• Yield: Serves 4

Ripe fruit gently cooked with a small amount of sugar and a little water releases its juices and melts slightly. A vanilla bean amplifies the fruit's own sweetness and perfume. The effect is like a pie filling and has many uses, both as filling and as sauce. The fruit is delicious served warm, with or without a small scoop of ice cream or a tablespoon of crème fraîche. It can be spooned into a wide shallow bowl and topped with a baked pastry "lid" or used as a rustic sauce for Roasted Fruit and plain cakes.

This method works wonderfully for many kinds of fruits, including pears, apples, peaches, nectarines, mangoes, plums, cherries, and berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

  • 3 cups fresh fruit (peeled, pitted, and/or sliced 1/2 inch thick, as appropriate), singly or in combination, such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, or plums

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1 to 4 tablespoons sugar, honey, or maple syrup (depending on the sweetness of the fruit)

  • 1 vanilla bean

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 to 3 teaspoons eau-de-vie, such as kirsch, framboise, or Poire William (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the fruit, water, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. With a thin sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half. Scrape out the seeds and add the seeds and bean to the pan. Cover and cook over moderate heat until the fruit releases its juices, 2 to 4 minutes.

2. Taste the fruit for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Stir in the lemon juice. Uncover and cook over high heat until the fruit is tender and the juices are syrupy, about 2 minutes longer. Discard the vanilla bean and stir in the eau-de-vie, if desired. Serve warm.

Adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider (Artisan 2001).