Cooking With Juices & Nectars

By Nancy Berkoff

High-fat sauces and ingredients are oh-so-tempting, especially during cold weather. When the weather gets warmer, refreshing, colorful sauces and ingredients can be a better fit. Coulis (say, “coo- leigh”) are a chef’s secret for producing savory and sweet, colorful, low-fat sauces with fruit and vegetable juices. A coulis is a puree of fruit or vegetable, served hot or cold.

For example, frozen strawberries can be partially thawed and pureed. Voila! A deep red strawberry sauce. Additions can include nectars, orange juice concentrate or orange zest. Prepare a combined fruit-flavored coulis by blending ripe kiwi, ripe bananas or lemonade concentrate with the strawberries.

Fruit coulis can turn a plain piece of cake into an exciting, moist dessert. Pour a small amount of strawberry coulis on a dessert plate. Place cubes of cake on top of the coulis and top with a crushed pineapple garnish. Serve strawberry coulis with canned, frozen or fresh peaches or apricots, a kiwi-strawberry coulis with pineapple or pears or a pear-cranberry coulis with baked apples. Create combinations of peach or mango nectar, canned pears and bananas or cranberry juice, canned peaches and pears or canned pineapple and ripe bananas. Fruit coulis can be made several hours ahead of time and kept refrigerated until ready to use.

A shortcut fruit coulis can be made by thickening canned fruit nectar with a cornstarch paste, made with equal parts of warm water and cornstarch. Whisk the nectar and the cornstarch paste until thickened. If you have extra nectar, whisk together the nectar, cornstarch pastes and some minced fruit to create a fruit dipping sauce.

Vegetable coulis can be made with ripe, uncooked vegetables or cooked vegetables. Overripe tomatoes can be pureed in a blender or food processor and served as a hot or cold sauce. Puree fresh tomatoes with a small amount of tomato juice, mango nectar, carrot juice or vegetable cocktail. Serve as a refreshing salad dressing or as a cold sauce for chilled pasta or cooked, chilled potatoes. Combine tomato coulis with a small amount of vegan yogurt for a creamy salad dressing, used to top salads or to toss with pasta or salads. Remaining portions of tomato coulis can be used as an ingredient in vegetable or bean soups, in stews or as part of the cooking liquid for vegetables to add flavor and color.

Orange juice is a great eye-opener as a morning beverage. But it is so much more versatile than that. Not just for sweet dishes, use orange juice, as well as grapefruit juice, to marinate mushrooms, seitan, tofu or unflavored vegan meats. Allow to marinate in a combination of citrus juices and spices for at least two hours before baking, roasting, grilling or broiling. Popular seasoning additions are dried or fresh rosemary, basil and parsley, dried cumin or curry powder, garlic or onion pepper and white or black pepper.

Orange or grapefruit juice can be used as part of the cooking liquid for stronger tasting vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts to reduce the assertive cabbage taste. Vegetables served uncooked or cold, such as broccoli florets, carrots, asparagus spears and green salads benefit from oil and vinegar combinations with a hint of orange juice or grapefruit juice concentrate.

In addition to color, tomato juice adds flavor and Vitamin C to menu items. Use tomato juice when reconstituting canned vegetables, bean soups or vegetable chowders. Tomato juice can be added to simmering sauces and soups for extra flavor and color. Even tomato soup can benefit from a dash of tomato juice.

Tomato juice and vegetable juice cocktail can be the main ingredients for fast soups.

During hot months, think about cold juice- or nectar-based soups. Create a watermelon-gazpacho, using tomato juice, ripe tomatoes, ripe, cubed watermelon, fresh cilantro, diced onions and mango nectar. A traditional Florida citrus soup is composed of sections of fresh pink grapefruit, oranges and lemons. The sections are arranged around the top of a bowl, with the juices caught in the bottom of bowl. Flavored with mint, this was a favorite hot weather dessert “soup” or an everyday breakfast “soup.” The original fresh fruit bar at Disney World featured a large bowl of cold fruit soup, including watermelon soup, made by pureeing ripe watermelon with citrus juices and some “secret” seasonings. Most probably lime juice and mint.

With numerous years in health care and education, Nancy Berkoff, RD, CCE, would love for readers to ask food and nutrition-related questions: foodprof2@gmail.com.

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