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DAZZLING   DINNERS:  Recipes, Decor and More

You are inviting people to dinner. You want them to adore the food, have great conversation and lots of fun. You want to excite their minds as well as their palates. After they leave, you want them to rave about the party to everyone they know. You need a dazzling dinner.

Dazzling dinner are not necessarily formal or elegant, and they certainly are not conventional.  Dazzling dinners are distinctive and exceptional. They have themes that capture the imagination and are played out in delightful decor and fabulous food. Dazzling dinners are fun to think about, fun to carry out, and great fun for your guests. If you like food, or entertaining, or stepping out of the box, you will adore doing a dazzling dinner. It will be entertainment for your guests and recreation for you.  Twelve chapters set out the Dazzling Dinner Plans, one inspired by each month of the year.  Everything you need to know and do for a super-special evening is detailed in each Plan.

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APPETIZER

Prickly Pear Appetizer

"Election Day Dinner"

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ENTREE

Everything Wrapped & Tied as a Present

"Presents A'Plenty Dinner"

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DESSERT

German Chocolate Torte

"Academy Award Dinner"

On the first of each month we post the Dazzling Dinner for that month.

April

Chapter 4 – LOOF LIRPA!  (APRIL FOOL!)
Inspiration:  April Fool’s Day

Gastronomic gags galore:  appetizers look like desserts, the entrée poses as breakfast, desserts masquerade as appetizers and the souvenir menu turns it all topsy-turvy.

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                                                                  COOK’S INTRODUCTION
All Fools’ Day is all about jests and jokes.  To make the most of the occasion, why not plan a party of gastronomic gags with seriously delicious food?  Here, the spoofs occur in two ways.  First, each dish is disguised to look like something it is not.  Your guests arrive.  “Is that a cake?” they exclaim, looking at your cocktail table.  April Fool!  It’s a round loaf of bread, cut into two layers, slathered with a black olive tapenade and “frosted” with tangy goat cheese embellished with flowers.  Looks like a cake and tastes just great.  Every dish supplies just such surprises of clever disguise and fabulous flavor.  Pizza for dessert?  Well, yes, but April Fool!  It is, indeed, a pizza, a crust topped with a tomato sauce and dabs of cheese.  But this pie’s crust is sweet, the sauce is richly red and jam-packed with complex sweetness from roasted tomatoes and ripe strawberries.  The cheese that tops it all is a luscious combination of mascarpone enhanced with white chocolate and heavy cream.


Here’s the second spoof.  The disguises of the dishes apparently reverse the normal order of courses, but April Fool!  The actual food is in the usual order.  Guests start with “coffee,” a cocktail made with a coffee liqueur.  The appetizers look like desserts but are savory; the desserts look like appetizers but are lusciously sweet.  The entrée is disguised as food for a different time of day, breakfast.  


The gags will get your guests to guffaw; the tastes will produce applause.  The food is inventive, the ingredients cleverly cued to the theme so that the tastes are guaranteed to surprise and delight.
Be sure to emphasize and enhance the disguises with decorations or dishes/platters appropriate to the disguise but not the actual food. Decorate the “cake” with multi-colored pansies to emphasize the “cake” disguise and underline the early spring season.  Show off the “melon balls” made of salmon and sole in crystal stemware.  Present the “pizza” in a box from your favorite pizza place and tell your guests that it really is a pizza (and it is).   


To maximize surprise, invite your guests without hint of what is to come; do not mention April Fools’ Day.  When they arrive, escort them to the living room where the gorgeously decorated “layer cake” is prominently displayed.  Give them a printed menu, joking that they will need a guide for this dinner.  The menu, of course, is part of the fun.  As shown, it reverses spelling and shows a reversed order of courses.  Give your guests time to have fun “translating” the menu and talking about its irregularities such as starting a meal with sweets.  (“That’s an Asian thing, isn’t it?”)  At the right moment, announce that you will now cut the cake.  Do so with fun and flair, and then proceed in the same vein with the rest of the dinner.  All will adore being an

                                                                                                    APRIL FOOL!

Appropriate for:  Dinner parties around April 1, when spoofs and surprise suit the occasion or whenever you want the focus on fun.

