I love the summer season in Canada because local fruit is at its prime and available everywhere, from supermarkets to local farmers markets and roadside stalls. Buying a basket of peaches and a pint of freshly picked raspberries from a small stand off the busy freeway reminds me of fond memories spending the summer weekends at my family’s boat. The taste of that fruit to me as a kid was better than candy and, to this day, a fruit stand off the road is a necessary pit stop on any trip.
The fruit we produce in Canada is exceptional due to our fruit-friendly climate. The peaches that are grown in the Niagara region are sweet and bursting with juices; apricots and cherries from the Okanagan are tangy little wonders of nature; and pears and apples from across the country are consistently flavourful too. The great thing about fruit is its versatility; you can eat it as is, but often it’s even better cooked or grilled.
Fruit is one of my favourite ingredients to cook with because it adds natural sweetness and texture to any dish, and it makes quick and easy side dishes, sauces, or desserts. There are many ways to cook fruit, but grilling fruit is especially easy and my favourite way to prepare it.
Fruit is made up of water and sugar and when it’s grilled, the flavours are concentrated by caramelizing the natural sugars. Hard fruits like apples, pears and pineapples are the easiest to grill since they hold their shape and texture while cooking. Softer fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums take less time to cook and are personally my favourites on the grill because their sweet flesh flavor becomes magnified.
Here are some of my favourite ways to incorporate grilled fruit into a light summer meal:
Fruit and salad greens (especially greens that are bitter and peppery) pair perfectly together. Baby arugula is my favourite salad green due to its complexity and versatility. Simple grilled peaches perfectly balance arugula’s spicy notes. Treviso, radicchio and endive also work great with grilled fruit. For a simple, yet satisfying salad, grill some peaches and add them to a salad of arugula, goat cheese, nuts and balsamic dressing. Or, grill some cantaloupe and serve it with prosciutto and Parmigiano. These dishes make great starters on any summer evening:
- Arugula, Peaches, Blue Cheese & Walnut Salad
- Break Away Pear and Fennel Salad
- Pineapple Chicken Salad
- Grilled Apple and Fennel Salad
- Grilled Pineapple Salad
Adding grilled fruit to a main course is simple because fruit works well with many different proteins. Some of the best combinations are pork and grilled apricots, salmon and a grilled pineapple salsa, or a nice grilled rib-eye steak with charred tomato — remember tomato is a fruit too! You can even use the fruit as a beautiful side dish like grilled peppers and nectarines with feta cheese and mint.
- Grilled Chicken with Peaches and Fennel
- Fresh Grilled Trout with Roasted Peaches
- Grilled Chicken Breast on Focaccia with Grilled Apples and Cambozola Cheese
- Grilled Apple Pizza
Using a grill to make a dessert is quick, easy and sometimes a healthier option. Pineapple is a great dessert choice and it’s one of the best fruits to grill because of its sugar content. When it caramelizes it becomes exceptionally sweet and delicious. Before grilling pineapple, mix some rum, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together and marinate the pineapple pieces in the mixture for about an hour. Then simply grill and serve. Try topping it off with some vanilla ice cream and local berries for a simple yet satisfying dessert.
- Grilled Tropical Fruit with Coconut Sauce
- Grilled Peach Shortcakes with Sweet Ricotta Cream, Truffle Honey and Huckleberries
- Peach Melba
Chef Andrea Nicholson is the owner of Killer Condiments and was a contestant on season one of Top Chef Canada. Supporting sustainability purveyors, Canadian farmers and Ocean Wise is the central tenet behind her cuisine.