Fruit, Glorious Fruit



Bathed in the warm sunshine of summer, fruits ripen quickly, which means flavors are at their ultimate sweetness. At a farmer's market, there's always an enormous variety of locally grown fruits and veggies to choose from. In fact, the produce you see at farmer's markets is often picked the day, if not hours, before the market opens so that berries and summer fruits are at the peak of freshness.

Produce is not waxed, packed or irradiated so you're eating clean and green. Do a taste test. Compare a locally grown berry to those trucked in or flown in from some far off country. There's no doubt — local is pure, bursting with sweet flavors, and a whisper of summer heat and fresh fields.

Rhubarb is usually used as a fruit in pies and compotes Enjoy it while it lasts, since field-grown rhubarbs are rarely available after the first weeks of July.

Hot-house rhubarb stalks are pale pink, but the leaves in both varieties contain oxalic acid and are toxic. Cut off and discard.

Berries are abundant in summer. Eat by the spoonful or bake into warm pies or cool desserts.

Blueberries are in season from May until October. Their popularity has soared since the USDA ranked this indigo fruit No. 1 out of 40 common fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants. Choose berries that are firm with a whitish bloom. Shake the container to make sure berries move freely.

Strawberries are rich in vitamin C and contain a significant phenol that has anti-inflammatory properties and can protect from heart disease and fight cancer. Strawberries spoil quickly so be sure to choose plump, dense, red berries with mold-free green caps. Wash just before using.

Raspberries are rich in vitamin C and minerals. They contain ellagitannins, a group of cancer-fighting compounds. Choose berries that are rosy red and are loosely packed.

Blackberries, in season from May to August, are rich in vitamins A and C. A recent study by Ohio State University researchers noted that blackberries are believed to protect against heart disease, diabetes and memory loss. Choose berries that are firm to the touch as opposed to soft and watery, which means they are overripe.

White or yellow, succulent peaches should smell perfumey and sweet-scented. The skin should not be bruised in any way and should be covered with a soft, downy white fuzz. Choose plums that are plump, deeply colored and have a powdery bloom. If the plum yields to gentle pressure, it's ripe. If not, as long as its not rock hard, it will ripen at home in a loosely closed paper bag at room temperature.


Brown Sugar Rhubarb Pie


  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsps. brown sugar, packed 
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
    4 cups rhubarb, cut in 1/2-inch slices 
    2 egg yolks 
    2 Tbsps. cream cheese, softened 
    2 tsps. lemon juice 
    pinch ground cloves 
    1 deep, 9-inch pastry shell, unbaked 
    3 egg whites 
    1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
    6 Tbsps. sugar

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour and rhubarb. Let stand at room temperature 20 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Whisk together the egg yolks, cream cheese, lemon juice and cloves. Add to rhubarb mixture and stir to mix. Spoon into the pastry shell.

Place filled pastry shell on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°. Continue baking 20 minutes longer or until a knife inserted off center comes out almost clean. If pastry edges are browning too quickly, cover with foil.

While pie is baking, whisk the egg whites until they peak softly. Add the vanilla and gradually add the sugar, beating until stiff. Spread over the rhubarb filling, taking care to cover completely. Bake at 350° until meringue is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8 to 10.


Peach Almond Streusel Pie


  • Topping Ingredients:

    1/2 cup brown sugar 
    1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour 
    2 tsps. cinnamon 
    1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled 
    1/2 cup chopped almonds

    Filling Ingredients:

    3/4 cup sugar 
    2 Tbsps. all purpose flour 
    3 eggs 
    1 cup sour half-and-half 
    1 tsp. almond extract 
    1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
    11/2 tsps. grated lime rind 
    4 cups unpeeled, sliced peaches 
    1 9-inch prepared pastry shell

To Prepare the Streusel: In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until coarse and crumbly or pulse a few times in the food processor. Add the nuts and stir. Refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

To Prepare the Filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and eggs. Add the sour half-and-half, almond extract, cinnamon and lime rind. Gently fold in the peach slices. Transfer to the pastry shell.

Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the streusel over the top. Return to the oven and continue baking for 20 minutes longer or until the topping is crisp and golden brown. Cool completely before serving.

Serves 8 to 10.


Raspberry Flan


  • 1 9-inch graham cracker crust 
    1 egg white, lightly beaten* 
    2 (2.9 oz.) packages instant vanilla pudding dessert mix 
    3 cups whole milk 
    3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped 
    21/2 cups raspberries 
    2 Tbsps. apple jelly, melted 
    2 Tbsps. slivered almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Brush the graham cracker crust all over with the egg white. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool.

In a medium bowl, prepare the dessert mix according to package directions, using only 3 cups milk instead of 4 cups. Refrigerate until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Spread 1 cup raspberries over bottom of cracker crust. Spoon the chilled vanilla pudding over.

Top with the whipped cream, spreading to edges. Scatter remaining raspberries over. Brush with apple jelly and sprinkle with slivered almonds (optional). Serve chilled.

*You'll have egg white leftover; add to omelets and cake or cookie mixes before baking.

Serves 8 to 10.


Deep Dish Plum Pie


  • 5 cups (about 2 lbs.) purple plums, pitted and halved 
    2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed 
    1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour 
    1 Tbsp. grated ginger root 
    pinch nutmeg 
    1 Tbsp. margarine 
    1/2 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed 
    2 tsps. granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a large bowl, place the plums, sugar, flour, ginger root and nutmeg. Stir lightly to mix. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to an 8×8-inch baking dish. Dot with margarine.

Roll the puff pastry out to an 8-inch square on a lightly floured board. Place over the plums and brush with water. Sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Cut two or three 1-inch slits for steam to escape.

Bake for 40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and pastry is golden brown. If browning too quickly, place aluminum foil loosely over. Serve warm.

Serves 8.

Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Email her at: [email protected].


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