July 4: Dad’s done. The ribs are bare and the corn cobs look like modern art. Though belts are bursting, there’s always room for a little holiday dessert. Now’s the time for Florida fruit … just to make us all feel healthy and take the edge off the guilt from such a rich meal.
Melons are still in season, as are raspberries and blackberries. Blueberries and peaches exist only in our memories and the freezer. Thank goodness for freezers.
Few desserts are easier than half a cantaloupe with a scoop of ice cream in it and a drizzle of chocolate syrup on it. Make it a splash of rum for adults who are not driving. If you have fresh berries, some of those can go in too, for looks, taste and nutrition.
A melon baller is an inexpensive tool that lets you make melon balls with a twist of the wrist. Mine is more than 30 years old and still works like a charm. There are no moving parts to wear out, (except my wrist). It also comes in handy for making tiny scoops of ice cream for little children.
Make a sugar-water syrup with just a hint of mint from extract. Serve melon balls in the syrup.
A Florida watermelon is a perfect container for a big fruit salad for a lot of guests. Use your imagination when you carve the outside. Make balls or cubes of the watermelon and put it back in with any other fruits you can find. Color some shredded coconut green and sprinkle that over the fruit before serving to make it look pretty. A drop of peppermint liqueur dresses up the flavor, too. If you just can’t stand to be that healthy you can toss in miniature marshmallows.
Ever make Bananas Foster? The Florida version is Blueberries Foster. It looks hard, but it’s as easy as melting brown sugar in butter and adding fruit and liqueurs. Start by melting a half-cup of butter and half-cup of brown sugar in a frying pan. Dark brown sugar has more flavor. Use light sugar so you don’t overpower the berries. Add a dash of cinnamon. (Grating a cinnamon stick is so much better than ground cinnamon from a jar.)
Add a cup or more of thawed blueberries at room temperature and the juice. Let it come to a simmer. Pour in a half cup of raspberry liqueur, rum or brandy. Flame it with a long match and let the alcohol burn off. Set it aside to cool a little while portioning vanilla ice cream.
The same mixture goes great over pound cake. The liquid soaks in and makes plain cake special. Use angel food cake if you’re watching calories.
How about having a fool after dinner? (That’s not inviting your brother-in-law to the house.) A Fool is an old dessert of lightly sweetened, sometimes crushed, fruit folded into whipped cream. It’s quick and easy. Use dessert topping such as Cool Whip to save time and a reduced fat version to save calories.
A crisp is a cinch with any fruit, and the kids get a chance to help. For the topping you need the following ingredients:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/4 cup soft butter
Let the kids mix it and use it to top fruit. Bake until the fruit is soft and the topping is crisp. Ice cream or whipped cream are optional.
We grow trees-full of mangos in Florida and too-often ignore them. Buy some that smell ripe and give just a bit to pressure. Peel and cube a couple. Whirr with plain yogurt. Add a touch of nutmeg, cinnamon or cardamom. That’s called a lassie from India. Feel like a Rajah on vacation in your own backyard.
story by TRENT ROWE
Trent Rowe is the Central Florida Media Group food editor.