Berries Over Ice Cream

It's a very satisfying feeling to be able to throw together something delicious from what you have hanging around in the fridge and pantry. Summer fruit is so lovely that there's very little you need to do to it to make it delicious. If you make a point of keeping a carton of vanilla ice cream in your freezer (and why shouldn't you?), this dessert makes a great, easy finish for lazy weekend grill-outs or casual dinners.

Fruit: Strawberries work perfectly well on their own, but you can also throw in pineapple, other berries and mango. Up to an hour before you plan to have dessert, rinse and prep the fruit. Leave blackberries, raspberries and blueberries whole, but hull, slice or quarter the strawberries.

Flavoring: In a glass bowl, sprinkle the fruit with a bit of sugar to help release the juices. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar (if you have a fruit-infused variety, that works especially well here), a bit of port, and/or orange or another fruit-flavored liqueur.

Add-in: Fresh herbs are one variable--mint, basil, lemon verbena--or dried spices, from cinnamon to white pepper. Toss the whole mixture gently, then cover with a plate or plastic wrap and let the fruit macerate while you eat dinner.

Serving: Spoon fruit over scoops of vanilla ice cream. If you're feeling fancy, you can reduce the left-behind liquid on the stove down to a syrupy sauce. It also works just as well to spoon the juices over the fruit and ice cream.

Topping: For a bit of texture, top with toasted coconut or nuts. Crumbled gingersnaps, vanilla wafers, or amaretti cookies also work very well.

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