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On Food: Summer fruit takes center stage, gives a sweet, seasonal kick to a host of savory dishes

On Food: Summer fruit takes center stage, gives a sweet, seasonal kick to a host of savory dishes

Each summer, the harvest of rich fruits like berries, peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots brightens menus. Though many of these fruits are sold all year, summer is when they need not be shipped from another coast or hemisphere and can be put on the plate in a state of succulent, fragrant ripeness.

While fresh fruit continues to glorify many dessert menus, chefs increasingly are using them in savory combinations.

In some instances, such as in the foie gras terrine with strawberries at E.U., or the foie gras with local gooseberries at Wallsé, both in New York, the fruit is a natural accompaniment. Foie gras often comes balanced with a tart fruit component. Most of the time, however, the fruit is showing up in novel yet delightful ways.

This trend is at its most pervasive at the new Park Avenue Summer in New York, the seasonal makeover of Park Avenue Cafe. There the fluke sashimi is garnished with plums and cilantro, a toss of green and yellow summer beans is seasoned with a vinaigrette made with slivers of apricot, and Maine sea scallops are served with peaches and almond granola. Barbecued cherries grace the fire-roasted lamb chops, and filet mignon is prepared with raspberries, steak sauce, butter and arugula. Finally, the soft shell crab comes with avocado, strawberries, passion fruit and white soy. It will be interesting to see whether, come autumn, fruits like apples, pears and pomegranates will be offered equally starring savory roles.

Watermelon is especially popular this season. At Gonzo in New York, chunks of watermelon provide an unusual component on a pizza that also is made with tomatoes, prosciutto, arugula and two cheeses. At Indebleu in Washington, D.C., watermelon is tossed with salad greens, spiced cashews and candied ginger.

The new Centro Vinoteca in New York pairs watermelon with grilled sea scallops, adding watermelon rind pickle, dandelion greens and—for a bit of a pun on the plate—watermelon radishes. Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton, N.Y., combines it with feta cheese and olives for a first course salad. The restaurant also includes roasted fresh local peaches with the roast chicken.

Peaches are used with peppered quail and corn at Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian Resort in Disney World. Pickled cherries garnish quail with a frisée and hazelnut salad in a muscatel vinegar reduction at Il Buco in New York. Cherries poached in balsamic vinegar are included in a radicchio salad with Parmigiano-Reggiano and a bacon vinaigrette at Bin 8945 in West Hollywood, Calif., where a wild huckleberry sauce glazes the grilled venison flank steak.

Mantra in Palo Alto, Calif., tosses strawberries in the mâche salad with feta cheese, spiced walnuts and a cayenne-strawberry vinaigrette. At this operation, Granny Smith apple and a mango terrine come with the fennel-pea soup.

A slow-roasted pork shoulder with creamy polenta at Palmetto in San Francisco has figs mixed with a salad of haricots verts. Figs also show up in a stuffing, with spinach, in a tandoori chicken at the new Purnima in Manhattan. And they are combined with a turnip and potato purée with the lavender-glazed squab at North Fork Table & Inn in Southold, N.Y.

At Monteverde at Oldstone Manor in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., the garden salad combines fruits, vegetables, herbs and pickled chanterelles, depending on what the market has to offer.

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