Tipsy Italian Nectarines

6 servings

A delightful study in contrasts -- the sweetness of the wine-soaked fruit with the lightness of cream and crunch of nuts. Using ripe nectarines makes it easy to get the pits out.

The nectarines can marinate in the sparkling dessert wine Moscato d'Asti for several hours. Fill them with the cream just before serving.

Adapted from pastry chef Emily Luchetti's book "Four-Star Desserts" (Morrow, 1996).

6 large nectarines

2 cups Moscato d'Asti

1/4 cup Simple Syrup (recipe follows)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon sour cream

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

For each nectarine, slice off the top and insert a paring knife against the pit. Gently carve around the pit, loosening it from the flesh. Press the knife against the bottom side of the pit and gently push it up and out of the nectarine. (But don't worry if the bottom of the nectarine gets pulled out with the pit; the cream is thick enough not leak.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Moscato d'Asti and the simple syrup. Place the nectarines in the liquid and marinate for 1 hour or more.

When the nectarines are nearly ready, in a medium mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the sour cream, sugar and chopped hazelnuts.

When ready to serve, remove the nectarines from the marinating liquid. Shave 1/8 inch off the bottoms of the nectarines so that they sit flat. Place each nectarine on a plate. Fill the nectarines with the hazelnut cream. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 346 calories, 3 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 28 mg cholesterol, 5 g saturated fat, 22 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Lois M. Baron; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Simple Syrup

Makes 11/2 cups

11/4 cups sugar

1 cup water

In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and the water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.

The syrup may be stored in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks.

Instant Strawberry Ice Cream

8 servings

There's plenty of good commercial strawberry ice cream around, but this homemade version has a high proportion of fresh strawberries and is simple to make. You don't even need an ice cream freezer. It takes just 5 minutes to prepare in a blender, and an hour later it's ready to eat. In an airtight container, the frozen quart of ice cream will last up to 1 month, assuming your willpower lasts that long.

Adapted from "Perfect Recipes for Having People Over," by Pam Anderson (Houghton Mifflin 2005).

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

11/2 cups heavy cream

24 ounces frozen sweetened strawberries, chopped into large chunks

Whole or sliced fresh strawberries, for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar into the heavy cream. Set aside.

Place the frozen strawberry chunks in a blender. With the blender running, slowly add the cream mixture, stopping to stir 3 or 4 times, until the mixture is smooth but still shows bits of strawberries.

Transfer to a shallow metal pan. Cover and freeze to a scoopable texture, about 1 hour. Top with strawberries, if desired.

Per serving: 339 calories, 1 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 62 mg cholesterol, 10 g saturated fat, 20 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Marcia Kramer; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

10 to 12 servings

This frozen confection stands out for its deep chocolate crust and frozen pecans. "I thought this was a regular cookie crust when I saw it," one skeptic said before tasting it. "But this is serious chocolate." Use good chocolate, such as bittersweet Valrhona, in the filling and use your toaster oven or a pan on the stovetop to toast the pecans.

Pasteurized eggs take longer to beat and don't have as much volume as regular eggs, so we have added a third egg white and cream of tartar and sugar.

Adapted from "The Gourmet Jewish Cook," by Judy Zeidler (William Morrow and Co., 1988).

One Chocolate Wafer Crust (recipe follows)

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 pasteurized eggs, separated,

and 1 pasteurized egg white, such as Davidson's*

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1 cup heavy cream

Cream of tartar

11/4 cups toasted pecans

Whipped cream, for garnish

1/2 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate shavings

Prepare the chocolate wafer crust. Cover and refrigerate.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or a whisk, blend the cream cheese, 1/4 cup of the sugar and the vanilla extract. Add the egg yolks and melted chocolate, beating until smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold it into chocolate mixture and set aside.

