I wanted something easy and delicious to go with the catfish Mark smoked tonight, something that would offer a sweet and light, yet hearty contrast. After discussion on the order of “well, we haven’t had fruit today” (Sundays are hockey days — we have a tiny breakfast and then go out for lunch), I poked in the fridge and came up with the following. This is just a variant on a basic roasted fruit recipe. It’s very very easy, and you can throw it together with what you have. I’m in here using specialty oils and sugar and all that nonsense, but you really don’t need to unless you want to.

Hazelnut-Roasted Fruit

Serves 2. Active time: 10 minutes. Total time: 30-40 minutes

  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1 pear, diced
  • 2 tsp hazelnut oil
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the diced apple and pear in a broiler-safe pan, such as a rimmed cookie sheet, or even the bottom piece of your broiler pan. Drizzle the oil over them and toss to coat. Sprinkle with nutmeg and toss again. Spread the fruit evenly in the pan.

Roast the fruit for 10 minutes. Pull it out, stir it up, spread the fruit out evenly again, and roast again for another 10 minutes, or until it’s the tenderness you like.

Pull the fruit out, and set the oven to broil. While it’s heating up, sprinkle the vanilla sugar over the fruit. Pop the fruit under the broiler and broil until the sugar is melted, about five minutes. You can let it cook a touch longer, for a more caramel effect, just keep an eye on it and don’t let the fruit burn.

This is good hot, warm, and cold! Delicious as a side dish for smoked meats or just about any kind of pork, good as a filling for crepes or a topping for pancakes or sundaes.

Hazelnut-Roasted Fruit

Of course, a recipe like this lends itself to infinite variations. No hazelnut oil? Use any kind of nut oil, or melted butter, or just canola oil. For a more savory version, you could even use melted bacon drippings. Not a fan of nutmeg? Cinnamon, ginger, and thyme all make terrific substitutes. Vanilla sugar’s a snap to make (the recipe’s below), but you could always use plain white sugar, brown sugar, or drizzle a little honey on the fruit instead.

Optionally, you could add some toasted nuts to the mixture when it’s done. I didn’t have any hazelnuts in the house today, but they’d have been a fantastic addition, with their crunchy toastiness contrasting with the sweet softness of the fruit.

Vanilla Sugar

  • 1 vanilla bean (preferably already used)
  • sugar (I use the evaporated cane juice kind)

Vanilla beans are so expensive, I try to get every last bit of usefulness out of them. What I do for this is actually pull the vanilla pod out of my used-up bottles of vanilla extract. Penzey’s always includes half a vanilla bean in their vanilla extract bottles. I dry it out for a day or two, then place it in a lidded jar and cover it with sugar. Wait a week, and poof, you have vanilla sugar, which is good in just about everything — roasted fruit, fruit salads, cinnamon toast, cereal, cookies, anywhere a hint of sweet and vanilla is good.

You can do this with a fresh vanilla pod, too. Scrape out the seeds and use those for making cookies (your friends and family will be shocked at how much good vanilla flavor your cookies have), then put the scraped-out pod in the jar with sugar. It’s super-easy, keeps forever, and makes a great gift.