When I bit into a perfect peach today, it made me understand why fruit became the legendary symbol of temptation in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. Eating ripe summer fruit often seems like the season’s ultimate gustatory pleasure. But sometimes I crave summer fruit with homemade vanilla ice cream – it’s so delicious it feels almost sinful.

There are many ways to pair the two. If the fruit is very ripe and juicy, you can simply slice it and serve it over ice cream. Just be sure the fruit is sweet enough; otherwise some fruits that are tasty on their own might be too tangy to accompany sweet ice cream. In that case, it’s best to macerate the fruit first in a little sugar, or mix it gently with a little melted jam or syrup.

Deborah Madison, author of Seasonal Fruit Desserts, sweetens whole blackberries or mixtures of berries with maple sugar or organic brown sugar, flavors them with rose water and lets them stand for 30 minutes so the sugar draws juices out of the berries and they become sauce-like. They are great over ice cream or frozen yogurt.

To make sauces from tender fruits like strawberries, mangoes or kiwis, you can puree the raw fruit with sugar and enhance it with fruit brandy.

An alternative is a sauce made of some cooked and some uncooked fruit, like the chunky blackberry sauce made by Alice Medrich, author of Pure Dessert, which has “the bright flavor of fresh fruit and the deeper jammy notes from cooked berries.”

Medrich cooks half the berries with a little sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water or dry red wine and heats the rest of the berries briefly in the mixture. She finishes the blackberry sauce with a bit of lemon juice or kirsch (clear cherry brandy) and serves it with ice cream.

FRUIT HEATED in a syrup of water or wine with sugar and flavorings like vanilla beans or cinnamon sticks can be served warm or cold with ice cream. “A syrup,” writes Madison, “however light or minimal, gives fruits a jewel-like appearance as well as a sauce. Delicate fruits, like berries, are merely submerged in the hot syrup, which heightens their flavors but leaves their texture intact.” Firm fruit is cooked in the syrup until just tender.

Fruit sauteed in butter and sweetened with sugar also makes a delicious warm topping for ice cream. Slices of summer apricots, nectarines, peaches or plums all make good sautes, as do year-round fruits like pears, apples, pineapple and bananas.

Even fruit soup can be a good partner for ice cream. To make red berry soup with white peaches, Madison simmers raspberries or mixed berries with a little sugar and water for only 11⁄2 minutes, pushes the soup through a sieve and flavors it with lemon juice or rose water. She serves the chilled soup in bowls with sliced peaches and small whole berries and tops each serving with a scoop of ice cream and a garnish of rose geranium leaves and blossoms or lavender sprigs.

Medrich makes a soup from sweetened red wine simmered with a vanilla bean and then adds ripe figs, sliced peaches and fresh raspberries to it, and serves it with vanilla bean ice cream. The recipe is below.

Serve these desserts in glass bowls to show off the colors and forms of the fruits, which can be the main part of the dessert and the ice cream more of a garnish, or the fruit can take equal or second place to the ice cream, according to your preference.

Vanilla is the classic ice cream to serve with fruit desserts but pecan or fruit ice cream is good too, and so is light or nondairy ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Faye Levy is the author of Fresh from France: Dessert Sensations.

SAUTEED NECTARINES WITH KIRSCH

This dessert is quick and simple. Instead of kirsch (clear cherry brandy), you can use Grand Marnier or other orange brandy. Serve the nectarines over vanilla or peach ice cream.

Serves 4

4 nectarines
55 gr. (2 ounces or 1⁄4 cup) unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup kirsch

Cut the nectarines in medium-thick wedge-like slices, cutting inward toward the pits.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the nectarine slices and saute over medium-high heat, turning them over occasionally, about 2 minutes or until light golden. Sprinkle with the sugar and continue to saute over high heat until the sugar caramelizes very lightly. Remove from heat and add 1⁄4 cup kirsch. Turn the nectarine slices over so they are coated with the kirsch mixture. Let cool 1 minute. Taste and add more kirsch, if desired. Serve hot or cold.

MARLENA’S WINE BATH WITH FIGS, PEACHES AND RASPBERRIES

This recipe is from Pure Dessert. Author Alice Medrich writes: “Certainly you should open a bottle expressly to make this, but remember the recipe also when you have wine open that might spoil before you can finish it... If you have no fruit immediately on hand, you can make the wine bath and find the fruit later – just reheat the bath and douse the fruit when you get it.”

You can reduce the wine bath further to use as a sauce for ice cream, or “serve it in wide shallow bowls with a little island of ice cream and some cookies alongside and call it soup.” Medrich especially likes it with homemade ice cream flavored with vanilla beans or honey.

Serves 4 to 6

For the Bath
4 cups dry red wine (or white wine, if desired)
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 vanilla bean
8 ripe figs, stemmed and cut lengthwise in half
4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 to 3 cups vanilla bean ice cream
1 cup fresh raspberries

To make the bath: In a large saucepan, combine the wine, 1⁄4 cup of the sugar and the vanilla bean.

Slowly bring the wine to a boil, taking care that it does not catch fire. (If it does, simply let the flames die away, which will take a minute or two.) Continue to cook over medium heat until the wine is reduced by half. Taste and add more sugar if necessary, depending on the wine, your taste, and the ripeness and flavor of the fruit. (You can further correct the sweetness even after you’ve combined the hot wine and fruit.) If the fruit is very ripe, put it into a bowl and pour the wine over it. If it is firm, add it to the saucepan and simmer briefly in the wine to soften it slightly, but not to cook it through; then pour the wine and fruit into the bowl.

Cool and refrigerate until well chilled. The mixture will look dark and winey.

Serve the chilled fruit and wine syrup over the ice cream, and scatter the fresh raspberries on top.

FRESH CHERRY COMPOTE

This recipe is from Seasonal Fruit Desserts. Author Deborah Madison likes the kirsch-flavored cherries over ice cream or alongside a torte.

“I use about 1 tablespoon sugar for 1 cup pitted cherries,” writes Madison, “which may leave them a little too tart for some... you can easily add more sugar or maple or agave syrup or stevia... A few pie cherries (sour cherries) mixed in will boost that cherry flavor.”

Makes about 2 cups, enough for about 6 servings as an accompaniment for ice cream

21⁄2 cups sweet red cherries
1⁄2 cup or more sour cherries, if available
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup organic sugar, to taste
2 Tbsp kirsch (clear cherry brandy) or maraschino liqueur

Pit the sweet cherries with a cherry-pitter. For the sour cherries, gently squeeze the seed to push it out the stem end into a bowl. When all are pitted, put the cherries in a wide skillet in a single layer. (Do this in 2 batches if needed.) Sprinkle the sugar over the fruit, then turn the heat to high. After a minute, give the pan a shake. The sugar will melt and the cherries will begin to release their juices. After 4 minutes they should be sufficiently soft.

Turn off the heat, add the kirsch, and turn the cherries and the sauce into a bowl. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold. As they sit, they’ll give off even more juice.

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