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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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SALAD

"Seahorse" Salad with Eggplant & Purslane

"Seafood & Citrus Dinner"

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ENTREE

Steak Au Noir

"A Fat Tuesday Celebration Dinner"

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DESSERT

"Cake" Appetizer Black Olive Tapenade & Goat Cheese

"April Fool Dinner"

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

May

CELEBRATING THE ARMED FORCES OF THE U.S.A.
Inspiration:  Memorial Day

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Make Memorial Day Memorable with MRE, aka Military Rations Extraordinaire

COOK’S INTRODUCTION


Memorial Day – commemoration or celebration?  Armed Services Day – to honor those who serve, but how?  Especially on Memorial Day, we have an obligation to pay homage to those who lost their lives in the service of their country.  And yet, this three-day weekend holiday is situated as Spring ends and Summer begins, the time of year when growth and new life buoy our spirits.  It’s no surprise that the season calls us to the beach, the ballpark and the backyard barbecue. 
   

 Commemorate or celebrate?  This dinner dissolves the dilemma with a menu that honors the armed forces and, at the same time, is entertaining, delicious and distinctive.  The different courses represent the different armed services.  Each dish within each course is carefully constructed to characterize, in appearance and culinary composition, the mission of the armed service designated in that course.  
   

 Sailors sardonically term the ocean the “drink,” so we symbolize the Navy in the liquid courses.  Dinner starts with a suitably stunning Torpedo Cocktail.  Aptly, the soup is navy bean, but with flavors as intriguing as a sailor’s voyage to the Far East.  
     

The Marines’ Hymn says they are the “first to fight for right and freedom,” so the first food course belongs to the Marine Corps.  The three appetizers reflect the Marine’s spirit with robust tastes and attention-grabbing forms in dishes designed to echo their exploits made famous in the Hymn. 
     

The brawny Army supplies the “meat and potatoes” of warfare, so the Army gets the entrée.  Suggest the character and strength of the ordinary foot soldier with medallions, to represent medals, of a fine beef tenderloin.  Sauce them with earthy mushrooms and Marsala, a fortified wine.  Underline the message with a heftily flavored mixture of potatoes and greens that looks like a soldier’s camouflage uniform. 
   

 Salad, the next course, often does not receive the attention it deserves, much as the Coast Guard seems a minor player to domestic security.  Yet the Coast Guard is as critical a guardian of our shores as salad is a guardian of our health.  This salad will get your guests’ attention.  Shaped like a Coast Guard cutter, its appearance is arresting.  Its taste is zesty and refreshing, and its ingredients healthfully satisfying.
   

 The last course, dessert, goes to the last branch of the military to be established, the Air Force.  The Air Force has an aura of glamour and excitement, much as dessert is (or should be) the most enchanting and romantic course.  You’ll fly high in your guests’ eyes with a chocolate wing soaring through a silky, creamy concoction of blueberry pie in a sky of whipped cream clouds.
     

The favor, a scrumptious cookie decorated with the peace symbol in chocolate, is especially appropriate because it expresses the ultimate aim of our armed services…

PEACE!

 

Appropriate for:  Any date from the middle of May (Armed Forces Day is the third Saturday in May) to Memorial Day at month’s end and any occasion that honors a member of the armed services.

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MENU


CELEBRATING THE ARMED FORCES OF THE U.S.A.
Featuring MRE aka MILITARY RATIONS EXTRAORDINAIRE

COCKTAIL
Up Periscope!  FIRE!
(Torpedo Cocktail)

APPETIZERS
Halls of Montezuma
(Pinto Bean Paté)

Shores of Tripoli
(Pasta Shells Stuffed with Feta, Apricot and Mint)

In the Air, On Land, and Sea
(Roast Duck, Snow Pea and Scallop Kabob)

SOUP

Anchors Aweigh

(Navy Bean Soup)

ENTREE
Johnny Comes Marching Home
(Beef Medallions)

Camouflage
(Gratin of Potatoes and Greens)

SALAD
The Cutter
(Cucumber and Daikon Radish Salad)

DESSERTS

Off We Go
(Bittersweet Chocolate Wings)

Wild Blue Yonder
(Blueberry Cream “Pie”)

BACKING UP THE THEME

Souvenir menus. Print the menu on white card stock, adding the logo or an emblem for each of the Armed Forces at the top. For an extra special touch, make it resemble a flag. Print it landscape style and glue a bamboo skewer to the left back.

