Here are four simple recipes for your summer menus.
Story by Sarah Anderson
It’s summer. You can’t stand the heat, so you want to get out of the kitchen … fast. But you also want to impress your guests with a homemade dessert that will leave them with sweet memories of dinner at your house. Now’s the time to let nature do the work for you and base your final course on the flavors, textures and ease of summer fruits. These recipes will get you covered from that family reunion picnic to a romantic dinner under the stars for two and everything in between.
Fresh is best! The easiest fruit dessert is of course a bowl of perfectly ripe fruit. Summer is so short — take advantage of local fruits while you can.
Shortcake Bar for a Crowd
What’s easier than a do-it-yourself dessert? All you do is assemble the ingredients, do a simple prep, and let your guests put together their favorite creations. Since the fruit is definitely the star of this recipe, it’s more than OK to cheat a little with store-bought biscuits or biscuits from refrigerated dough.
• 1 1/2 quarts strawberries (local are always best), washed, hulled, and sliced
• 2 cups sugar, divided
• 1 1/2 quarts blueberries, washed, picked over to remove stray stems and leaves, divided
• 1/3 cup water
• 1 lemon, halved
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 6 ripe peaches or nectarines, peeled and sliced
• 1 quart heavy cream
• 12 biscuits
• 6 teaspoons butter
Prepare the strawberries.
 Place the sliced berries in a pretty bowl you will use to serve. Lightly mash them, making sure to leave some large chunks.  Add 1/2-3/4 cup sugar and lightly mix.  Cover and refrigerate.
Prepare the blueberries: Reserve 2 cups whole berries.
 Place the remaining berries in a medium pot  Add water, juice of 1/2 lemon, cinnamon and 3/4 cup sugar  Heat over medium-low until berries have burst and mixture has thickened.  Remove from heat, cool slightly, then add reserved berries.  Place in serving bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Prepare the peaches/nectarines.
 Place the slices in a pretty serving bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar and a generous squeeze of one half lemon.  Using the back of a large spoon, gently bruise the fruit to help release the juices.  Stir, then cover and let sit. No need to refrigerate.
Prepare the whipped cream and biscuits.
 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Using a chilled bowl and beaters, beat the whipped cream until it begins to thicken, then add remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks forms.  Transfer to serving bowl and refrigerate.  Split the biscuits and spread on large baking sheet. Toast in a moderate oven until lightly browned.  Butter the biscuit halves, and arrange in a lined basket.
Serves 12-24. To serve, set out the bowls of fruits, whipped cream, and biscuits and let guests assemble their own shortcakes. Note: The fruits can — and should! — be made ahead, up to 24 hours. Refrigerate peaches if making more than 2 hours ahead. Biscuits taste best if served warm, but this is not essential.
Easy Peach Melba
This old-fashioned dessert deserves a renaissance: it’s beautiful to look at, delicious to eat, and — if you skip the ice cream — wonderfully fat-free.
• 2 packages frozen raspberries in syrup
• 1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
• 2 large, ripe peaches, halved and peeled; cut a small slice on the bottom of each peach half so it will stand on the plate.
• 1 tablespoon Chambord or another raspberry liqueur, optional
• 1 pint best-quality vanilla ice cream
 Thaw raspberries, blend until smooth, then strain to remove seeds.  Stir lemon juice into the berries, then pour into a microwave-safe baking pan large enough to hold the 4 peach halves.  Place the peach halves cut side down into the raspberry sauce. Cover with plastic wrap, and poke holes in the wrap to vent.  Microwave for two minutes, then carefully remove wrap and flip the peaches. Recover.  Microwave for 1 minute more, and test peaches for softness. Peaches should be easily pierced with the tip of a knife, but still hold their shape.  Let cool, then refrigerate peaches in the sauce until serving time. It should be very cold when serving.  To serve, spoon a small puddle of sauce on the bottom of a dessert plate. Place a peach half on the puddle, and top with 1/2 cup of ice cream. Ladle additional raspberry sauce over the ice cream.
Serves 4. Note: Chambord, if desired, may be stirred into the sauce just before serving. Letting the peach halves sit in the sauce while refrigerated gives them a gorgeous pink color.
There’s nothing foolish about this super simple classic dessert. Blueberries and cream — what could be better?
• 1 pint blueberries, rinsed and picked over to remove stems and leaves
• 2/3 cup sugar, divided
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
• 1 pint heavy cream
 Place berries, 1/3 cup sugar, lemon juice into a medium pot; bring to a boil over medium-high heat; lower heat and continue to cook until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Cool, then refrigerate, covered until thoroughly chilled.  Whip cream with remaining 1/3 cup sugar until firmly whipped.  Place the whip cream in a serving bowl — clear glass if possible — and using a large spoon, swirl in the blueberries. The fool should have distinct streaks of blueberries, some pure white cream, and some blue-colored whipped cream.  Serve immediately.
Serves 6-8. Note: Crushed macaroons sprinkled on top make a delicious garnish for the fool. VARIATION: Fold 1 container thawed whipped topping into 4 cups vanilla yogurt and substitute for the whipped cream.
Frozen Grapes Prosecco
Although this recipe serves up to four, it really shines when you serve it at the end of a romantic dinner for two.
• 1 small bunch Thompson seedless green grapes, separated and stems removed, enough to make about 1 cup of grapes
• 1/4 cup sugar, granulated or superfine
• 1 bottle Prosecco
 Rinse grapes, place in strainer and shake off excess water.  Place sugar and grapes in plastic bag and shake to coat the grapes with the sugar.  Place grapes on a flat pan or plate and freeze until firm. After grapes are frozen, place in bag but keep frozen.  To serve, place 3-4 grapes in the bottom of a saucer-shaped Champagne glass and top with prosecco. Refill glasses as needed!
Serves 2-4. Note: Like Champagne, Prosecco comes in varying degrees of sweetness. If you can find it, Semi-seco Prosecco would be an excellent choice for this dessert.