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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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DESSERT

German Chocolate Torte

"An Academy Award Dinner"

ENTREE

"A Fat Tuesday Celebration Dinner"

SALAD
Seahorse Salad

"Seafood and Citrus Dinner"

JULY

A COOL MENU FOR A HOT SUMMER

Inspiration:  Mid-summer, July’s heat

Here is relief from the heat with fun foods in shapes symbolic of winter along with a frosty décor. Cool!

COOK’S INTRODUCTION

It has been a very hot summer. Everyone is sticky, grumpy and entirely weary of the sizzling heat. It’s time for a dinner party with a winter theme that will chill everyone out.  
 

Imagine their surprise! The evening is hot and humid. You greet your guests at the door with a foam snowman at your side. The air smells of pine and is notably cool. It looks like winter.  Artificial snow lines the windows and a pair of skis leans against one wall. On the coffee table is an eye-catching scene that calms and cools, a miniature snow-capped mountain on an expanse of grass. A set of snowmen and a pile of snowballs are also in view.  

 

The snow-capped mountain, snowmen and snowballs are appetizers. Like all the dishes in the menu, these are sculpted in wintry forms, designed for intrigue and fun and to be cool and cooling. Wintry scenes are featured. Besides the snow-capped mountain, the “iceberg” soup looks amazingly like icebergs floating on a cold sea, while the entrée depicts a winter landscape.
 

The tastes are just as carefully crafted to intrigue and charm. They are cool and refreshing or spicy and zesty. By design, the principle ingredients are fairly common, because the novelty of each dish’s appearance calls for a balance with the familiar. However, your guests will savor the flavors. There is enough complexity in each dish to satisfy the tongues and minds of all the foodies at your table.

 

Set a wintry decor and don’t hesitate to be inventive, whimsical and witty. The occasion calls for fun.

 

CHILL OUT!

 

Appropriate for: Any summer day.

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MENU

A COOL MENU FOR A HOT SUMMER

It’s been a very hot summer.  

This wintry menu will chill you out.

Cocktail
Ice Cold Lemonade (Spiked with Rum)

 

Appetizers
Snow-Capped Mountain (Pureed Lentils with Orange and Spices)
Snowman (Scallop Ceviche)
Snowballs (Teleggio Cheese with Prosciutto and Fig)

 

Soup
Iceberg Soup (Thai-Style with Chicken and Coconut)

 

Entree
Yule Logs on Bed of Snow with Evergreen Branches 
(Grilled, Dry-Aged Strip Steaks)
(Rosemary-Scented Mashed Potatoes)
(Broccoli Rabe with Lemon Salt)

 

Salad
Iceberg Salad (Iceberg Lettuce with Blue Cheese Dressing)

 

Desserts
Christmas Tree (Pistachio Cake with White Chocolate/Mint Ganache)
Ornaments for Your Tree (Melon Balls in Melon Liqueur)

BACKING UP THE THEME

 

Souvenir Menus
Basic: Print the menu shown above. 
Ornamental: For a cool start, present the menu as a snowman.

 

For each menu, you’ll need one piece of 8½x11-inch blue card stock for the background, one piece of white printer paper, black and orange scraps of construction paper for eyes, hat and “carrot” nose and an appropriate piece of cloth, about 8-10 inches in length and about ¾ inch wide, to serve as the snowman’s scarf.
 

First, print the menu on the white paper. Draw the outline of the snowman on this paper. Draw the snowman’s midsection. It is an oval, about 3½ inches wide and 2 inches tall that encompasses the title and subtitle of the menu. Above, and slightly overlapping, draw a circle with about a 2-inch diameter for the snowman’s head. Now, draw the bottom part of the snowman – an oval that is about 6 inches wide and 5 inches tall. Make sure that it contains all the menu items and that it slightly overlaps the midsection. Cut out the snowman shape and position it on the center of the blue card about ¼ inch above the bottom. 
 

Make the scarf. Cut a ½-inch fringe on both short ends. Wrap the scarf behind the snowman’s neck and cross the ends in front. Glue or tape the snowman to the blue card. Using the black construction paper, cut two “coal-shaped” pieces for eyes and glue them in place.  Now, draw a small hat on the black construction paper. Cut and glue on the side of the snowman’s head. Use the orange construction paper to add a “carrot-shaped” nose.  

 

Symbols. Winter brings to mind cold, snow and ice, evergreen trees, snowballs and snowmen, skiing and ice-skating.  