 

Symbols.  The logos of the various services, the American flag, medals, war memorabilia.

 

Table décor.  Red, white and blue, of course. A centerpiece of the VFW’s flower of remembrance, a bowl of red poppies, will be perfect.  We found a tablecloth covered with American flags - a super patriotic touch.

 

Introduce popping color with a bowl of red poppies, the VFW’s flower of remembrance.  For more flashes of color and a definite touch of patriotism, tie the napkins with red poppies.

 

For your cocktail table, use blue and white, as the first course of appetizers honors the Marines.

 

Other décor.  If at all possible, place a flag at your entry.  Traditionally, it is flown at half-mast on Memorial Day.  Display mementoes from servicemen or the wars they fought.
 

Music.  Patriotic music is appropriate.  However, you will hit the perfect note by downloading the official songs of each service.  As you serve each course, play the song for that service.
 

Mood music. Hit the perfect note by playing the official song for each of the armed services as you serve its course. In between, play a mix of rousing marches and melodic patriotic songs.

 

Favor. Prepare cookies displaying the peace symbol. Use recipe below. Or choose your own batter. Cover large, flat cookies with red and/or blue icing or sprinkles. On top, make a white peace sign of frosting. Place three or four cookies in the center of a navy blue napkin or tissue paper cut to the size of a dinner napkin. Tie with red, white and blue ribbons.
Note for favor: Enjoy the sweet taste of peace. These cookies, iced with a peace sign,  represent the ultimate goal of the Armed Services, peace.

BEVERAGE RECOMMENDATIONS

Opening cocktail.  A Torpedo cocktail makes an explosive start.  The classic torpedo uses equal parts of rum, cognac, vodka and white crème de menthe.  Turn the cocktail Navy blue by using Blue Curacao in place of the crème de menthe. The drink is, indeed, a torpedo so we recommend defusing this torpedo a bit with seltzer water.

 

For one drink:  Mix together ½ ounce rum (preferably white), ½ ounce cognac, ½ ounce vodka, ½ ounce Blue Curaçao and 3 ounces seltzer water (optional).  

 

A whiskey sour glass is the bartender’s choice for this drink, but use the glass in your cupboard that is closest in shape to a torpedo.  Garnish with a small flag with the Navy logo attached to a cocktail stirrer.

 

Soup.  A dry white wine, preferably a Sauvignon Blanc from the West Coast.  If you prefer, a small glass of American beer would also be appropriate.

 

Entrée.  A full-bodied, muscular Cabernet Sauvignon suits the richness of this course.

 

After dinner.  Brandy suits the Armed Services.  Make it Applejack, a brawny American brandy.  

APPETIZERS

Celebrating the Armed Forces of the U.S.A. – The Marines, Appetizers

 

HALLS OF MONTEZUMA
Pinto Bean Paté 

The Marine’s Hymn starts, “From the halls of Montezuma,” referring to the Marine assault on Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City during the Mexican-American war in 1847.  The dramatic culinary portrayal:  pinto beans with Mexican flavors shaped like an Aztec temple.  Serves 8.

Note

Up to 2 days in advance:  Complete the dish; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving; you may need to touch up the outline of the temple’s staircase.