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MENU

!LOOF LIRPA

Laitkcoc
Coffee

Stressed
Black and White Layer Cake
Pear Tart
Melon Balls with Whipped Cream

Dalas
Lettuces with Creamy Dressing

Tsafkaerb
Pancakes
Eggs, Sunny Side Up

Puos
Cucumber/Mint 

Sreziteppa
Tomato/Cheese Pizza
Guacamole

BACKING UP THE THEME

 

Souvenir Menus
Basic: Print the menu shown above. 
Ornamental:  It’s a colorful jester.  The face, topped with a three-peaked jester’s hat festooned with bells, displays the printed menu.  A showy, scalloped collar completes the jester image.  For ease in handling, paste the jester onto a background of card stock in a contrasting color.


For each menu, you’ll need four pieces of 8½x11-inch card stock – one each for the face, hat, collar and background.  Choose colors that please you.  However, we recommend for the face a light color (white, cream, beige or light pink) so that the menu items can be clearly seen in a dark print, that you use the same color for hat and collar and that the background provide contrast to the face, hat and collar.  You will also need three ½-inch bells, three 4-inch pieces of string, a hole puncher, glue and strong tape.


First, print the text for the ornamental menu on the face card.  Next, draw an oval for the face, about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide.  Make sure the oval includes the entire menu.  Optionally, add ears.  Cut out the face.
To make the jester’s hat, place the hat card with its long side horizontal.  Next, center the top of the face about 1½ inches from the bottom of the hat card.  Trace the outline of the top part of the face that overlaps the hat card.  Cut along the outline.  


The jester’s hat has three curved projections that look like floppy cones with a circle on the end and a bell on the circle.  Draw them in erasable pencil using the website’s photo as a guide.  Start the floppy cones for the sides of the hat at the bottom of the hat card, at the points where the face was cut out.  Start the floppy cone for the top of the hat where the side cones start their upward curve.  Flop this top cone to one side.  Each cone should be about 1½ inches wide at the start and about 3-4 inches long.  Taper them to about ¼ inch wide and then make a ¾ inch circle at the end.  


To add bells to the hat, punch a hole in the center of each of the three circles.   Thread a string through the opening at the bottom of each bell and tie the ends.  Next, for each, pull the tied ends through the hole in the floppy cone, so that the bell is lying on top of the circle.  Use tape to secure the strings to the back of the circle.


To make the collar, center the face at the top of the collar card so that just the chin and mouth area are on the collar card (about 2½ inches of the lower face).  Trace the outline of the lower face on the collar card.  Cut it out.  Draw a scalloped edge all around the cutout section, then cut out the scalloped edge.


To complete the menu, hold the background card vertically.  Position the hat, face and collar.  The face should be in the center of the background card, the bottom of the chin about 1½ inches above the bottom of the background card.  Position the hat on top, so that all or at least two of the floppy cones jut out beyond the borders of the background card.  Position the collar around the chin.  When satisfied with the positioning, tape or glue the face and then the hat and collar to the background card.

Symbols.  Jesters, clowns, anything associated with jokes.  One theory as to the origin of All Fools’ Day explains why.  With the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, New Year’s Day was moved from April 1st to January 1st.  However, there were many who continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1st.  Traditionalists who refused to acknowledge the New Year on January 1st were ridiculed, sent on fools’ errands and were the recipients of practical jokes.

Color.  No particular colors are associated with the day, but bright colors, especially primary colors, are certainly consistent with the theme of jests and jokes.


Table décor.  Reverse the position of plates and centerpieces.  Run plates with soup bowls down the center of your table and put a small vase or bowl with flowers where the plates should be.  Position stemware and flatware at its traditional place, but use reverse order, i.e., fork on right, knife on left, stemware starting on left.  After guests sit, they may exchange the position of plates and flowers.


Other décor.  Start the fun with a jester or a fool’s cap on your front door.  Add pranks and practical jokes from the fun store to your shopping list.  Remembering that April 1st was once New Year’s Day, noisemakers and confetti will also enhance the theme.  Add touches that strike your whimsy – using jester cards for place names or other decoration, a small statue of a shaggy dog held aloft as you tell your best shaggy dog story, or changing the lighting from overhead to candles with different courses.