Color. A wintry theme calls for white in abundance. As well, the lively and cooling sparkle of silver works well, as will accents of green or red. “Cool” colors, especially bright, light blues, also work.  
 

Table Décor. Table Décor. Emphasize white. Use shiny flatware, crystal or glass stemware, crystal or glass serving pieces and, if possible, glass plates, or white ones. Placemats of silver would be ideal. Napkins could be white, silver, green, red or blue. If you prefer a tablecloth, you might use one made of manufactured “snow,” one printed with pine boughs or a plain one in red, green or blue.

For an absolutely splendid centerpiece, make a sparkling ice bowl containing colorful emblems of winter. Because it is frozen, you can make it well in advance. Here’s how: You will need two stainless steel, aluminum or freezer-safe glass bowls, one slightly larger than the other. At least five days before the dinner, fill the larger bowl with one inch of water. Place in freezer, making sure the bottom is flat. When frozen solid, place the smaller bowl on top of the ice. Tape the two bowls together so that they stay in place. Fill the space between with water, a quarter of the way to the top. Freeze. Drop in sprigs of holly, pinecones, the ends of pine boughs, red berries or any other reminder of winter. Add cold water to fill the space between bowls halfway to the top. Freeze until solid. Add more winter reminders. Fill the space three-quarters full with cold water. Freeze solid. Add more reminders, fill space to top with cold water and freeze solid. Next, remove the bowls, using tepid water if necessary. Keep the ice bowl in the freezer for at least 24 hours before using. Place the ice bowl on top of a shallow bowl or platter (to catch the drips) in the center of the table. Even on a hot night, the ice bowl will last for many hours if frozen solid.

 

Alternatively, you can use styrofoam “snow” balls, pine boughs, or a few Christmas ornaments and scatter silver or snow-flake confetti around the table.

Other Décor. Set the scene with a large vase of freshly cut pine boughs or other evergreen branches near the door so that guests catch the scent as they enter. Buy some large white foam balls in different sizes and make a “snowman” to greet your guests at the door. Use a small ball for the head and a larger one for the body. Use a thin bamboo skewer to hold the two balls together; insert the bottom of the head onto one end of the skewer and the top of the body ball into the other. We like the “classic” snowman with carrot nose, button eyes and stick arms.  
Prop ice skates or skis or snow shoes in a corner of the living room or dining room.  Obtain artificial “snow,” the kind used underneath a Christmas tree, and fix it to the bottoms and up the corners of windows to resemble snow piling up on a windowsill.

 

Use any “snow globes,” carvings or figurines of arctic animals such as polar bears or penguins, miniature evergreen trees, etc. Place them as appropriate to your living and dining areas.  Prepare a bowl of small white foam “snow” balls. If inclined, invite your guests to have a snowball battle. 
 

Music. Prepare a collection of songs such as Let It Snow; Frosty, the Snowman; Winter Wonderland; etc.  

 

Favor. Make a batch of “dirty snowballs” with the recipe supplied. These luscious little treats covered in powdered sugar look like snowballs and melt in the mouth like snowballs. Put a little surprise inside, a crunchy, chocolate covered coffee bean. Give about 3 “snowballs” to each guest. Wrap in plastic and then make a sachet of silver or white tissue paper. Tie with silver or blue ribbon.
Note for favor:  Remember the snowball battles? The ones when the kids used dirty snow and sometimes put little stones in the center? Toss these “dirty snowballs” into your mouth and bring back the thrill.

BEVERAGE RECOMMENDATIONS

Opening Cocktail. For each drink, combine 2 ounces rum with 4 ounces cold lemonade.  Serve with ice cubes in tall glasses frosted in the freezer. For the lemonade, thoroughly dissolve ¾ cup sugar in 1 cup water. Stir in 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add 4 cups cold water.  

 

Soup. A crisp white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Riesling suits the soup. 

 

Entrée. A full-bodied red will complement the rich flavors in this course.  

 

After Dinner. Serve ice-cold Limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur) in frosted glasses.

APPETIZERS

SNOW-CAPPED MOUNTAIN

 Lentils with Orange and Spices

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Orange brightens the taste of the lentils; spices and hot pepper add punch. With the stunning (and easy) presentation, the result is as refreshing as the cool air on a mountaintop. Serves 8.

