fruit

Sweetened Whipped Ricotta with Berries and Tarragon

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When I was coming up with this summer dessert, it was 90 degrees and unbearably humid. I wanted something that didn't involve heat; not even the grill (going outside wasn't an option). Just the thought of turning on the oven made me sweat. But, of course, by the time I finally got around to preparing it, the temperature had dropped 30 degrees and, not long after, the rain came. Go figure! I have no doubt that the heat and humidity will return... and now I'll be prepared. 

No-fuss desserts are my jam and this one is about as no-fuss as you can get (though you'll definitely impress dinner guests with the presentation). Ricotta is blended with a bit of maple syrup, vanilla, and lemon zest, until light and creamy. Top with a mix of your favorite berries and herbs (I went with tarragon for its vanilla notes, but mint or basil would also work nicely). You can go traditional with your choice of fruit, or you can get a bit more playful. I like contrasting flavors, so I paired the deeper, sweeter blackberries and blueberries with tart raspberries and currants. The gooseberries (aka ground cherries, husk cherries) may be harder to find, but if you can get your hands on some, they not only look great, but they have a subtle sweetness (a blend of cherry and pineapple) that make them the perfect addition to your fruit salad.  

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SWEETENED WHIPPED RICOTTA TOPPED WITH BERRIES AND TARRAGON

SERVINGS
Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
2 cups whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of half a lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups mixed berries (I used blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, and currants)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves

DIRECTIONS
1. Place the ricotta, maple syrups, vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt into the bowl of a food processor (alternatively, you can use an immersion blender). Blend until smooth. 

2. Spread the ricotta out onto a platter or board. Top with berries and garnish with a sprinkle of tarragon leaves. 

3. Spoon berries and ricotta into bowls. 

White Peach and Candied Ginger Muffins

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Not long ago, I was invited on a tour of America's Test Kitchen and they gave everyone a recipe card for some truly scrumptious fig and chocolate chip muffins. The batter is thick; borderline scone dough. Once baked, they have a crusty exterior, but remain light, almost cake-like, on the inside. So, I was prepared to share a rhubarb variation everyone today. Alas, when I went to the store to purchase more rhubarb, they were out. Looking around frantically, my eyes locked on a tower of white peaches. Now, if I'm craving stone fruit, I'm going for cherries or apricots. Point being, it's not often that I see peaches and say "Yes! I must cook with those!" But something came over me and I realized that what I really needed in my muffins were peaches. And candied ginger. And almonds. Ok, there were a lot of things. But, hey, sometimes you know when these things will work. And, if I may say, they do. They really do.

WHITE PEACH AND CANDIED GINGER MUFFINS

NOTES
A few things: 1. I suggest using firmer peaches, as they're easier to chop, plus it prevents the mixture from getting too mushy when you cook them. 2. If you're like me and didn't look to see if you had unsalted butter before you started cooking, you can use salted butter and just omit the salt from the recipe. I did this and they came out tasting great.

SOURCE
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

SERVINGS
Makes 12 muffins

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 cups chopped white peaches (use firmer peaches)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger

DIRECTIONS
1. In a pot, toss peaches with 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peach starts to break down and juices are released, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Flour and grease a 12 cup muffin tin. 

3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining granulated sugar, light brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. 

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, butter, and eggs. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract and whisk until combined. 

5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, mix until just combined. Do not over mix. Stir in sliced almonds and candied ginger. 

6. Spoon half of the muffin batter into the prepared muffin tin and then spoon 1 teaspoon of the cooked peaches into the center of each. Top with remaining batter. 

7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for 2 days. 

Blueberry Crumble

I do my best to avoid turning the oven on from June to September, so baking is an infrequent occurrence during the summer. When I do prepare desserts, they tend to be fruit-based and rustic.  Crumbles are my go-to sweet, mainly because it pairs so well with our favorite summer treat: ice cream. This last weekend, I brought the remains of a blueberry crumble to the Cape to share with friends, alongside vanilla ice cream from Four Seas, a local shop near Craigville Beach. This crumble is more cookie than fruit-filling, with just a bit of jammy innards, which make for a great sauce for whatever you scoop on top. 

Blueberry Crumble

Yield
8-10 servings

Ingredients
For the blueberry-filling
1 quart blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoon corn starch

For the crumble topping
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Using 1 tablespoon of butter or cooking spray, grease a 9 inch glass pie plate.
3. Place the blueberries into a large bowl, toss with sugar, corn starch and lemon juice. Spread fruit across pie plate.
4. In another bowl, add the dry ingredients for the topping.  Using a fork, mix the topping ingredients while drizzling the butter in, until it begins to come together. Sprinkle the topping over the blueberries and pat it down until it has completely covers the pan.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top has turned a slightly golden-brown.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream topped.