fruit with texture, but we do a quick pickle to it that pulls down on the sweet and adds acid to give a more interesting flavor profile all around."
Look at Fruit Differently
In general, start thinking of fruit just as you would a vegetable. By broadening the way you look at that segment of food, you'll quickly open up the possibilities of what you can do with it.
"If you just take away the labels of fruit or vegetable and see them as ingredients, you can see them anyway you wish," said Justin Pfau, executive chef at Harold's Cabin in Charleston, S.C. "Fruit adds lighter texture, boosts nutrition and make a dish more interesting. We eat with our minds as much as we do with our faces."
And why wouldn't you want to think about how great something tastes?