Music.  Once all guests are assembled, capture and focus their attention on the theme by playing Auld Lang Syne.  Then explain the origin of All Fools Day and break out the noisemakers and confetti.
But, for the rest of the evening, is there music evocative of jesters and jokes, mischief and pranks?  Many songs in the popular vein qualify:  What Kind of Fool Am I? Goodbye Cruel World (I’m Off to Join the Circus), Kathy’s Clown, My Foolish Heart, (He’s a Clown) That Charlie Brown.  For some, the answer is secular music from the Middle Ages and Renaissance.  Carmina Burana and Tyl Oleanspiegel’s Merry Pranks are choices for the classically inclined. 

 

Favor.  Present each guest with a beautifully wrapped, small gift box.  Inside, place a small mirror wrapped in paper with the note on top.
Note for favor:  Use this quote from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night:  “‘Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun; it shines everywhere.”  When your guests open the paper they will see themselves!  To soften the joke, provide another quote from Twelfth Night:  “This fellow’s wise enough to play the fool...”  Alternatively, use an empty box that simply says, “April Fool!”  Or the box might contain a silly fortune or a joke on a small strip of paper.

                                                                            BEVERAGE RECOMMENDATIONS
 

Opening Cocktail. In keeping with the reversals on the menu, start with what looks like coffee, but is actually a cocktail made with coffee liqueur.  A Black Russian combines coffee liqueur with vodka (1 part liqueur to 2 parts vodka), a White Russian adds 1 part light cream.  Ask your guests whether they prefer their coffee black or with cream.  Or you may simply combine the liqueur with soda.  Serve in demi-tasse or espresso cups if you have them.  

 

Soup. A white wine with herbal or grassy notes will complement this dish.  We suggest a dry Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Entrée. With the savory flavors in these dishes, a medium-bodied red will be best, perhaps a French Rhône or an Australian Shiraz.  

 

After Dinner. Why not finish with brut Champagne?  It is the perfect beverage with this set of desserts and is in keeping with the idea of reversals.

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APPETIZERS

Black Olive Tapenade and Goat Cheese

Two delights of southern France, black olive tapenade and goat cheese, make a delicious duo with a hearty, country-style bread.  You will need a sharp, serrated blade to cut this “cake.”  Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 2 days in advance:  Make tapenade.

Up to 4 hours in advance:  Complete final assembly.

 

Ingredients

Tapenade

1 cup pitted, brine-cured black olives (about ½ pound), preferably Niçoise  

3 tablespoons capers

2 anchovies in oil, drained

2 cloves garlic, center cores removed

2 packed tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

2 packed tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, preferably a fruity green one 

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

½ pound soft, young French goat cheese, at room temperature

1 tablespoon or less sour cream, if needed

 

1 6-7 inch round loaf of country-style bread

 

Garnish

Multi-color pansies      

 

Preparation

    1.      Process the tapenade ingredients into a smooth paste.  

    2.      If goat cheese is not soft enough to spread easily, thin it with a small amount of sour cream.

    3.      Slice the loaf of bread longitudinally into three layers and trim off all crust.

    4.      Assemble the “cake.”  Place one bread layer on a plate, spread with half the tapenade, add second layer, spread with   the rest of the tapenade and top with last layer.  Cover top and sides with goat cheese.  

 

Presentation

Decorate with multi-color pansies.  Place on your most impressive cake plate.  You will need a sharp, serrated knife to cut into serving pieces.

PEAR TART

Asian Pear Tart

This dish delivers a double dose of surprise.  It looks like a pear tart, but its taste is more meaty than fruity.  Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 1 day in advance:  Make crust and prepare pears; separately, cover tightly and refrigerate.

Up to 4 hours in advance:  Toast almond slices.  Complete the tart.  Keep at room temperature.  

 

Ingredients

Crust 

1 cup Zweiback-toast crumbs

1 cup ground walnuts

¼ cup flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg, lightly beaten

4 tablespoons butter, melted

 

Pears

2 Asian pears, preferably the brown-skinned variety

2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon finely ground anise seed

 

Decoration

¼ cup almond slices with skin

                       

Preparation

    1.  Preheat oven to 300ºF.  Make crust.  Combine dry ingredients and mix well.  Add egg and butter and stir until combined.  Pat dough onto bottom and ¼ inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.  Place a weight (parchment paper and dried beans work well) on the dough.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Cool before removing from pan.

    2.  Prepare pears.  Peel, core and cut into thin slices.  Mix with soy, butter and ground anise.  Bake in a separate pan at 300ºF for about 20 minutes or until pears are tender, but not soft.  Transfer pears and liquid to a skillet.  Over medium high heat, stir pear slices until glazed and all liquid has evaporated.  Cool.

