BY JUDY ZEIDLER
Whether you are taking a picnic to the beach, a local park or the Hollywood Bowl, desserts made from fresh fruits — peaches, apricots, plums, cherries and all kinds of berries — are a refreshing complement to your summer menu.
One of the places to find the best summer fruit is at an open-air farmers market. I love standing in the middle of a crowd of shoppers at our local farmers market trying to decide between buying nectarines or a box of ripe figs to complement a family meal.
A selection of fruit can be turned into a simple salad; in Italy, this is referred to as Macedonia. There is no recipe necessary — just cut up your favorite fruits and add whole or sliced berries. Although the fruit makes its own juices, the secret to creating a great fruit salad is the addition of sugar syrup, and maybe a small amount of orange juice.
Another easy fruit dessert that needs no recipe is simply cutting a ripe cantaloupe in half, scooping out the seeds, and filling it with a sweet wine; Port is a perfect addition.
A little more time consuming, but worth the effort, is a Raspberry Crostata, bursting with fragrant juices (if peaches or plums are your favorite, then by all means replace the raspberries with either).
If working with pastry is not your favorite thing, then the Fresh Peach Crisp is a perfect dessert. The combination of sweet, soft, juicy fruit with a crunchy, buttery brown sugar toping is irresistible.
Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake is a crowd favorite, and you can experiment with the different varieties of strawberry available. If your family likes fresh blueberries, add a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream to Blueberry-Buttermilk Coffee Cake for a special treat.
And if you have never made gelato (ice cream), you are going to love Strawberry Gelato. Although you can use an electric ice cream machine, the hand-crank kind is more fun; just add ice and salt and have all the children take turns until it is ready.
OLD-FASHIONED STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
Buy strawberries just before you want to eat them; store the berries on your kitchen counter or a cool place, and give them a quick rinse just before eating. When shopping for strawberries, try to taste when you can, and discover your own favorite varieties. Very red berries tend to be the sweetest.
3 pints fresh strawberries
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
1 egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup milk
2 cups whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Grease and flour one 8-inch round cake pan.
Slice strawberries and toss them with 1/2 cup sugar. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, baking powder, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt and butter or margarine. Blend until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
In a medium bowl, combine the egg and milk and blend. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined.
Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool partially in pan on wire rack.
Slice in half, making two layers. Place half of the strawberries on one layer and top with the second layer. Top second layer with remaining strawberries and cover with the whipped cream.
Makes 8 servings.
FRESH RASPBERRY CROSTATA
Bake the crostata until it is golden brown and it will stay crisp for breakfast the next day.
1 1/2 cups flour
5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons ice water
2 cups fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon toasted sliced almonds
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
In the bowl of a food processor, using the knife blade, blend flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, lemon zest and salt. Add the butter or margarine and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add ice water bit by bit, pulsing until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, or freeze for later use.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out the dough on a large sheet of floured wax paper to 11 inches round. Place a sheet of wax paper over the pastry, fold in half and carefully transfer to a silicon- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Toss raspberries in 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Leaving a 1 1/2-inch border all around, cover the dough with the raspberries, stem ends down. Starting in the center, work your way toward the outside in concentric circles. Most of the berries will fit on the shell in one layer; mound any extra berries in the center. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Raise the dough border to enclose the sides of the tart, letting it drape gently over the fruit, pleating the crust loosely and pinching to seal any cracks in the dough.
Bake the crostata until crust is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Put the baking sheet on a rack to cool for 10 minutes, slide a metal spatula under the crust to free the crostata. Cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle with almonds and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Transfer to a platter and serve.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
FRESH PEACH CRISP
10 to 12 peaches, washed, pitted, cut in wedges
1/2 cup sugar (adjust to sweetness of fruit)
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
2 sticks unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
Preheat oven to 350 F and butter a 12×8-inch or 13×9-inch baking dish.
To prepare Filling: In a large bowl, toss sliced peaches with sugar and flour. Spoon into prepared baking dish, smoothing top.
To prepare Streusel: In the large bowl of an electric mixer or food processor, combine flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, salt and oatmeal. Add butter and blend until butter is in pea-size pieces. Mixture will be lumpy. Scatter on top of filling.
Bake for 1 hour or until crisp is browned and bubbly. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup ground walnuts
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 to 1 1/2 cups blueberries tossed with 1 tablespoon flour
Streusel Topping (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush an angel food cake pan with the 1/4 cup melted butter and dust with ground walnuts.
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the large bowl of electric mixer, beat sugar with the 10 tablespoons butter until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
Beat in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until batter is smooth, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Fold in 1/2 cup blueberries.
Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with remaining blueberries. Sprinkle with 1/2 to 1 cup of Streusel Topping (freeze remaining streusel for next time).
Bake coffee cake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 1 hour to serve warm; cool completely to serve later.
Makes 12 servings.
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, cut in pieces
In the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor, combine brown sugar, flour, walnuts and butter. Blend until crumbly. Refrigerate until ready to use.
4 pints strawberries, hulled
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Ice Cream Base
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
To prepare Compote: In 2-quart nonreactive saucepan, combine strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, about 30 to 40 minutes, skimming off foam that forms on top. Lower heat and cook until compote thickens, 15 minutes longer. Set aside.
To prepare Ice Cream Base: In a large saucepan, bring to a boil the cream, milk and vanilla bean with its scrapings. In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk the cream mixture into the yolks and return to saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Strain quickly into a clean bowl and stir in the reserved compote. Chill over ice cubes and water.
Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Spoon into chilled containers, cover and place in freezer. If ice cream is frozen overnight, remove from freezer to refrigerator about 1 hour before serving.
To serve, place 1 or 2 scoops in a chilled bowl. Serve with sliced strawberries.
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts.