My brother was married last night in an intimate ceremony at his condo, with family and a few very close friends. Still clinging to the last vestiges of Italy, I planned the menu of Mediterranean appetizers, a salad, some pasta dishes and two desserts.
The chocolate cake that the bride requested was prepared by the Bakery at Sullivan University, and stacked and garnished with fresh raspberries and mint by yours truly. The filling was an orange buttercream and the cake was enrobed with chocolate ganache. How bad could it have been?
The groom’s cake, in a departure from the usual chocolate, (and since that base was already covered) was a cheesecake lightly scented with orange and vanilla and topped with a dried fruit compote. I usually serve this compote atop vanilla ice cream or even Brie or goat cheese, but I decided it would be a great fall-ish topping for the second dessert.
So, again I go for ‘Flexible Food’. Something that can span the range of menu items from appetizer to entree to dessert. Imagine a pork roast or even grilled lamb chops with a bit of this syrupy glaze spooned over. It would certainly fit the bill on the Thanksgiving table snuggled up next to the stuffing and roasted bird.
A wheel or wedge of Brie (the cheese, not the dog) with a generous topping of the compote served with crisp crackers is welcome at either end of a special dinner. Served with a dessert wine or port, it would replace the customary ‘dessert course’ and give your meal a certain Continental flair.
Another of the many positive attributes of this dish is the fact that you can make it and keep it stored in the fridge for weeks; really handy with the holidays nearing. I had planned to prepare this a few weeks ago when I was shopping and picked up some Calmyrna figs, dried plums (yep, prunes), dried cherries and dried cranberries. I had a stash of dried mission figs in the pantry. Apricots and dates work too – use what you have or buy your favorites.
The liquid called for here is flexible too. I began making this a few years ago with port, and have used both tawny and ruby. I have used sweet wines like muscadet. Yesterday I had none of the above, but did have some Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of a nice Muscat dessert wine. And so, I began.
Dried Fruit Compote
- 5 cups of mixed dried fruits, large pieces diced
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups white wine or port
- 1 cup sweet wine or port
- 1-3″ cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 2-3 whole cloves or a 1″ piece of fresh ginger
- 2 Tbls cornstarch
- 2 Tbls red wine vinegar or lemon juice
In a shallow 3 quart pan, place the fruit, sugar, and all the wine except 1/4 cup. Stir together, add the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and cloves and/or ginger, and heat to a simmer. In a small measuring cup or bowl, stir the cornstarch, lemon juice and remaining wine together to smooth out the lumps. When the fruit has simmered enough to soften slightly (about 5 minutes), stir in the cornstarch mixture and return to a simmer. Cook until thickened slightly and the liquid has turned from cloudy to clear. Remove from heat and cool.
Move the mixture to small glass jars or to one large storage container. Keep chilled. The compote will keep for 3-4 weeks.