Introducing: Compoté

Last Saturday, we tabled at the Strawberry Festival at Saunderskill Farm in Accord. It was a lovely event, attended by lots of local folks and an inordinate number of tiny girls in adorable red gingham strawberry-picking outfits. Pam Kray and I were giving out tastes of strawberry-rhubarb compote, from the recipe in the Stick to Local Farms Cookbook and during a slow stretch, we mused about the world "compote." Such an old-fashioned, yucky-sounding term for a delicious melange of silky, aromatic fruit, "compote" brings to mind both compost and commode. It's kind of like that other old phrase "toilet water"--it connotes it's opposite. We tried to come up with an alternative but we got nowhere: "slurp," "glop" and "mush" were just as bad. Later that evening I posed the question to Risa Mickenberg, a pal that has a spectacular way with words. It didn't take her even a second to come up with a new word that I plan to use forevermore: "compoté." It's changed by just an accent, but what a difference: Strawberry Rhubarb Compoté--oh-la-la! Doesn't that sound good? Here's the master recipe:

Warm Fruit Compoté

½ cup sugar or maple syrup, more or less, to taste
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups of any fruit or berry: rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, currants, raspberries, blueberries or other fruit, peeled, hulled, picked over, washed and dried, if necessary
½ teaspoon cinnamon, if desired
Sour cream, créme fraîche, yogurt or whipped cream
In a saucepan, heat butter and maple syrup or sugar, plus, if using sugar, ½ cup water. Stir until the mixture is thick and syrupy but not browned.
Add the fruit and optional cinnamon and cook over low heat until the fruit begins to break down and release its juices, about 2 minutes (some fruits will require a little more water some less).
Serve topped with a dollop of creamy dairy and maybe some shortbread cookies.
2 to 4 servings