NEW USES FOR A MELON BALLER
It might sound like a one-trick tool, but a melon baller is a multi-purpose kitchen staple. It's great for scooping out melons but it's also perfect for pitting plums or nectarines because it can remove the pit and fibrous flesh around it in one simple step. Plus, the tool neatly scrapes out seeds from cucumbers and tomatoes.
Although many markets carry raspberries year-round, you will find the most flavorful ones in late spring and summer, depending on the region. Delicious eaten on their own, raspberries are also perfect sprinkled over yogurt or cereal, or added to desserts, especially when paired with chocolate and cream. Add them to muffins and cake batters, make jam, or puree them with a little sugar, strain, and spoon over gelato or ice cream.
MORE RASPBERRY IDEAS
Spread whole-grain toast with fresh ricotta or goat cheese. Gently smash a few raspberries with a fork and place on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with a chopped mint leaf.
In a blender, combine 1-1/2 cups fresh raspberries, 1 peeled and segmented orange, 1/2 cup plain yougurt, and 1/2 cup cranberry or pomegranate juice. Puree until smooth; sweeten with honey, if desired.
Mixed Fruit Salad
Mascarpone and Peaches
4 large ripe peaches
1/3 cup amaretto or orange-flavored liqueur
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8 ounces mascarpone
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crushed amaretti cookies (about 8)
1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
Bring a saucepan 3/4 full of water to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, add one peach at a time into the water. Cook for 30 seconds. Lift out and put into a bowl of cold water. Using a knife, peel off the skins. Halve, pit, and cut into thin wedges. Place the peaches in a bowl, add the liqueur and lemon juice, and toss to coat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the mascarpone cheese and sugar until well blended.
In a separate bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the cream into the mascarpone. Spoon half of the cream mixture into stemmed glasses, dividing evenly. Top with the peaches and then the amaretti, again dividing evenly. Spoon on the remaining cream mixture. Cover and chill. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds before serving.
Figs with Chocolate and Almonds
(Makes 12 stuffed figs)
3/4 cup finely chopped, unpeeled almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons dark rum
12 fresh figs
Place the almonds, chocolate, and sugar in a bowl. Stir to combine. Add the rum and stir until the mixture holds together. Add a few more drops of rum if needed to form a rough-textured paste.
Trim the stems off the figs. Starting at the stem end, cut the figs 3/4 of the way down, making 2 cuts in the form of a cross. Pinch the bottom of the fig to open it like a flower. Gently stuff the almond mixture into the center of each fig. Press the fig together to reshape it. Arrange on a platter and serve.
Strawberries in White Wine
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons sugar
2 lemon zest strips
2 pints strawberries, hulled and cut in half
In a bowl, combine the wine, sugar, and lemon zest. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
Add the berries and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve in stemmed glasses.
Strawberries in Balsamic Vinegar
12 ounces strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Wash and hull the strawberries. Cut the berries in half and place in a bowl.
Add the sugar and vinegar. Stir to combine. Place a scoop of ice cream on a plate and spoon the berries on top. Serve immediately.
Fresh Fruit Pizza
Make this pizza with any combination of your favorite fruit
1 (18 ounce) package sugar cookie dough or homemade sugar cookie dough
8 ounces light cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups fruit (berries, slices of peach, kiwi, mango)
1/2 cup apricot jam
Shredded coconut (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out dough to cover a 12 to 14-inch round pizza pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until firm. Cool completely.
Combine cream cheese with extract. Spread cream cheese over the cookie leaving a 1/2-inch border. Arrange the fruit on top.
In a small saucepan, heat the jam 2-3 minutes just until it melts. Brush the jam over the fruit. If you are adding the coconut, sprinkle it evenly over the fruit. Serve immediately.
Mixed Fruit Salad
Use any combination of summer fruit that you prefer for this salad.
8 ounces strawberries, cut in half
8 ounces cherries, pitted
8 ounces peaches or apricots, sliced
1 teaspoon orange zest
Juice of 1 large orange
1/4 cup Marsala wine
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup shelled pistachios or sliced almonds (optional)
Combine the fruit in a serving bowl. In a small bowl, combine the orange zest, juice, wine, sugar, and vanilla. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Drizzle the mixture over the fruit and gently mix. Set the fruit aside at room temperature or refrigerate for 1 hour. Add the pistachios to the fruit and serve.
Some fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, and plums, ripen faster when stored in a plastic bag. The science behind this trick? Ethylene, a gas emitted from most produce, transforms hard fruits into soft, sweet ones. By placing unripe fruit in a bag, you trap the gas, concentrating it and speeding up the ripening process.
DESSERTS > FRUIT DESSERTS
GROW YOUR OWN FIGS
Brown Turkey is a medium-small fig with a violet-brown skin and reddish-amber colored pulp. The fruit are tear-drop shaped with a very sweet but not too rich taste. They are for Zone 7-10, but these make great container plants, so bring them into the sun room or next to a nice sunny window in the winter if you live in a colder climate. Will produce 2 crops of figs a year (summer and yearly fall) when it reaches fruiting size.