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Season's Greetings

June 20, 1985|BETSY BALSLEY | Times Food Editor

If fruit is the apple of your eye, now is the time to make the rounds of the produce counter at your local supermarket and overindulge to heart's content.

This is the time of year when my fridge and fruit ripening bowl both suffer from overkill. Try as I do to resist, by the time I reach the checkout counter at my local market, my basket is loaded with far too much of the season's glorious fruits. A surreptitious perusal of other shopping carts nearby makes me feel better, however, as it proves I'm not the only one who can't pass up the almost decadent array of fruits one finds gracing produce counters during the summer months.

Apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, a whole battery of melons--plus the usual apples and citrus fruits that we take so for granted--all entice us to overbuy. And to overindulge, if that's possible, in the heady sweetness of summer's bounty.

Unpacking one's purchases at home may create some qualms about how to use everything up before spoilage sets in, but chances are we'll manage. A ripe plum or peach can be tucked into a summer school lunch box as a special surprise. Or a small basket of chilled sweet cherries can be casually placed on a desk to boost the morale of the in-house bill payer as she or he busily gets about the business of watching the family bank account dwindle. A big bowl of mixed fruits strategically placed on the kitchen counter has even been known to woo the household chocolate freaks away from their usual snack choices. Keep fruit visible and you won't have to worry about using it up before it begins to fade.

Snacking out-of-hand on fresh fruit is, of course, one of the joys of summer. But we're rarely content to settle for simply eating fruit "as is" for any length of time. That great American pastime of always searching for something "new" seems to get in the way of such simple pleasures. Instead we end up looking for startling and unusual ways to serve these natural sweets that are with us all too brief a period.

And we do this in spite of the fact that some of the best recipes are oldies. It's almost impossible, for instance, to find anything that tastes better than a fresh peach cobbler served warm from the oven. Or a fresh plum pie topped with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream. These homey desserts may not be as glamorous as an eye-catching fancy French fruit tart, but they sure taste good.

Fortunately, most of the current crop reports indicate that a good supply of high quality fruits will be available all summer long. So that makes it easy. You don't have to hurry. There will be plenty of time to indulge in both old and new treatments for your favorites. The following recipes should get you off to a good start.

STRAWBERRY-PLUM

CHEESE TART

Pastry for 9-inch pie

1/2 cup pureed strawberries

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 cup currant jelly

4 medium plums, sliced

2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon orange juice

Roll out pastry to 12-inch circle and fit into 9-inch flan pan or springform pan. Pierce generously with fork. Bake at 400 degrees 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Cool.

For topping, combine pureed strawberries, cornstarch, lemon juice and currant jelly in saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring constantly with wire whisk. Add plums and cook over low heat 5 to 10 minutes or just until tender. Cool, then chill.

For filling, beat cream cheese with orange peel until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar and orange juice. Spread cream cheese mixture into cooled tart shell. Top with cold plum topping.

Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Remove pan sides. Makes 6 servings.

OLD-FASHIONED

NECTARINE PIE

6 large nectarines

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Pastry for 1 double-crust 9-inch pie

1/4 cup butter or margarine

Slice nectarines. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and lemon peel. Mix lightly with nectarines.

Roll 1/2 of pastry and fit into 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Spoon nectarine mixture into shell, mounding in center. Dot with butter.

Roll remaining pastry for top crust and place over fruit. Pinch edges to seal well. Cut 4 slits in top for steam to escape.

Bake at 400 degrees 45 minutes or until crust is brown and syrup boils with heavy bubbles that do not burst. Cool before cutting. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

PEACH-COCONUT

CAKE

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup oil

1/2 pint plain yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup shredded coconut

2 peaches, sliced

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Apricot jam, sieved, optional

Beat eggs with oil, yogurt and vanilla until smooth. Combine flours, sugar, baking soda and coconut. Mix into egg mixture to form batter.

Turn about 1/3 of batter into greased 6-cup ring mold. Mix peaches with cinnamon and place 1/2 of mixture on top of batter. Layer with another 1/3 batter, then remaining peaches. Top with remaining batter.

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