- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2007

I get so excited when I walk through the produce aisles this time of year. Big bins of apricots, multicolored plums and assorted peach varieties are there for the taking.

My mind stirs with imagining all the ways these summer jewels can be enjoyed.

Apricot and plums in a savory barbecue sauce, peaches grilled and served with fresh raspberries, pluots (a hybrid of plums and apricots) roasted with loin of pork — an array of poached summer fruits. This is summer eating at its finest.

Fruit compotes used to remind me of my mother’s holiday dried fruit compote. I found compote to be heavy and thought, why not create a light, fresh summer fruit dessert based on that idea?

In today’s recipe, the fruits are gently poached together in a Johannisberg Riesling syrup. I like to use this wine because of its semidry, fruity character. It has the subtle flavor of peaches, apricots, lemons and honey and is a perfect backdrop to the summer fruit flavors. Sugar is added to create a wine syrup for poaching the fruits.

You can vary the fruits you poach, but make sure that they are all about the same size.

Slightly undercook them since they continue to cook while cooling. The key is to make sure the cooking times are all the same for whatever ingredients you choose, or poach them individually to retain the right degree of firmness.

If you like to experiment as I do, you can take this recipe and make it your own.

Use nectarines instead of the peaches and pluots instead of the plums. Accompany the compote with a plate of your favorite biscotti or crispy cookie.

I am always on the lookout for new gadgets to make life easier in the kitchen, and a serrated peeler is a must for summer cooking. Imagine not having to blanch fruits and vegetables in boiling water but instead gently peeling off the skin with this useful kitchen tool.

The only thing different about this peeler is that the edges are serrated and therefore act almost like a razor peeling off the tough skin of tomatoes, plums, nectarines or peaches.

Help is on the way: Check out Oxo.com or a favorite cookware store for the serrated peeler. Look for underripe fruit so that when it poaches it doesn’t fall apart. Use a pretty glass bowl to show off this summer specialty.

Summer fruit compote

This recipe may be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated.

6 medium peaches, slightly underripe

6 medium plums, slightly underripe

3 cups Johannisberg Riesling

1 cup sugar

2 thick lemon slices

6 medium apricots, slightly underripe

Garnish:

Fresh mint leaves

Creme fraiche or whipped cream (optional)

With a serrated peeler, peel the peaches, cut in half, and remove the pit. Place in medium bowl. Peel the plums and place in the bowl with the peaches.

In a large saucepan, combine the wine, sugar and lemon slices and bring to a boil over high heat to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat. Place all of the fruit in the syrup and simmer, turning occasionally with a large spoon. Cover the pan.

The apricots may be done before the other fruit, so watch carefully. Remove the fruit as it becomes done and place it in a large glass bowl.

The fruit should be slightly resistant when cut. Remember that it will continue to cook a few minutes more after being removed from heat.

Reduce the syrup over high heat by one half. Remove the lemon slices and let the syrup cool. Pour the cooled syrup over the fruit and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.

To serve, garnish the bowl with fresh mint leaves. Serve creme fraiche or whipped cream on the side.

Makes 6 servings.

Diane Rossen Worthington is author of 18 cookbooks. To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.

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