Pretty Up Your Lunch!

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In search of local fruit for my catering events this winter, I went to the farmer’s market expecting the same old apples and pears. Well, I did find apples and pears, but in addition to the regular large varieties, I found these beautiful miniature versions with delicious flavor and natural sweetness. Since then, these tiny beauties, Lady apples and Seckel pears, have been adorning everything from my lunch plate to gift baskets, and they’re a big hit.

The taste of Lady apples reminds me of pears, and Seckel pears taste just like large Bosc or D’Anjou pears, sweet and tender. They seem to be widely available. I first bought them at the farmer’s market, but now I’ve noticed them at the supermarket, too. Surprisingly, last weekend when I taught a seasonal cooking workshop at Terrain, the new garden store opened by Urban Outfitters near Philadelphia, the store’s staff told me that both the tiny pears and apples are a favorite element of their winter flower arrangements.

Small fruits are great because you don’t have to commit to a whole, large fruit. I notice when people receive a gift basket filled with huge, juicy fruit, no one can ever finish them. Especially kids. Here’s a confession: when I was little, my mother used to pack an apple in my lunch bag every day, and I’m ashamed of this now, but every day I would walk straight to the trash and throw it away. I just couldn’t imagine eating the whole thing. I bet if I had had these three-bite-sized cuties to choose from, I wouldn’t have been so terribly wasteful.

If you’re new to these tasty little treasures, here are a few ideas for using Lady apples and Seckel pears:

  • Put them in your kid’s lunchbox.
  • Instead of serving fruit salad, put out a bowl of these. Preparation and clean-up will be easier, and if there are leftovers, you can just put them back in the fridge (instead of throwing them away, as you might do with old fruit salad).
  • Use them to fill in the gaps in an edible gift basket of cheeses and jams.
  • Beautify a cheese platter with a few of these strategically placed around the edges and in the center.
  • Bring a few of these and some nuts to work as a healthy snack.
  • Make breakfast into “brunch” by garnishing a plate of eggs or pancakes with a few of these.
  • Add a seasonal touch to a flower arrangement. This is especially pretty if you can find the pears and apples with their leaves still attached.

Originally posted on Rachaelray.com on January 20, 2010.

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