    3.  Toast almond slices.  Place in 350ººF oven for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

Presentation

Put crust on serving plate.  Place pear slices in pinwheel pattern on crust.  Sprinkle almond slices over pears or make a pattern of your choosing.  Serve warm.  Place in 250ºF oven for 10-15 minutes just before serving.

MELON BALLS WITH WHIPPED CREAM

Wine-Poached Salmon and Sole with Horseradish Cream

These fish balls look like balls of watermelon and honeydew.  Pink salmon is poached with red wine, to intensify its flavor and color.  A white fish is poached in white wine for flavor, then blended with chives for added flavor and color.  Horseradish cream, an ideal taste complement for most fish, is swirled on top to look like whipped cream.  Serves 8.

 

Note

Up to 12 and at least 4 hours in advance:  Poach salmon and sole.  Make horseradish sauce.  Cover and refrigerate both fish and the horseradish cream.

 

Ingredients

Salmon

½ cup dry red wine, preferably a Cabernet Sauvignon

1 cup cold water

4 sprigs thyme

½ yellow onion

1/8 teaspoon white vinegar

1/3 pound salmon

 

Sole

½ cup dry white wine, preferably a Sauvignon Blanc

1 cup cold water

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

½ yellow onion

1/8 teaspoon white vinegar

1/3 pound sole or other mild flavored white fish

¼ cup chopped chives 

 

Horseradish cream 

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, inside core removed

¼ cup prepared white horseradish

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

 

Garnish

Fresh mint leaves

 

Preparation

    1.  Poach salmon.  Place red wine, cold water, thyme, onion and vinegar in a 5-quart pot.  Bring just to a boil.  Using tongs, place salmon in pot and gently simmer for 10 minutes.  The liquid should barely make bubbles.  Strain and cool.  In a non-reactive bowl, mash salmon and form into small balls, about ½-¾ inch in diameter.

    2.  Poach sole.  Place white wine, cold water, caraway, onion and vinegar in a 5-quart pot.  Bring just to a boil.  Using tongs, place sole in pot and gently simmer for 7 minutes.  The liquid should barely make bubbles.  Strain and cool.  Blend or process the fish and chives until smooth.  In a non-reactive bowl, form the sole and chive mixture into small balls, about ½-¾ inch in diameter.

    3.  Make horseradish cream.  Blend or process all ingredients.

 

Presentation

Use crystal or glass, stems or small bowls.  Fill with a mixture of the balls of salmon and sole.  Using a pastry bag, pipe out the horseradish sauce in a swirling design to suggest whipped cream.  Place a sprig of fresh mint in each dish.  Serve cold.

SOUP

LETTUCES WITH CREAMY DRESSING

Lettuce and Leek Soup

The bright green of this soup will make anyone think it’s a salad, and it almost is.  Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 2 days in advance:  Make soup base (Step 1); cover and refrigerate.

Up to 4 hours in advance: Cut romaine leaves and strip parsley stems; cover lightly with plastic and refrigerate.

No more than 1 hour in advance:  Complete soup; keep covered at room temperature; gently reheat just before serving.

 

Ingredients

Soup

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons butter

2 medium leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced

2 medium shallots, minced

6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably home-made

1/8 teaspoon white vinegar

1 head romaine lettuce, with all outer leaves

1 small bunch flat-leafed (Italian) parsley

1 teaspoon salt

 ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

 

Topping

2 cups frisée, broken into small pieces

½ cup crème fraîche

 

Garnish

Parsley leaves with stem

 

Preparation

    1.   Make soup base.  Melt butter with olive oil in heavy saucepan over low heat.  Sauté leeks and shallots until soft, about 10 min.  Add stock and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until leeks and shallot are very soft.  

    2.   Complete soup.  Add vinegar to stock base.  Cut romaine crosswise into strips of about 1 inch.  Remove parsley leaves from stems.  Stir romaine and parsley into soup base.  Cook over medium-low heat for 5 min., just until the vegetables are slightly softened.  Add pepper and salt to taste.  Using a blender or food processor, blend until smooth.  Return to pot and gently reheat just before serving.  Do not allow soup to boil.

