It’s best to make purées just before service, to
avoid loss of color, says Bob Burcenski, chef/
owner of Tallgrass Restaurant in Lockport,
Ill. But if you are making it in the morning, he
suggests adding a bit of lemon juice to help
hold the color throughout the day.
Bolder, more interesting flavor is another
produce purée goal, which can be helped
by combining flavors. For Burcenski, fresh
mint and strawberry combine well in a
purée as a Napoleon layer alternated with
laced white chocolate.
syrup to use with cheese, shellfish or crab
cakes, as well as with desserts as a plate
garnish. Basil, arugula, mint and parsley are
some of his choice herbs for purées.
A purée with blackberries gives depth to the blackberry barbecue sauce at The Ritz-Carlton
Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro, Ga.
Valley, LLC, Napa, Calif. He believes that
the outstanding, consistent, unique purées
that are more recently available have
inspired chefs to experiment and make
For a panna cotta flavor twist, he combines
sweet red pepper purée and low-fat almond
milk, using the panna cotta as a base
on which to lay a cold salad of cooked
asparagus, feta cheese, hazelnuts and fresh
chives puréed with extra virgin olive oil.
On the savory side, chef/consultant
Charles Mereday of Indianapolis makes
herb purées, and for body, adds hot water
and boiled, peeled Idaho potato slices. The
potato slices have no flavor, so the puréed
combination allows the herb, such as basil
or cilantro, to shine.
Martin, for his Caribbean pink guava ketchup
and prickly pear mustard, purchases the fruit
purée from The Perfect Purée. The reasons
for buying it versus making it are obvious.
“With pink guava, by the time I cook it and
make purée, it might cost me triple,” he says.
“It’s not cost-effective to do it myself.”
The combination of potatoes and celery
root creates an unexpected dimension
to potato purée. It’s a combo Burcenski
likes to use as a base on which to set wild
fish or organic braised short ribs. “You get
the quality of potato purée, but it’s not as
high in sugars. You cut it over half with
celery root, which is very low in sugar,” he
says. “Plus, celery is a nice clean taste. It
enhances the clean taste of a fish.”
Another flavor standout to Mereday is Meyer
lemon purée whisked into beurre blanc
sauce to accompany fish and brighten it with
a citrus finish.
Mango and raspberry are the two most
popular purées purchased from The Perfect
Purée, says owner/president Tracy Hayward,
who founded the company in 1988. She also
notes that ginger, passion fruit, blood orange
and caramelized pineapple purées have
developed a strong following.
Martin finds a purée winner in the
combination of roasted peaches and
plums. He adds cinnamon, lime juice and
honey or agave and serves it with mango/
With pizza, guests would expect a base of
tomato sauce or marinara. But Mereday
gives pizza a twist with roasted red pepper
purée rather than tomato sauce at his
restaurant, Eagle Creek Pizza, Indianapolis.
He uses it with vegetarian pizza that features
goat cheese, vegetables, olives and basil.
“We source our own fruit from growers
around the world and with whom we have
had longstanding relationships,” she says,
adding that the fruits are harvested at the
peak of season, puréed and packed frozen.
The company uses a HACCP-certified co-packer to manufacture the purées.
In some cases, herbs are the purée winners.
Medure likes to purée herbs with a simple
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While Mereday makes his own roasted red
pepper purée most of the time, sometimes
the peppers are not in season or are not
at their flavor peak. In that case, he buys
the purée from The Perfect Purée of Napa
While Hayward notes that chefs use the
purées for marinades, dips, sauces, ice