What is more decorative and delicious than a bowl of summer fruit - blue-purple plums, velvety peaches, sleek nectarines, frosty green grapes, and cherries that invite you to pluck them from their stems?
One peach indicates ''eating out of hand.'' A bowl of peaches with other fruits arouses those seasonal cravings for the oven-fresh, pastry-topped pies and puddings that we identify with happy summertime meals.
There's a trend away from desserts heavy with flour and sugar. There are ways to give a lighter touch to delectable fruits.
Serve crisp grapes and mellow cheeses such as Brie or Camembert. Make a fresh grape parfait by softening a pint of lemon or orange sherbet, or vanilla ice cream, and folding in 1 cup of seedless grapes. Spoon the mixture into parfait glasses and freeze.
A refreshing melon bowl can be made by cutting a cantaloupe in half. Allow 1 melon for every 2 people, then fill each half with fresh fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, cherries, or grapes. Top with sour cream or plain yogurt.
Here is a very simple, summery version of Peach Melba. Peach Melba 1/2 cup raspberries or boysenberries (fresh or frozen with no sugar) 1 teaspoon honey Dash cinnamon 2 large ripe peaches 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, or 1/2 cup plain yogurt
Thaw berries, if using frozen fruit. Then press through a sieve to extract juice and pulp. Discard seeds. Blend honey into fruit pulp and add cinnamon. Set aside.
When ready to serve, peel peaches and cut in half. Remove pits and place peaches in 4 dessert dishes.
Beat ricotta or yogurt cheese with spoon to make it light and fluffy and fill centers of peach halves. Spoon melba sauce over all. Serves 4. Summer Trifle 1 3 1/4-ounce package vanilla pudding mix 3 cups pineapple juice 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel 2 teaspoons lemon juice 4 peaches, peeled and sliced 2 cups seedless grapes 5 figs, sliced 1 pint fresh strawberries
In medium saucepan over medium heat cook pudding and juice, stirring constantly, until thickened. Heat to boiling. Remove from heat and stir in lemon peel. Cool.
Meanwhile, in medium bowl, combine lemon juice with 3 tablespoons water. Toss well with peaches to avoid discoloring. In serving bowl, layer fruits. Pour pudding over fruit. Chill. Serves 8. Baked Pears With Brie 6 pears 1/2 cup sugar 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 small wheel of Brie cheese Sesame-seed crackers, or other crackers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel pears, leaving stems intact. Do not core them. In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat sugar, lemon juice, butter, and 1 cup water to boiling. Simmer 5 minutes.
Place pears in 3-quart casserole. Add syrup. Cover and bake 45 minutes or until tender. Refrigerate.
At serving time arrange Brie cheese and crackers on serving board with knife. Place pears on dessert plates and serve to guests with dessert knives and forks. Pass cheese and crackers. Serves 6. Summer Fruit Melange 1 1/2 cups sugar 3 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons anise seed 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) 1 small pineapple 1 small honeydew melon 1 small cantaloupe 2 oranges 2 nectarines (or 4 apricots) 2 purple plums 1 cup seedless green grapes 1 lime, sliced
In medium saucepan over medium heat, cook 2 cups water with sugar, lemon juice, anise seed, and salt 15 minutes, or until mixture becomes like light syrup. Chill.
Cut rind from pineapple, melon, cantaloupe, and oranges and cut pulp into bite-size chunks. Slice nectarines and plums in wedges.
In large bowl, combine cut-up fruits with grapes and lime slices. Pour chilled syrup through strainer over fruits. Cover. Chill, stirring often. Serves 10 to 12.