 

Presentation

Spoon hot soup into shallow soup bowls.  Cover completely with frisée, place a dollop of crème fraîche in the center and garnish with parsley leaves and stem.

ENTREE

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PANCAKES

Lavender-Scented Lamb in Lavender Crêpes

Lavender is the “surprise” ingredient in these savory lamb crêpes.  The instructions seem complex, but each step is easy and much can be done in advance.  The result is delicious and distinctive, well worth your effort.  Serves 8.

 

Notes

Yield:  At least 16 crêpes

At least 4 hours and up to 1 day before roasting lamb:  Make herb paste and marinate lamb; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before roasting.

Up to 1 day in advance:  Roast lamb and make sauce; refrigerate if made more than 2 hours in advance.

At least 4 hours and up to 1 day in advance:  Make crêpe batter; cover and refrigerate.

Up to 2 hours in advance:  Make crêpes; keep covered at room temperature.

Up to 1 hour in advance:  Fill crêpes; gently reheat before serving.   

 

Ingredients

Herb paste

6 garlic cloves, any green centers removed

3 teaspoons dried lavender buds

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves 

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

 

3-4 pound boneless leg of lamb, not tied, fat and tendons removed (your butcher can do this job)

Sauce

1½ cups red wine, preferably a Rhône or Shiraz

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

 

Crêpes

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon dried lavender buds, ground

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup whole milk

1/3 cup sour cream

½ cup water

 

Garnish

Rosemary sprigs

 

Preparation

    1.   Make herb paste.  In food processor, grind garlic, lavender, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Gradually add olive oil and process to a paste.

    2.   Marinate lamb.  Place lamb in a non-reactive baking pan, spread out.  Spread both sides with herb paste.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.

    3.   Roast lamb.  Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Bring lamb to room temperature, uncover and roast for about 1½ hours, until a thermometer reads 135ºF (medium rare) at thickest portion.  Remove lamb from pan and set aside.  When cool, cut or tear the lamb into small shreds.

    4.   Make sauce.  Skim off fat from drippings in roasting pan.  Add wine to roasting pan and stir to scrape up any brown bits in the pan.  Strain.  Place in saucepan over low heat and simmer until reduced by half.  Remove from heat, add balsamic vinegar and stir.

    5.   Prepare crêpe batter.  Mix flour with salt, baking powder and lavender buds and sift.  In separate bowl, lightly beat eggs and then beat in milk, sour cream and water.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture.  Using a wooden spoon, stir together for about 15 strokes, just until ingredients are barely combined.  There will be lumps.  Refrigerate 6-24 hours.

    6.   Make crêpes.  Over moderate heat, grease a crêpe pan or small skillet with a small amount of butter, add a small amount of batter and tilt pan to spread evenly.  Cook until bubbles break, then turn and cook the second side until brown.  Place on plate; keep warm and covered with a cloth towel.  Repeat process for a total of 16 crêpes.

    7.   Fill the crêpes.  Have lamb at room temperature.  Cover the second side of the crêpe with a thin layer of shredded lamb, leaving edges bare.  Roll up.  Keep at room temperature.  

 

Presentation

Place crêpes in rows on an oval ovenproof platter or in a circular pattern on a round ovenproof platter.  Warm in a 250ºF oven for 15 minutes before serving.

EGGS, SUNNY SIDE UP

Purees of Parsnips and Butternut Squash 

Pureed parsnips, perfumed with allspice and brightened with vinegar, make up the white of these “eggs.”  Their “yolks” are a richly flavored combination of butternut squash and caramelized onion.  Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 1 day in advance:  Prepare parsnips and squash; cover and refrigerate.

Up to 2 hours in advance:  Prepare platter of “eggs” and keep at room temperature; warm before serving.

 

Ingredients

Parsnips

2 tablespoons white vinegar

5 allspice berries

3 pounds medium parsnips, peeled and sliced in 1-inch sections

6 tablespoons butter

 

Squash

1 large butternut squash, about 3 pounds

¼ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

3 medium onions, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar

 

Garnish

24 2-inch sprigs rosemary

 

Preparation

    1.    Cook parsnips.  Place vinegar and allspice berries in cold water, enough to cover the parsnips.  Bring to boil.  Cook parsnips in boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes.  Pass through a food mill or mash by hand into a smooth paste.  Set aside.

