MUCH AS I love blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, plums and just about every other summer fruit you can eat out of hand, sometimes, as the summer wears on, it's nice to gild the lily . . . just a little.
Not strawberry shortcakes or blueberry flummery, raspberry mousses or peach pies. Nothing complex. Nothing that derives as much of its flavor from the other ingredients as it does from the fruit. Just a few ingredients that enchance the fruit instead of competing with it. And definitely nothing that takes a long time.
In other words, something that has just a few ingredients, five at most, including, the fruit.
What fruits I cook with are very much determined by what the trucks parked along my route to work are selling, what's available at the Bethesda Farm Women's Market or the Bethesda Co-op. Local stuff, when possible because those are the fruits whose flavor is worth enhancing, not disguising.
Last Saturday I made a reasonably early sortie to the Farm Women's Market. Early for me. Late for them. At 9 a.m. the aisles were jammed with shoppers seeking the best peaches, blueberries and early apples and the limited supply of raspberries and blackberries. By 9, only one counter was selling blackberries. At 7 there may have been more, but I'll never know.
As it is there were only four half-pint baskets of raspberries at $1.35 left and only four quarts of blueberries, each $2.50. I took two containers of raspberries and only one blueberry. There were several baskets of tempting-looking blackberries but the fellows who were selling them didn't know if they were tart or sweet. "Never tasted 'em." Unrecommended I bought just one at $1.50.
After circling the market I lit on what seemed to be the ripest peaches and picked up a lot of vegetables as I went. To me fresh fruit and vegetables are what candy is to kids. My eyes are bigger than my stomach. I often end up with far more in my refrigerator than my family can ever eat before it's no lonnger fresh! The not-so-fresh things become combination vegetable dishes with cheese or meat and stewed fruits.
But just about this time of year, when blueberries and raspberries have been around bor awhile, and strawberries even longer, and it seems time to try something new, I start looking for ways to serve the fruits. Last weekened was particulary productive. I tried out four recipes and they worked! All of them combine fruit with some kind of alcohol. The two were made for each other. One of them turned a waste of money into a delicious dessert. Those blackberries the vendors had never eaten (for good reason) were tart enough to make you screw up your mouth and squint your eyes. But not after the doctoring they received.
Here are the four recent successes plus others discovered on other fruit sprees.
Don't forget, the sweeter the fruit the less sugar you will need. HOT PEACHES IN BRANDY (2 or 3 servings) 3 medium peaches, very ripe and sweet 3 tablespoons sweet butter 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger 3 tablespoons brandy
Slice the peaches. Melt the butter in a skillet. Stir in sugar and ginger. Add peaches and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When peaches are soft, after about 5 minutes, stir in brandy and cook another minute. BLUEBERRIES WITH BRANDY (4 servings) 2 cups blueberries 1/4 cup good quality brandy 1 cup whipped cream 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Place washed and drained blueberries in a bowl and cover with brandy. Refrigerate and marinate about 3 hours. Just before serving whip cream and vanilla. Top blueberries with whipped cream. HONEY YOGURT TOFU SAUCE (About 1 1/4 cups) 3/4 cup plain yogurt 1/2 cup tofu 1 tablespoon honey 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Whirl all ingredients in blender or food processor with steel blade. Allow to mellow several hours or overnight. Serve with fruit such as berries, cantaloupe, peaches, nectarines or banana. STUFFED PEARS (6 whole pears) 6 ripe pears 1/4 pound blue cheese (Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Danish blue) 1/4 pound cream cheese 1/2 stick sweet butter 1/8 teaspoon mace or 2 tablespoons Port wine
Blend the cheeses, butter, mace and wine. Halve the pears; scoop out the seeds and tough core running through the center. Make cavity large enough to hold about a tablespoon of cheese. Spoon in cheese.
Cut off a thin slice from bottom of pear so that the pear half will sit firmly on the plate. Serve immediately or chill and serve, but allow the cheese to warm up a little. Take pears out of refrigerator about 10 minutes before serving. GRAPE AND NECTARINE COMPOTE (4 servings) 2 large nectarines, halved, pitted and sliced 2 cups seddless green grapes 2 tablespoons orange liqueur 1 tablespoon honey
Combine liqueur and honey in a bowl large enough to hold the fruit. Add the grapes and nectarines and mix gently. Refrigerate, mixing occasionally. BERRIES WITH BRANDY (4 servings) 1 quart strawberries, blackberries or blueberries 1/4 cup honey 1/4 cup brandy Yougurt or sour cream or heavy cream
Prepare berries by washing gently and drying well. Blend honey and brandy and pour over berries, gently stirring them around so they are well coated. Allow to sit at room temperature for an hour. The sauce mixture will draw juice from the fruit. Chill if desired. Stir occasionally. Serve with a bowl of sour cream, yogurt or whipped heavy cream. YOGURT OR SOUR CREAM DIP (4 servings) 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream 1 teaspoon grated oprange or lemon rind 4 teaspoons honey 1 tablespoon kirsch 1 quart strawberries, raspberries or 4 large peaches, sliced
Mix yogurt, rind, honey and kirsch together until well blended. Chill Serve with choice of fruit. PAPAYA WITH RUM (4 servings) 2 large papaya, seeded, pared and cut into 2-inch pieces 4 tablespoons dark rum 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Be sure the papaya is completely ripe. You may have to buy it four or five days ahead and let it ripen at room temperature. Combine cubed papaya with rum and brown sugar which has been mixed together in a skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until rum and sugar have formed a thick syrup and papaya is well coated with mixture.