 

Note

Up to 2 weeks if freezing or up to 2 days in advance: Make lentils and freeze or refrigerate; serve at room temperature or slightly cool.  

 

Ingredients

Lentils

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon anise seeds

2 cloves

1 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, minced

½ tablespoon orange zest

¾ cup orange juice

½ pound lentils

Water to cover

½ teaspoon salt (or more if desired)

 

To complete the scene

1 large bunch of parsley, leaves and upper stems, chopped fine

2 tablespoons sour cream 

2 small rocks

 

Pita bread

4 ounces sour cream

Preparation

  1. Toast cumin and anise seeds in a hot skillet, about 1 minute, just until fragrant. Grind these seeds with the cloves. Set aside.

  2. Sauté onion in olive oil until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, pepper, spices and orange zest. Stir. Add orange juice and stir. Add lentils and sufficient water to cover the lentils. Bring to boil, turn heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 30–40 minutes, until lentils are tender. Add water as lentils cook, if necessary. Lentils should be moist when done. Add salt. Process until lentils are well chopped but not completely smooth.

 

Presentation

Make a scene of a snow-capped mountain on a grassy plain. For the grassy plain, cover a large platter with most of the chopped parsley. Mound the lentil puree into a mountain shape.  Place the “mountain” onto the platter, off center. Make a “tree line” on the “mountain” by covering, not too evenly, some of the bottom of the mound with more chopped parsley. Top the “mountain” with the 2 tablespoons sour cream to resemble snow. The “snow” should come farther down some sections of the “mountain” than others, as if the snow melted unevenly. Place two small rocks (after washing them thoroughly) on the “grass.” Serve small sections of the pita and a small bowl of sour cream separately. Guests can mound a little mountain of lentils onto a piece of pita and top it with a dab of sour cream.

SNOWMAN

Scallop Ceviche

The cool, clean taste of the ceviche contrasts nicely with the spicy lentil puree. Serves 8.

Notes

Yield: 8 “snowmen”

1 day in advance: Make ceviche; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

At least 2 hours in advance and up to 4 hours in advance: Make the “snowmen”; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate; serve cold.

 

Ingredients

Ceviche

¼ cup minced onion

¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1/3 cup fresh orange juice

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

1 fresh jalapeño chili, sliced, including seeds

2 tablespoons salt

1 pound medium sea scallops, tough side muscles removed

 

To finish the snowmen

16 red peppercorns or small pieces of red pepper

4 medium jalapeño peppers, seeded, deveined and cut into 16 strips

24 coriander seeds

 

Preparation

  1. Mix together all ingredients except scallops. Add scallops, cover tightly and marinate overnight.

  2. Remove scallops from marinade and process into a paste.

  3. Form “snowmen.” Use 1 rounded tablespoon ground scallops for the body and ½ teaspoon for the head. Roll into balls. Secure head to body with a toothpick inserted through upper part of body and lower part of head. Put 2 red peppercorns (or use red pepper) into head for eyes. Insert 2 jalapeño strips into upper sides of body for arms.  Put 3 coriander seeds down front of body to resemble buttons.

  4. The “snowmen” will leak some liquid, so place them on absorbent paper towels on a plate and refrigerate for at least 2 hours in advance. Blot bottoms before placing on serving plate.  

 

Presentation

The white “snowmen” need the contrast of a platter that is dark in color. Present them all facing in the same direction.

SNOWBALLS

Teleggio Cheese with Prosciutto and Fig

Teleggio is a soft Italian cow’s milk cheese with gentle, complex flavors, a very nice companion for both the prosciutto and the fig. Serves 8.

 

Notes

Yield: 24 “snowballs.”

Up to 4 hours in advance: Complete the preparation; cover tightly with plastic wrap; keep and serve at room temperature.

 

Ingredients

6 large or 12 small, fresh, green figs

2 ounces prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced, cut into 24 strips

¾ pound young teleggio cheese or other soft white cheese such as goat cheese

 

Preparation

Cut large figs into quarters and small figs into halves. Wind a strip of prosciutto around the fig section. Smooth the cheese around the outside in a ball shape.

 

Presentation

Pile “snowballs” on a dish in the formation used for ammunition such as cannonballs: a triangular layer with smaller layers on top, ending in just one ball in the top layer. 