    2.   Bake squash.  Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.  Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then brush with olive oil.  Lay squash halves cut side down on the foil.  Bake about 1 hour, until squash is squishy, i.e., easily pierced.  Pass through a food mill or mash by hand into a smooth paste.  Set aside.

    3.   Cook onions.  Over medium low heat, mix the olive oil and butter, then add the onions.  Cook until onions are a deep golden color and very soft, 15-20 minutes.  Stir in balsamic vinegar and cook another 5 minutes.  Cool, then process or blend into a smooth paste.  

    4.    Combine squash and onions.  

 

Presentation

Place “eggs” on a large ovenproof platter.  For each “egg”, fill a 3-inch round cookie cutter with parsnips.  Position on plate and remove cutter.  With the flat of a spoon, make a hollow in center of the parsnips.  Fill the hollow with the squash, rounding it up in the middle and smoothing the sides so that it looks like the yolk of a sunny-side-up egg.  Warm in a 250ºF oven for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Entrée Plating

Have sauce, stuffed crêpes and “eggs” warmed up.  Place two stuffed crêpes at the top of each dinner plate, angled away from each other.  Pour a ribbon of sauce over each in a sine-wave pattern and, if you like, a pattern of small dots of sauce around the border of the plate.  Remaining sauce may be served separately.  Lay a sprig of rosemary across each crêpe and one more sprig at the top of the angle formed by the two crêpes.  Very carefully, use a spatula to place one “egg” in the open area of the plate.  You may need to pat the “egg” a bit to keep its circular shape.

SALAD

CUCUMBER-MINT SOUP

Cucumber and Mint Salad with Green Mayonnaise

Topped with a green mayonnaise, this salad looks like a soup.  It refreshes with the coolness of cucumber and mint and the zing of mayonnaise flavored with peppery lettuce.  Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 4 hours in advance:  Prepare cucumbers; cover and refrigerate.  Prepare green mayonnaise; cover and refrigerate.

 

Ingredients

Cucumbers

4 young cucumbers or 2 European-style (seedless) cucumbers

¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves or 2 tablespoons dried mint

 

Green mayonnaise

1 large (about 8 ounces) bunch watercress or arugula

1 cup mayonnaise, preferably home-made

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Garnish

¼ pound ricotta salata cheese, shredded

 

Preparation

   1.    Prepare cucumbers.  Do not peel unless they have been waxed.  Slice into thin rounds, about 1/8 inch in diameter.  Mix with mint leaves.

    2.  Prepare green mayonnaise.  Process the watercress and mayonnaise until smooth.  Add salt and pepper.

 

Presentation

Place the cucumber slices on the bottom of a small soup bowl or large cup.  Cover with green mayonnaise and smooth the top to look like a liquid.  Shave shreds of ricotta salata on top.

DESSERTS

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TOMATO/CHEESE PIZZA

Strawberry/Tomato Tart with White Chocolate/Mascarpone Cheese

By this time, your guests have got the idea – the dishes look like something they are not.  So surprise them again.  April Fool!  This really is a pizza – and make sure your guests appreciate that fact!  After all, a pizza is a piecrust with a tomato-flavored sauce and a cheese topping.   And that’s what this is, even if this pizza is sweet, not savory.  Its crust is rich and buttery, its sauce complex and fruity, all topped with creamy, white-chocolaty goodness.  Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 2 weeks if freezing or up to 2 days but at least 1 hour in advance:  Make the dough, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate; if frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding.

Up to 1 week if freezing or up to 2 days, but at least 1-2 hours before using: Make white-chocolate cream; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze; bring to proper consistency at room temperature before using.

Up to 1 week if freezing or up to 2 days in advance: Make tomato-strawberry sauce; cover tightly with plastic wrap; thaw thoroughly if frozen.

Up to 1 day in advance:  Complete the tart; cover, and refrigerate.           

 

Ingredients

Dough

2 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour plus 2-3 tablespoons 

A pinch of salt

3 tablespoons sugar

12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits

3 tablespoons sour cream

1 large egg + 1 egg white, beaten together

5 tablespoons ice water 

 

White-Chocolate Cream

¼ cup whipping cream

2 ounces good white chocolate, finely chopped in food processor

2 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

Additional whipping cream or milk as necessary

 

Tomato/Strawberry Sauce

1 ripe, medium tomato, cored and halved vertically

2 cups fresh strawberries, trimmed

1 teaspoon (for the tomato) + ½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

 

8-10 toothpicks

 

Preparation

Dough

    1.   Place 2 and 2/3 cups flour in a bowl and form a well in it.  Put the salt, sugar, and butter in the well.  With fingertips, blend the salt, sugar and butter into the flour until it becomes a crumbly dough.