Ingredients

½ pound pinto beans, soaked in cold water overnight
1 medium onion, in large slices, plus 1 small onion, diced
3 cloves
4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
¼ pound bacon, in small dice
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 chili pepper (more to taste), minced
½ cup finely diced green pepper
1 tablespoon white vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt 

Preparation

1.  Place soaked beans in large pot with cold water to 2 inches above beans.  Add the onion slices, cloves, peppercorns and bay leaf.  Heat to boiling, turn flame to medium low and simmer until soft and splitting, about 45 minutes.  Reserve ½ cup water, then drain beans.
2.  Cook bacon in medium skillet until brown.  Drain bacon, reserving fat.  Put into the skillet 1 tablespoon bacon fat, the diced onion, garlic and chili pepper.  Sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add green pepper and continue cooking until soft, about 5 minutes.  
3.  In food processor pulse beans, bacon and the onion/pepper mixture from the skillet, until well mixed but not entirely smooth.  If mixture is too thick, add bean water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture is moist but not runny.  Add vinegar and salt.


Presentation

On a large platter, preferably square or round, form bean mixture into the shape of an Aztec temple, using an image from the Internet.  The main features are simple to make:  a 3-or 4-tier pyramid with a staircase in the middle.  For the staircase, draw the outline of the sides with a blunt edge, then use a thin knife to make lines for the steps.

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THE SHORES OF TRIPOLI
Pasta Shells Stuffed with Feta, Apricots and Mint

The Marine’s Hymn honors the Marines’ service in the Barbary War (1801-1805) against the pirates of the North African Barbary States, which included what is now Libya and its capital city of Tripoli.  The Marines surely found the shores of Tripoli strewn with shells.  The shells here are filled, not with sand, but with a North African/Mediterranean version of the classic combination of fruit and cheese.  The chewy shell contrasts with the soft filling.  Feta and yogurt supply salty, fatty goodness; apricots contribute sweetness.  Mint, so crucial to Mediterranean cuisine, charges up the dish with brightness to ensure gastronomic victory.  Serves 8.

                                                                                              Notes
Up to 1 day in advance:  Cook shells; oil them; cover and refrigerate.
Up to 4 hours in advance:  Prepare filling and stuff shells; cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving.

                                                                                                     Ingredients
18 medium shells
1 teaspoon olive oil
9 ounces good feta cheese
½ cup full-fat yogurt
1 clove garlic, grated, pressed or mashed with mortar and pestle 
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
12 dried apricots, in 1/3 inch dice
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped

 

Garnish
   3 or 4 dried apricots
   Small sprigs of mint

Preparation

1.  Shells.  Bring 4 quarts of water to boil.  Add shells and cook according to package directions.  Drain well and place in bowl.  To prevent shells sticking together, coat with olive oil and cool.
2.  Filling.  Mash the feta, yogurt, garlic, lemon zest and cayenne until well blended, but not completely smooth.  Taste and add salt as needed.  Stir in apricots and mint.  Stuff shells.

                                                                                                    Presentation
Use a sand-colored platter if possible.  Place in a pattern that fits the platter,  e.g., diagonal rows if the platter is square or rectangular.   Position the apricots and mint sprigs as appropriate.

IN THE AIR, ON LAND, AND SEA
Roast Duck, Snow Pea and Scallop Kabob

"We fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea," says the Marines’ Hymn.  The culinary rendering:  a creative kabob of duck (active in the air, on land and sea), snow peas (from the land) and scallops (of the sea).  Guests will be gung ho!  Serves 8.

                                                                                                           Note
Yield:  16 kabobs

Ingredients

16 snow peas, unzipped (snap top knot and pull string downward)
Bowl of ice water
½ teaspoon of Old Bay seafood seasoning
16 medium scallops
½ pound of smoked duck breast
¼ cup canola oil
16 long toothpicks with frilly gold ends

Preparation

1.  In medium saucepan bring about 2 cups of water to a boil.  Drop in peas and cook for one minute.  Plunge into ice water.  Blot dry on paper towel.  Set aside.
2.  Spread seasoning on plate.  Press one side of each scallop onto seasoning to lightly dust.  Set aside.
3.  Warm duck meat and cut into 16 slices, each about ½x1-inch.  Set aside.
4.  Heat oil in heavy skillet until it sizzles when a drop of water hits it.  Sear scallops, seasoned side down, for 2 minutes, then turn and sear for another minute.  Place on plate.
5.  Skewer one piece of duck, one snow pea and one scallop on each toothpick.  Serve immediately.