In a small stainless steel bowl, using an electric hand-held mixer and tilting the bowl to immerse the beaters, beat the 3 egg whites, along with a pinch of cream of tartar and a pinch of sugar. When frothy, gradually beat in the remainder of the 1/4 cup of sugar. Fold the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Chop 3/4 cup of the toasted pecans and fold them in. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover and freeze.

About 15 minutes before serving, remove from freezer and garnish with dollops of whipped cream, remaining pecan halves and chocolate shavings.

*NOTE: Scientists estimate that 1 in 10,000 fresh eggs might contain Salmonella bacteria. Because of that possibility, the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not recommend eating eggs that are not cooked or are undercooked. Pasteurized eggs, which have been put through a process to eliminate bacteria, are available at some Harris Teeter and Safeway stores.

Per serving (based on 12): 528 calories, 7 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 42 g fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 19 g saturated fat, 258 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Lois M. Baron; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Chocolate Wafer Crust

Makes 1 single crust

11/4 cups crumbs from crushed chocolate wafers, such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon instant coffee

51/3 tablespoons unsalted butter,

at room temperature

Have ready a 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, thoroughly blend the crumbs, cinnamon, coffee and butter. Spoon the mixture evenly into the pan and press it down firmly. Cover lightly and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

Sweetened Ricotta With Peaches and Fresh Plum Sauce

4 to 6 servings

The fresh plum sauce is gorgeous and tasty. Adapted from "Fast & Fresh," by Marie Simmons (Houghton Mifflin, 1996).

For the sweetened ricotta:

13/4 cups ricotta cheese*

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream, or as needed

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)

For the fresh plum sauce:

11/2 pounds fresh red or purple plums, pitted, cut into chunks

1/4 cup sugar, or to taste

2 teaspoons lime juice, or to taste

3 large peaches, pitted and sliced (peeled if desired)

For the sweetened ricotta: In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, confectioners' sugar, 1 tablespoon of the heavy cream, vanilla extract, cinnamon and orange zest, if using. If a smoother or looser consistency is desired, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time. Whisk or stir to blend well. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 1 day.

For the fresh plum sauce: In a medium saucepan over low heat, mix the plums and sugar, stirring over the heat until the fruit has softened, about 15 minutes. (If the plums do not release their juices, add a teaspoonful of water at a time.) Cool slightly. The sauce can be slightly chunky or it can be transferred to a food processor or blender and pureed. Serve at room temperature or chill for at least 30 minutes in refrigerator before serving.

To assemble, place the sweetened ricotta in individual glass goblets. Top with peach slices. Spoon plum sauce on top and serve.

NOTE: The best ricotta for this dessert is the fresh whole-milk kind available at many Italian specialty markets, but supermarket brands (either whole-milk or part-skim) are an acceptable substitute.

Per serving (based on 6): 310 calories, 10 g protein, 45 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 41 mg cholesterol, 7 g saturated fat, 62 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Lois M. Baron; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Key Lime Pie

8 servings

This pie is what Nora Ephron's semi-autobiographical character pitched at her wayward husband. Your guests may enjoy it more on a plate. Adapted from "Heartburn," by Nora Ephron (G.K. Hall & Co., 1983).

1 cup lime juice

1 tablespoon grated lime zest

6 pasteurized egg yolks*

Two 14-ounce cans nonfat sweetened condensed milk

9-inch ready-made graham cracker pie crust

Whipped cream (optional)

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the lime juice, grated lime zest, egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk until well combined. Pour into pie crust and freeze. When ready to serve, remove from freezer and spread with whipped cream, if desired. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

*NOTE: Scientists estimate that 1 in 10,000 fresh eggs might contain Salmonella bacteria. Because of that possibility, the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not recommend eating eggs that are not cooked or are undercooked. Pasteurized eggs, which have been put through a process to eliminate bacteria, are available at some Harris Teeter and Safeway stores.

Per serving: 476 calories, 10 g protein, 70 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat, 188 mg cholesterol, 7 g saturated fat, 285 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Marcia Kramer; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Sweetened Ricotta With Peaches and Fresh Plum Sauce.