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SOUP

 

ICEBERG SOUP

Thai-Style Soup with Chicken and Coconut

Your guests will delight at the sight of icebergs in their soup and they’ll love the contrasts in this witty soup. It may look cold, but this soup is hot. Its spicy, peppery tastes do the cooling while the icebergs melt into the mouth.

Note

Up to 1 day in advance: Make soup up through Step 1; refrigerate; reheat before adding last three ingredients.

To toast seeds, put in hot skillet for about 1 minute, until spice releases its fragrance.

 

Ingredients

Soup

2 14-ounce cans light unsweetened coconut milk

3 cups homemade chicken broth

2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms 

3 3-inch pieces of lemongrass

¼ cup nam pla (Thai fish sauce)

3 1-inch pieces of ginger root

1 teaspoon toasted coriander seeds, ground

1 small Thai (or other hot) chili, chopped

2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce

3 kaffir lime leaves (or zest and juice of 1 lime)

4 skinless boneless chicken thighs, sliced thin

¼ cup shallots, minced

½ cup Thai (or other) basil, sliced thin

 

“Icebergs”

3 large egg whites

1/8 teaspoon salt

 

Preparation

  1. Make soup. Combine all but the last 3 ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add remaining 3 ingredients and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove pieces of lemon grass and ginger,

  2. Beat egg whites and salt together just until they hold a stiff peak.

  3. Make “icebergs.” Pour the hot soup into a tureen with a wide diameter. Slide egg whites onto the surface of the soup. Using a folding motion with a large serving spoon, plunge the egg whites by spoonfuls into the soup. Do so just once for each spoonful of egg white. The egg whites will change shape when pushed under and will come up with a broken shape quite like an iceberg.

 

Presentation

Display the tureen and watch the gasps of admiration. Then spoon liquid soup into individual soup bowls. With the same spoon, carefully lift “icebergs” from tureen and place on top of soup in bowl. The bowl should be just about completely covered with “icebergs.”

ENTREE

YULE LOGS ON BED OF SNOW WITH EVERGREEN BRANCHES

Grilled Dry-Aged Strip Steak, Rosemary-Scented Mashed Potatoes 

and Broccoli Rabe with Lemon Salt

Pagan winter feasts in many parts of Europe featured Yule logs, huge logs meant to burn a long time and often elaborately decorated. A steak cut in log shape and decorated with white horseradish sauce is perfect for this winter feast. Place them on a bed of snowy-white potatoes with broccoli rabe “evergreen branches” and you will have the coolest entrée ever. The recipes, while seemingly simple, will reward you with top-notch taste if you use top-grade ingredients.  Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 1 day in advance: Make rosemary infusion for potatoes; refrigerate; reheat (do not boil) before use. Make lemon salt; cover tightly.

Up to 8 hours in advance: Make horseradish cream; cover and refrigerate. Prepare broccoli rabe; cover tightly and keep at room temperature.

Up to 2 hours in advance: Prepare potatoes; keep tightly covered; reheat before serving.

 

Ingredients

Snow (Mashed potatoes)

7 4-inch rosemary sprigs

1 cup milk

½ cup heavy cream

3 pounds white potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 stick unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Lemon salt

Zest of 1 lemon

Sea salt, equal in quantity to the baked zest

 

Horseradish cream

½ cup fresh horseradish, finely grated

½ tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon orange-blossom honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¾ cup heavy cream

 

Evergreens (Broccoli rabe)

3 pounds broccoli rabe

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered

Yule logs (Steak)

8 prime New York strip steaks, preferably dry-aged, at least an inch thick

Preparation

  1. Make rosemary-infused milk/cream. Combine 3 sprigs rosemary, milk and heavy cream in saucepan. Bring just to boil, remove from heat, cover and let stand 30 minutes.  Strain out the rosemary, pressing down hard to release all the juices from the rosemary.

  2. Make lemon salt. Preheat oven to 200°F. With a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler, remove the zest in long strips. Make sure there is no white pith on the strips. Put strips on cookie sheet or aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour. Put in a blender or grinder at high speed with the salt until you have a fine powder. Cover tightly until use.

  3. Make horseradish cream. Combine horseradish and vinegar. Mix in the honey, then the mustard, salt and pepper. In separate bowl, whip the cream just until it begins to stiffen and holds a soft peak. Fold in the horseradish mixture. Refrigerate. Put about half into a squeeze bottle to decorate the steak. Put the other half into a serving bowl.

