A comforting thing to know about dried fruit:
If, like me, you live five miles from the nearest market, you'll be glad to know that dried fruit lasts forever in the pantry. Well, okay, not really forever, but for a whole lot longer than fresh fruit. Did you ever wonder why? The organisms that make food spoil need water to survive. Eliminate the moisture, and you cut off their lifeline. Unless you dry fruit yourself (a dehydrator is the safest way), and know that what you have is 100 percent fruit, be sure to read the package labels before you buy. Some dried fruit has added sugar and sulphur (which, believe me, has a very rooty-toot-toot side effect).
Cooking or baking?
Both. The combination of dried fruit and meat defines North African tagines and stews. Without dried fruit, there might be no chutney. And an oatmeal-raisin cookie without raisins? Unthinkable.
Dried fruit will keep, in or out of the refrigerator, for six months if stored in a dry, airtight container. You can freeze dried fruit, too, for a year or more.
Sugar-free apple crisp
My friend Bev, who is famous for her deviled eggs, also makes a mean apple crisp. She adapted this one from the original Moosewood Cookbook. As good as it was for dessert, topped with sugar-free vanilla ice cream, it was even better for breakfast the next morning. Substitute any dried fruit for the cranberries. Serves 8.
8-10 (mix of apples), cored and cut into chunks
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or raisins, or dried cherries, blueberries or apricots)
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Splenda® (or honey)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup orange juice
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with PAM or another nonstick spray.
Place the apples in a bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice. Mix thoroughly, then spread half in the casserole dish.
Melt the butter in the microwave (30-60 seconds), then add it to a mixing bowl with the nuts, seeds, cranberries, oats, flour, Splenda, spices and salt. Spread half of the mixture on top of the apples. Cover with the remaining apples, then the remaining oats mixture. Pour the orange juice over the top.
Bake 40-45 minutes, uncovered. Serve warm; can be refrigerated and reheated.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Sweet potato, lentil and raisin stew
Couscous with orange and dried fruit
Dried cranberry and pear chutney
Tagine of lamb with apricots
Nectarine and white peach crisp
Currant cardamom scones
Other recipes that use dried fruit:
Chocolate cherry brownies, from 101 Cookbooks
Streuseled sweet potatoes with dried fruit, from Noble Pig
Gluten-free stuffing with dried fruit, from Gluten-Free Bay
Fruitcake bars (friendship bars), from David Lebovitz
Oatmeal cookies with dried apricots and white chocolate, from The Bitten Word
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