                                                                                       Presentation
Highlight the colors of the Marines, gold and scarlet, by displaying the gold-tipped kabobs on a red platter.  Blue or gold will also work symbolically and aesthetically.

SOUP

ANCHORS AWEIGH
Navy Bean Soup

Of course - Navy bean soup for the Navy.  For emphasis and fun, top the soup with a “life preserver” of orange pepper with a “rope” of linguini.  Taste is, of course, a serious matter.  Ham is traditional in bean soups for the richness it imparts.  With a nod to the importance of the Navy to our interests in the East, the soup is flavored with anise and coriander, two spices frequently combined with ham in Chinese cuisine.  Serves 8.

Notes

At least 1 day and up to 2 days in advance:  Cook ham hock in water; cool, cover and refrigerate.
Up to 1 day in advance:  Complete soup; cover and refrigerate.

                                                                                                      Ingredients
Soup   
1½ pound ham hock
½ pound navy beans, soaked overnight in cold water and drained
6 cloves
1 teaspoon anise seeds, ground
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon salt

 

Garnish
   4 orange peppers
   8 long strands of linguine
   ½ teaspoon olive oil
   16 goldfish crackers

Preparation

1.  Place ham hock in large pot with 2 quarts cold water.  Over medium heat bring to boil, cover and simmer very gently for at least 2 hours.  Take off heat and cool.  Refrigerate the pot at least overnight.  
2.  Return pot to stove and add the remaining soup ingredients.  Over medium heat bring to boil, cover and simmer for about 2 hours, until beans are quite tender.
3.  When cool, remove the ham hock with its meat, the cloves and bay leaf.  Process the remainder until very smooth.  Add salt.
4.  Cut the tops and bottoms from the peppers, slice in half crosswise and remove the seeds and white membrane.  Cut a doughnut shape from each pepper half for the “life preserver.”  Meanwhile, cook the linguine according to package directions.  Drain, place in bowl and coat with olive oil.  Wrap one strand around each pepper slice to resemble a rope, leaving some to trail into the “ocean.”

Presentation

Spoon soup into wide soup bowls, blue if possible.  Float the “life preserver” and two goldfish crackers on top.

ENTREE

JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME
Beef Medallions

You’re not in the army now!  No hash here as these tender medallions are rich and savory with butter, herbs and wine.  Worthy of a medal!  Serves 8.

Note

Up to 8 hours in advance:  Prepare the meat with its rub; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  

Ingredients

3 pounds beef tenderloin
1 tablespoon butter, softened, plus 4 ounces, melted
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 medium shallots, chopped
1 cup Marsala wine
½ pound small mushrooms, quartered 
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup cold water

Preparation

1.  Preheat oven to 325ºF.
2.  Rub meat all over with tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper.  Place in large roasting pan.  Mix together the garlic, parsley and shallots and rub over meat.  
3.  Mix together the 4 ounces of melted butter and Marsala.  Set aside for basting.
4.  Place meat in oven.  After 15 minutes, baste with the butter/Marsala mixture.  Thereafter, baste every 20 minutes.  
5.  Beef should roast for approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes.  For medium rare, the internal temperature will be 145ºF.  Add the mushrooms to the pan about 15 minutes before the roast is done.
6.  When done, remove roast to serving platter and let rest for 10 minutes.  
7.  Place roasting pan with mushrooms on stovetop over medium high heat and bring pan drippings to a boil.
8. Mix flour and water together and slowly whisk into pan until sauce is thickened.

Presentation

Place the roast on a platter, preferably tan.  Have the sauce in a separate sauceboat.

CAMOUFLAGE
Gratin of Potatoes and Greens

The ingredients join for a remarkable resemblance to Army camouflage.  The various flavors, however, come through bold and undisguised.  Serves 8.

Note

Up to 12 hours in advance:  Prepare gratins; cover and refrigerate.  