  4. Cook broccoli rabe. Strip away the large, tough outer leaves leaving the smaller inner leaves and florets. Rinse thoroughly; do not shake or blot. Over medium-low heat, cook oil and garlic slivers together in a large skillet for about 2 minutes. Do not let garlic brown. Raise heat to medium, add wet broccoli rabe, stir to coat thoroughly with oil and garlic, cover and cook until tender, about 6-7 minutes. May be served warm or at room temperature.

  5. Prepare mashed potatoes. Place potatoes and 4 rosemary sprigs in water sufficient to cover potatoes. Bring to boil. Boil potatoes until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain.  Remove rosemary. Put through ricer or mash. Combine with butter and rosemary-infused milk/cream. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  6. If necessary, trim steaks to roughly resemble a log. Grill, turning once, 10–12 minutes for medium rare.

 

Entrée Plating

On each plate, place a bed of “snow” potatoes. Off center, place one “Yule log” steak on the “snow.” Squeeze out a wave or dot pattern of horseradish sauce to decorate the top.  On an opposite edge, place 3 stems of broccoli rabe, so that the stems are stretched out along the edge of the plate and the florets hang down like the branches of an evergreen. Sprinkle the broccoli rabe with the lemon salt. Pass the bowl of horseradish sauce separately.

SALAD

ICEBERG SALAD

Iceberg Lettuce with Bleu Cheese Dressing

A wedge of iceberg lettuce looks much like an iceberg. Its cool taste has always been a summer favorite. Place it on a sea of frothy, slightly blue-green dressing for one last cool scene. A tip:  Iceberg lettuce from a farmers’ market is typically tasty but, from the supermarket, typically not. Serves 8.

 

Note

Up to 8 hours in advance: Prepare dressing; cover and refrigerate.

 

Ingredients

Dressing

1 garlic clove, peeled

2 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup sour cream

6 ounces plus 2 ounces bleu (or other veined) cheese

 

Lettuce

2 large heads iceberg lettuce, quartered

 

Preparation

Make dressing. Place garlic, lemon juice and pepper in blender or food processor and combine.  Slowly add the oil in a stream, with motor running. Add heavy cream, sour cream and 6 ounces cheese. Mix until smooth. Place in bowl and add the remaining 2 ounces cheese after crumbling it well.

 

Presentation

Cover the center of individual salad plates with dressing. Place a wedge of lettuce on the dressing with a sharp edge up. Swirl the dressing to resemble a choppy sea.

DESSERTS

CHRISTMAS TREE

Pistachio Cake with White Chocolate/Mint Ganache

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Gorgeous to see, looking like a Christmas tree, this cake, with its wintry tastes, is a fitting finish to an evening of frosty fun. The batter is not too sweet but rich with yummy, green pistachios.  To top it all, a luscious frosting imparts the cool taste of fresh mint. Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 1 week if freezing or up to 3 days in advance: Make both ganaches; cover tightly and keep in refrigerator or freeze; bring to room temperature long enough to soften it for spreading.

Up to 1 day in advance: Bake cake; cool; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  

At least 2 and up to 4 hours ahead: Cut, frost and decorate cake; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until use.

 

Ingredients

Cake

2 cups shelled, unsalted pistachio nuts

2 tablespoons plus 1½ cups sugar

2 sticks butter plus enough to butter pan 

1 and 1/3 cups cake flour plus enough to flour pan 

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

7 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons almond extract

 

White-chocolate ganache

¾ cup heavy cream

8 4-inch sprigs fresh mint

12 ounces good quality white chocolate, processed or chopped into small bits

Green food coloring

 

Bittersweet-chocolate ganache (optional)

2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, processed or chopped into small bits

2 tablespoons heavy cream

 

Decoration

Edible decorations (balls, stars, glitter dust, etc.) for the tree

 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place pistachio nuts on a baking pan and roast for about 5 minutes, until fragrant. Cool.  

  2. Process pistachios with 2 tablespoons sugar until chopped into small bits. Set aside.  

  3. Butter a 13x9-inch cake pan and then dust with flour. Tap out extra flour.  

  4. In a small bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.

  5. In a large bowl, cream together butter and 1½ cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks one at a time. Add sour cream and almond extract. Beat well until smooth.  Mix in flour mixture. Stir in pistachios.  

  6. Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir one-fourth into batter to lighten. Then fold in the rest.  Turn into the prepared pan.

  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on rack.