    2.  In a small bowl, combine sour cream, beaten eggs and water and add to the flour mixture.  Knead again just until the dough can be formed into a ball.  Do not overwork.  

    3.  Wrap the ball in plastic wrap or wax paper.  Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.

    4.  Preheat oven to 425¥F.

    5.  Prepare a 13-inch pizza pan by spreading it with a thin film of butter.  

    6.  Put aside ¼ of the dough.  Place the rest of the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Flatten to a disk.  Roll from the center outward.  If too sticky, sprinkle with flour.  It needs to be about a circle the size of the pan (13 inches) and about ¼-3/8 inches thick.  When done, drape it on the rolling pin and transfer to the pizza pan.  Alternatively, you may also fold the dough into quarters and then reopen on the pan.  Press firmly against the bottom.  

    7.  To make the rim of the crust, roll the reserved dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle that is 4x10 inches and about ¼-3/8 inches thick.  Divide into four 1x10-inch pieces. Roll up each piece to make a 10-inch long cylinder.  Place the 4 pieces around the edge of the pie dough and join the seams.  

    8.  Line pastry with foil.  Add pie weights or beans and bake for 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and discard weights and foil.  Lower oven temperature to 350¥F and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until edges begin to brown.  Let cool on rack.

 

Tomato/strawberry sauce

    1.  Roast the tomato.  Preheat oven to 325¥F.  Place the tomato halves on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side up.  Top each with ½ teaspoon of sugar.  Roast for 90 minutes, or until they begin to collapse.  When cool, peel and pass through a sieve into a small dish, discarding the solids.

     2. Place the tomato juice, strawberries, ½ cup sugar, confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice in a blender and puree until smooth.  Refrigerate.

 

White-chocolate cream

    1. Transfer the white chocolate to a small bowl.

    2. Bring heavy cream to a slow boil in small saucepan, stirring often after it         heats up.  Pour over chopped white chocolate and stir until smoothly melted.  Stir in mascarpone cheese.  Cool in the refrigerator for about 1-2 hours;  topping should be stiff enough to hold its shape when dotted onto the pie, but not so stiff that it sticks to the spoon.  If necessary, add additional whipping cream or milk to achieve the right consistency.

 

Assemble the tart

            Spread strawberry/tomato sauce over cooled pastry dough, inside the rim but not on top of it.  Dot with as much white chocolate sauce as you like.  Use more for an “extra-cheese pizza”.  Stick toothpicks all around into the rim of the sauce.  Cover with plastic wrap, creating a tent and being careful not to disturb the surface of the pizza.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

           

Presentation

Ask your local pizza parlor for one of their boxes and put your “pizza” in it.  Use a wheeled pastry wheel or knife to slice the tart into 8 equal wedges.

GUACAMOLE

Avocado Mousse with Cookies

North Americans do not associate avocados with dessert, but not so the South Americans who make luscious drinks and desserts with sweetened avocado.  Here, an avocado mousse masquerades as guacamole.  Complete the illusion by adding “chips” (thin cookies) on the side.  Serves 8.

 

Note

Up to 12 hours in advance:  Make mousse and refrigerate.

 

Ingredients

Mousse

3 ripe Haas avocados

¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice

Juice of 2 Valencia or other juice oranges

¼ cup superfine sugar

Grated zest of 1 orange

½ cup heavy cream, whipped

 

Cookies

Make or buy very thin cookies, such as Moravian spice cookies or ginger snaps

 

Garnish

Coriander sprigs

 

Preparation

    1.   Peel avocados, cut in half and remove pits.

    2.  Place avocados, lime juice, orange juice, sugar and grated zest into blender and puree.

    3.  Transfer to a bowl and fold in whipped cream.  Place in serving bowl.  

    4.  Chill for at least 4 hours.

 

Presentation

Use individual small bowls or a large bowl that can be passed around.  Smooth the top surface.  Add 1 or more coriander sprigs.  Surround with thin cookies as if serving guacamole with chips.