Dessert for those hot August nights

The culinary treasures summer offers are virtually unparalleled, with fresh vegetables bursting with flavour and health benefits.

A primary source of lycopene, plump August tomatoes can be halved, brushed with oil and sprinkled with minced garlic. Broil for four minutes. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and broil until the feta turns a blistery brown. Feta is somewhat lower in saturated fat than other cheeses; rinse water to reduce the sodium content.

Tomatoes match perfectly with fresh herbs such as basil and mint, which star in our main course, which combines prepared couscous with fresh herbs and lemon rind and served with grilled Italian sausage. Nothing could be easier.

Not to be outdone, dessert is redolent of the season with brilliantly coloured curd and a cascade of fresh berries on a chewy chocolate meringue. Raspberries contain anthocyanins, a group of phytochemicals that are being studied for their ability to fight heart disease and cancer.

Chocolate Meringues with Citrus Raspberry Curd

Raspberry Curd:

2 cups (500 ml) fresh raspberries

1/4 cup (50 ml) granulad sugar

2 tbsp (25 ml) unsalted butter

2 tsp (10 ml) fresh lemon juice

1 whole egg plus 1 yolk

2 egg whites

1/4 tsp (1 ml) each salt, cream of tartar

1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar

2 tbsp (25 ml) cocoa powder

3/4 tsp (4 ml) cornstarch

1/2 tsp (2 ml) each vinegar, vanilla

Fresh raspberries

Raspberry Curd:
Purée raspberries; press through fine mesh sieve. Transfer along with sugar and butter to stainless steel bowl set over pot of simmering water. Whisk until butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Stir in lemon juice.

In separate bowl, whisk egg and egg yolk. Whisking constantly, slowly pour a bit of the hot mixture into eggs. In thin steady stream, whisk in remaining raspberry mixture. Return mixture to double boiler; cook, whisking often, for 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened. Pour through fine mesh sieve into clean bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 3 days.

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Trace four 3-inch circles on paper; turn paper over. In bowl, beat together egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar 2 tbsp (25 ml) at a time until stiff, glossy peaks form. Using spatula, fold in cocoa powder and cornstarch. Fold in vinegar and vanilla.

Divide meringue among prepared circles, mounding the edges. Bake in 275 F (140 C) oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until crisp on the outside but still soft in the centre. Let cool in pan on rack. Cover with plastic wrap for up to 1 day.

Place meringue on plate. Surround with 2 tbsp (25 ml) of raspberry curd; spoon 2 tbsp (25 ml) of curd in centre of meringue. Scatter fresh berries over meringue and plate. Makes 4 servings.

per serving nutritional information:

calories: 282; protein: 5 g; fat: 9 g; saturated fat: 5 g; carbohydrate: 48 g; dietary fibre: 6 g; sodium: 191 mg.