  8. For the white-chocolate ganache, in a small pot, heat cream just to boiling. Rub mint sprigs and plunge into cream. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Strain the cream, pressing down hard on the mint until the leaves no longer release liquid. Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Return the mint-infused cream to a boil and then pour it over the chocolate. Stir until ganache is completely smooth. An interesting touch is to leave small grains of white chocolate if they resemble bits of snow.  Add enough green food coloring to make the mixture medium to dark green.

  9. For the bittersweet ganache, place the chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the cream just to boiling, then pour it over the chocolate. Stir until completely smooth.

  10. Cut out the Christmas tree shape, frost top and sides and decorate (see below).

Presentation

1.   Make a paper cut-out of a Christmas tree with trunk. Use a piece of wax or parchment paper the size of the cake pan

       (13x9 inches). Cut a simple Christmas tree shape: a large triangle for the green part of the tree and a truncated

       triangle (trapezoid) for the brown trunk.

       a. For the green tree triangle: Make three marks, one at the center top of a 9-inch side and one placed on each of

            the 13-inch sides, 2 inches from the bottom. Draw lines connecting the three points.

       b. For the trunk: On the base of the green tree’s triangle, mark two points for the top of the tree trunk, each 3½ 

            inches from the ends. Mark two more points on the bottom edge of the paper, each 2¼ inches from the side

            edges. Connect the points to form the sides of the tree trunk.  

       c. Check the dimensions before cutting out. The green tree triangle: 12-inch sides, 9-inch base. The trunk:  2-inch

            top, 4½-inch bottom, 2¼-inch sides. Cut out green tree and trunk in one piece.

       d. Turn out the cake onto a cutting board. Lay the cutout on top. With a serrated knife, cut the cake into the

            Christmas tree shape. Using a wide spatula, carefully lift the cake onto a serving platter. Frost the treetop with th

            green ganache and the trunk with the brown ganache. If you choose not to make the brown ganache, frost the

            trunk with the green ganache.  

2.   Decorate the cake. It is easiest to make two or three chains of the small decorations you chose, as shown in the

       photo, but feel free to decorate as you choose.  

ORNAMENTS FOR YOUR TREE

Melon Balls in Melon Liqueur

Melon balls macerated in a melon liqueur make a cooling, colorful and delicious dessert – and certainly an ornamental one. Serves 8.

 

Note

Up to 8 hours ahead: Cut out melon balls. Cover and refrigerate.

2 hours ahead: See Step 2

 

Ingredients

1 ripe watermelon

2 ripe honeydew melons

¼ cup melon liqueur

8 mint sprigs

 

Preparation

  1. Use the large end of a melon baller to make 5 watermelon and 5 honeydew balls for each guest.  

  2. Two hours before serving, drain balls and place in serving bowl together. Pour melon liqueur over. Stir gently and refrigerate. Stir once or twice more.  

 

Presentation

Make a mound of the melon balls in a small glass dish or martini glass for each guest. Place a mint sprig on top.

DIRTY SNOWBALLS

Coconut–Cookie Balls with Espresso Bean

Coat a cookie with crumbs of coconut and chocolate for a first-rate replica of a dirty snowball.  Put a “stone” in the center, a chocolate-covered espresso bean. Rich and luscious, a cross between a cookie and a candy, these little indulgences are replete with contrasts: the sweet and bitter coating is chewy, the middle layer is sweetly nutty and crispy, the center supplies full-blown crunch and a reprise of bitter and sweet. Serves 8.

 

Notes

Yield: About 24.

Up to 2 days in advance: Complete cookies; wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

 

Ingredients

2 ounces heavy cream

4 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped

½ cup blanched almonds, chopped into small bits

1 cup good quality almond cookie crumbs

2 tablespoons almond liqueur

About 24 chocolate-covered espresso beans

1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

¼ cup good quality unsweetened dark chocolate, coarsely ground

 

Preparation

  1. In a heavy pot, heat the cream just to boiling. Take off heat and stir in white chocolate until completely melted. Cool. Stir in the nuts, cookie crumbs and liqueur. Cover dough tightly and refrigerate until stiff, about 1 hour.

  2. With about ½ tablespoon of dough, form a ball around each espresso bean.

  3. Mix coconut and chocolate together. Roll balls in mixture.

  4. Divide into individual portions. Wrap in plastic and store in refrigerator until use. If using as a favor, you may wrap the balls as suggested before refrigerating.