Pick Of The Crop: Sweet And Simple Treats With Seasonal Fruits
By Debra Daniels-Zeller

From the simple to the sublime, creating fruit desserts with fresh, seasonal, organic fruit is one of life's ultimate pleasures. The moment my favorite farmer's market opens each summer, I'm there with my basket in hand, looking for the fabulous wild-crafted Tilton apricots, organic sour pie cherries, wild baby plums, vine-ripened cantaloupe and the wide variety of summer berries. Many summertime desserts are inspired by the Saturday offerings of farmer's markets, which are usually picked first thing that morning. No matter where you live, you can search out farmer's markets, local organic farms or natural foods stores for exceptional seasonal produce.

A perfect naturally healthy food, fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber and is also fat-free. The sweet intensity of summertime fruit gives your dessert a great flavor base so you don't have to add excess sugar or fat. And be sure to choose 1-percent milk or lite soy milk to make your puddings and creamy pies. There are also many low-fat or nonfat dairy options to use, such as cream cheese, ricotta cheese and sour cream, to lighten traditional favorites.

Whether you decide to bake, sauté, grill or purée fresh fruit into a dessert creation, or you simply choose to create a luscious fresh-fruit salad—the following recipes may offer some inspiration for your own culinary experimentations.

Cooling Melon Salad with Ginger-Lime Dressing

Serves 6 / In many parts of the world, ginger and lime are combined with juicy, vine-ripened organic melons for a cooling dessert. Be sure the yogurt you use does not contain gelatin, so you can strain it properly.

8 ounces plain nonfat yogurt
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, preferably organic
1 teaspoon grated organic lime zest, finely chopped (optional)
1-2 tablespoons honey
3-4 cups melon balls (use honeydew, orange honeydew, cantaloupe or crenshaw melon)
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
Fresh violets or other edible summer flowers

1. Place yogurt in a coffee filter and strainer over a bowl, and let drain in refrigerator overnight. Yogurt will be a thick, creamy consistency. Place the strained yogurt in a bowl and squeeze juice out of grated ginger over the yogurt. Blend in lime juice, zest and 1 or 2 tablespoons honey, to taste.

2. Place melon balls in serving bowl. Pour dressing over melon balls and gently mix until all melon is coated with some dressing. Sprinkle with chopped, crystallized ginger. Garnish with violets.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 75 calories Fat: 0g % fat calories: 2% Cholesterol: 1mg Carbohydrate: 18g Protein: 2g

Maple-Glazed Grilled Peaches

Serves 6 / It's amazing how wonderfully sweet peaches are when grilled. With no added fat, this dessert is sure to be repeated again and again during peach season!

6 peaches
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2-1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 tablespoon Grand Marnier liqueur
Generous pinch of nutmeg or cardamom
Nonfat vanilla soy yogurt (optional)
Mint sprigs for garnish

1. Preheat grill. Lightly spray grill with oil or cooking spray to prevent sticking.

2. Fill large pot with water and bring to a boil. Carve an X on bottom of each peach. Immerse peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and immediately plunge into ice water. When cooled, gently pull off skin with a paring knife. Slice each peach in half and discard pits.

3. Combine maple syrup, orange juice, Grand Marnier and nutmeg or cardamom. Brush cut side of peaches with the mixture. When grill is ready, place peaches cut side down on grill. Brush tops with maple glaze. After 5 minutes, turn peaches. Cook another 5 minutes until lightly browned.

4. Serve with a dollop of nonfat vanilla soy yogurt, if desired. Garnish with mint sprigs.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 70 calories Fat: 0g % fat calories: 1% Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrate: 18g Protein: 1g

Summer Berry Trifle

Serves 12 / Chambord (black raspberry liqueur) adds a wonderful depth of flavor to this sweet summer treat. Try mixing tart berries such as red huckleberries or raspberries with sweeter berries for this elegant dessert. You can make the pudding up to a day ahead of time for quick assembly.

1 2.5-ounce box vanilla pudding mix
2 cups 1-percent low-fat milk or lite soy milk

3 cups fresh mixed summer berries (try blackberries, loganberries, huckleberries, blueberries, boysenberries or raspberries)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Chambord

1 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Chambord
8 1/2-inch slices angel food cake
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup low-fat granola (optional)
Nonfat whipped topping or nondairy whipped topping

1. Prepare the pudding with 1-percent dairy or lite soy milk. Pour into glass bowl, cover with a piece of plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming on top), and chill pudding in refrigerator for 2 hours or until firm.

2. Combine berries, sugar and Chambord in a nonreactive mixing bowl, mashing slightly. Set aside for about 30 minutes—the sugar will draw out some of the berry juice. Mixture should be slightly syrupy.

3. In small saucepan, bring water and sugar to boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add Chambord, cook on medium heat for 2 more minutes, then remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. Quickly dip 4 slices of angel food cake into mixture, one at a time, and place in bottom of a 10-cup trifle bowl or glass casserole bowl with straight steep sides.

4. Peel and thinly slice bananas. Arrange half of slices over angel food cake. Spread half of pudding mixture over bananas and top with half of berry mixture. Repeat layers. Refrigerate several hours before serving. If desired, just before serving, top with granola. Serve with a dollop of nonfat whipped topping.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving (with granola): Calories: 362calories Fat: 1g % fat calories:4% Cholesterol: 2mg Carbohydrate: 56g Protein: 5g