Fruitful summer desserts

Fruit plate 
(Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Fruit plate (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Summer is here — and among the bountiful produce are fresh summer fruits. The earliest of these are strawberries, followed by cherries, peaches and raspberries. Blueberries will come soon; a bit later, melons and many plum varieties. Fall will bring grapes, blackberries, apples and pears.

Fresh fruit is a burst of flavor all on its own. Mark Twain described juicy watermelon as the food of angels. It is hard to improve on the taste of just-picked berries or a fresh, ripe peach that drips down your chin. And fruit is convenient — often touted as “nature’s fast food.” Just eat!

Eating fruit can help you lose weight because fruit contains lots of hydrating water and satiating fiber, and takes longer to digest. Calorie for calorie, fruits are very satiating. Although they contain some sugar, their natural, unrefined sweetness is much better for you than candy. Replace junk food with fruit, and you will lose weight.

Fresh summer fruits are chuck full of vitamins and other important nutrients. They provide dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C and folate (folic acid) important to health. They also have a plethora of important antioxidants and phytochemicals. Most are low in calories, and all are fat free.

Pies and tarts, buckles, cobblers and crisps, muffins or breads, cheesecake or puddings are all a great way to turn your fruit into a fabulous dessert. There are also many cool, fruity desserts that are simple, elegant, tasty and don’t require baking or an ice cream machine.

Fruit crisp
(Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Fruit crisp (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Mixed fruit with a little sweetening and some coconut thrown in makes an ambrosia. A fruit parfait (American) consists of fruit layered with ice cream or yogurt and is often topped with nuts and whipped cream. This is different from a French parfait, which is a frozen custard dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, whipped cream and a flavoring, such as pureed fruit. Both types of parfait are usually served in tall, narrow, footed “parfait glasses.” A fool is a popular British dessert made with stewed or pureed fruit that is mixed with whipped cream or custard just enough to marble and served chilled. They are sometimes sprinkled with chopped nuts. Other possibilities are sherbet smoothies or frozen pops.

Chilled fruit soups are common in Scandanavian, Baltic and Eastern European cuisines. A great way to cool off on a hot summer day, they can be served as an appetizer or a dessert. Crepes or galettes with cheese and berries can also be a meal or a dessert. For a simple summer treat, try a fresh fruit platter with yogurt, top berries with whipped cream or ice cream, or combine your favorite fruit into a salad.

For a no-fuss dessert set up an ice cream buffet. Provide bowls and cones for your guests. Have available several high-quality ice creams. Place chopped fruit, cherries, fresh-picked berries, nuts, chocolate chips, crumbled cookies, chopped candy bars, whipped cream and toppings like hot fudge, butterscotch and caramel in attractive bowls for an elegant look; then let everyone make his or her own.

Whether elaborate or simple, summer fruit desserts are delicious, healthy treats. Whatever you make, always use the best, freshest fruit you can find.

Mixed Fruit Crisp

Ingredients:

5 cups fruit or berries

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup rolled oats

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter 9-by-9-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, toss berries or sliced fruit with lemon juice. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, if desired. Toss to coat, and place in prepared baking dish.

For the topping, combine the flours, baking powder, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cheddar cheese in a food processor. Using the steel blade, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in rolled oats. Sprinkle topping over fruit in baking dish.

Lower heat to 375 degrees F and bake 30 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Mixed Fruit Parfait

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of fruit (use 2 or 3 kinds of fruit/berries, like melon cubes, peaches or plums, berries)

1 1/2 cup frozen yogurt or vanilla ice cream

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

3/4 cup whipped cream

Directions:

Prepare fruit (cut in cubes or wedges, remove pits or seeds). In each of three parfait glasses or wine glasses place 1/3 cup fruit. Top with 1/4 cup frozen yogurt and about 1/3 cup or the second fruit. Then top with another 1/4 cup yogurt, then 1/3 cup of fruit or berries. Finish with another layer of yogurt, chopped walnuts and whipped cream. Makes 3 servings.

Note: You may have to adjust the layers depending on the size of your glasses.

Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh and Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at “http://www.wordsaremyworld.com”>www.wordsaremyworld.com, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as “Author Yvona Fast.”

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