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter
6 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons milk
16 large collard leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup vegetable stock, preferably homemade
12 shitake mushroom caps, sliced about ¼-inch thick
1 small zucchini, unpeeled, sliced crosswise into strips of about 3x¾x1/8 inches
¼ cup pitted black olives, sliced lengthwise in quarters
3 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation

1.  Grease 8 small gratin dishes with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
2.  Boil the potatoes in salted water to cover for 30 minutes.  Drain, remove to a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of butter and the milk.  Mash until smooth.
3.  Remove the central rib from the collard leaves and discard.  Coarsely chop the leaves.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the leaves.  Drain and dry well.  When cool enough to handle, slice into strips about ¼-½ inch wide.
4.  In a large skillet, over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of oil. 5.  5.  Sauté the collard leaves for a couple of minutes to soften.  Add the vegetable stock, cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 10 minutes.  
6.  Uncover skillet and add the mashed potatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, olives, pecorino cheese, salt and pepper. Increase heat to moderately high.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, to allow potatoes to brown without burning.  Stir gently so that the resulting mixture is mottled like camouflage.
7.  When potatoes are nicely browned, remove from heat and divide among prepared gratin dishes.  
Before serving, warm the gratin dishes in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes.  

Presentation

Use a tray to hold the gratin dishes.

Entrée Plating

With a little imagination (OK, a lot), you will see a soldier’s camouflage shirt from which two medals suspend.  Slice roast into 16 medallions, about ½-inch thick.  Invert a gratin dish over the dinner plate, its center somewhat above the plate’s center.  Remove the gratin dish.  Place the two medallions below the camouflage gratin, overlapping each other.  Spoon the mushroom sauce over the medallions.

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Celebrating the Armed Forces of the U.S.A. – Army, Entrée 

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Celebrating the Armed Forces of the U.S.A. – Coast Guard, Salad

 

THE CUTTER
Cucumber and Daikon Radish Salad

Tasting as light and refreshing as an ocean breeze, the salad simulates a Coast Guard cutter, complete with Coast Guard stripes and a life preserver at the boat’s stern.  The salad itself is easy to make; preparing the boat parts takes a little time, but is easy and can be done in advance.  Assembling the salad just before serving will also take a few minutes, giving your guests a pleasant break to chat and relax.  When you present the completed cutters, expect waves of raves.

Notes

Up to 12 hours in advance:  Make filling, dressing, antennae, boat supports and life preservers (if using) and prepare eggs (but do not stuff); wrap parts separately and refrigerate.
Up to 12 and at least 6 hours in advance:  Prepare Coast Guard stripes.  
Up to 4 hours before serving:  Combine filling with dressing; cover and refrigerate.  

Ingredients

Filling 
   1½ cups coarsely grated cucumber, either seedless English or with seeds removed
   ½ cup coarsely grated sweet onion
   1½ cups coarsely grated daikon radish (about 1 medium) 

Dressing
   1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
   1½ tablespoons lemon juice
   1 tablespoon lemon zest
   ¼ teaspoon cayenne
   Sea salt and ground white pepper, to taste

Boat     
   1 daikon radish, at least 8 inches long
   Red and blue food coloring
   8 medium-large endive leaves
   4 hard-boiled eggs
   2 small-medium red radishes

Preparation

1.  Make filling.  Mix cucumber, onion and daikon in a medium bowl.  
2.  Make dressing.  Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.  
3.  Make antennas for boat.  Slice off a 1½-inch length section from the daikon radish.  Using only the outside perimeter, slice 8 “antennas,” each with a diameter of about 1/8 inch.  (The outside perimeter of the radish will give each “antenna” one curved side.)
4.  Make “boat” supports.  These will hold the endive “boat” in place on the plate.  Slice off one 5-inch length of daikon radish, then cut into 2 sections, each 2½ inches long.  Set one section aside.  Cut the other section into 16 strips, each measuring about 2½x¼x¼ inches.  

