Fruit Extremes

Sweet, fresh fruit is one of summer’s simple pleasures. But taking it to the extremes of hot or cold can give you a host of new ways to enjoy it.

One genius aspect of fresh fruit is how beautifully it takes to both heating and freezing. The former enhances and deepens a fruit’s natural deliciousness, and the latter preserves its flavors for later use. We asked Dan Kish, head chef of Panera Bread®, how best to grill or freeze fruit – and what to do with it next.

Heat It Up

“Grilling fruit is a simple, uncomplicated approach to maximizing flavor,” says Dan, who recommends brushing the fruit’s flesh with a small amount of olive oil before placing it over the fire. “The trick is to sear the fruit and release its natural sugar and flavor, then remove it from the flame before it breaks down.” Make sure the fruit you select is thick and sturdy enough to stand up to the heat, says Dan. Think: pineapple slabs or halved stone fruit, like peaches and nectarines. Once grilled, enjoy your fruit drizzled with yogurt; in a fruit salsa to top fish, chicken, pork, or steak; on top of vanilla ice cream; or as part of a fruit-based barbecue sauce.

More grilling tips:

· Skip fruit that is overripe; it will break down too quickly.

· Dress your fruit at the right time. You don't need to season or marinate fruit going on the grill, but you can add dressings,     drizzle on honey, or sprinkle it with a finishing salt before serving.

· Add more complex woodsy flavors to fruit by grilling over an apple- or cherrywood fire.

Chill Out

Tossing a plastic bag filled with strawberries or other fresh fruit into the freezer is not the only way to preserve summer’s bounty to enjoy later. In fact, there are a number of delicious ways to turn frozen fruit into frozen fun. “If you puree fresh fruit before you freeze it, you can make an icy granita,” says Dan. This is an Italian semifrozen dessert made from sugar, water, and a variety of flavorings. 

Try Watermelon Granita: Puree 6 cups of seedless watermelon chunks in a blender or food processor. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, and ½ cup of ginger ale; process for a few seconds to combine the ingredients. Pour the mixture into an 8-by-8-inch metal pan, cover it with plastic wrap, and freeze for 1 hour. After the first hour, remove the pan from the freezer every 30 minutes and stir the granita with a fork, breaking up the ice chunks until the mixture is evenly icy and granular, about 2½ hours more.

More fruit-freezing tips:

· Add pureed frozen fruit to homemade ice cream or sorbet.

· Flash-freeze fresh fruit by placing sliced or diced pieces in a single layer on a jelly roll pan. This will preserve the fruit's color and integrity. Once frozen, fruit can be stored in freezer bags or containers.

· Use frozen fruit in place of ice cubes in a smoothie.

· Freeze fresh berries or chunks of fruit in ice-cube trays and add them to iced tea, lemonade, or summer cocktails.