5.  To make the optional “life preservers,” slice 4 thin, circular slices, one from the top, one from the bottom and two from the sides of each radish.  Make sure each circle is red on one side.  Poke a hole in the center of each of the 8 circles.  Widen the hole with a small, sharp knife but be sure to leave an intact red border.  The result will resemble a red doughnut-shape. To simulate a rope tied around the life preserver, pare 4 evenly spaced thin strips (at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 o’clock) from the outside surface of each red circle to the center hole, paring only enough to expose the white underneath.
6.  Prepare eggs for the “cabins.”  Cut each egg in two, horizontally.  Scoop out the yolk and set aside for another use.  Slice ¼ inch off the narrower end of the egg to make a cylindrical shape.  Do not stuff until just before serving.
7.  Make the wide red and narrow blue Coast Guard stripes.  Slice the second 2½- inch length of daikon in half crosswise. Both pieces will be 1¼ inches long.  Slice one piece lengthwise into 8 “wide” strips, each ½ inch wide.  From the other piece, slice 8 “thin” strips, each 1/8 inch wide.  Boil the “wide” strips in a small pan over a medium flame for 5 minutes. Drain and place in a small bowl filled with cold water to cover.  Add 3 drops of red food coloring.  Likewise, boil the “thin” strips for 5 minutes.  Place in separate bowl with 3 drops of blue food coloring.  Soak both for at least 6 hours, then drain on paper towels.

Presentation

Assemble the salad just before serving.  If possible, use green or blue salad plates to simulate seawater.  In the center of each plate, position 2 daikon “boat” supports.  Stuff each endive leaf with filling and lower the filled endive “boat” between the 2 supports.  Holding the narrow end of the egg “cabin” in your palm, stuff the egg with filling and invert it atop the center of the “boat deck.”  Stick an antenna in the center of each “cabin” top.  You may be able to remove the supports if the endive boat appears to stay upright.  Position the Coast Guard “stripes” about ½ inch from the front of the “boat.”  Lean a wide red strip against the side of the “boat.”  Cut off any extra length.  Lean a thin blue strip next to, but not quite touching, the red strip.  Cut off any extra length.  Stand the life preserver on the “deck” at the back of the boat.   

DESSERTS

OFF WE GO

Bittersweet Chocolate Wings

These little wings will make your spirits soar straight into the wild blue yonder.  
Serves 8. 

Notes

Up to 8 and at least 2 hours in advance:  Complete wings; place in airtight container and refrigerate.

Ingredients

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, good quality

Preparation

1.  Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  Melt chocolate in small pan.
3.  Using a teaspoon, drizzle melted chocolate onto parchment paper in the shape of airplane wings.  Make a wide “V,” about 3 inches high and 4 inches wide.  
4.  Refrigerate immediately.  Remove from refrigerator when ready to serve.

Presentation

If you wish to present the wings separately, use a large blue or white platter, preferably rectangular in shape, and line up your wings to resemble planes parked on an airstrip.  On individual plates, the chocolate wings will top the blueberry cream pie of the next recipe.  On individual serving plates, place one crust and top with the blueberry cream.  Spoon whipped cream over that, piling into a cloud shape and completely covering the blueberry cream.  Place a chocolate wing onto the “cloud.”

WILD BLUE YONDER
Blueberry Cream “Pie”

Earth, sky and clouds – the domain of the Air Force “translates” to a crunchy pastry crust topped with a zesty blueberry cream covered with white whipped cream.  The dessert melds two summer favorites, berry pie and berries with cream.  Serves 8.

Notes

Up to 1 day in advance:  Make crust; cover and keep at room temperature.
Up to 1 day and at least 4 hours in advance:  Make filling; cover and refrigerate.

Ingredients

Filling
   1 pound blueberries, fresh or frozen 
   1 teaspoon lemon zest
   ½ tablespoon lemon juice
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature    
   1 cup heavy cream
   ½ cup sugar
   1 teaspoon vanilla extract
   1 envelope gelatin    

Crust
2 cups good almond cookies, ground fine
   1 cup almonds with skin, roughly chopped
   ¼ cup flour
   ¾ cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
   1 large egg, beaten

Topping
   1 cup heavy cream
   1 tablespoon sugar
   2 tablespoons almond liqueur, such as Amaretto

Preparation

1.  Process blueberries until they form a smooth paste.  In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the berries, zest, juice and cream cheese.  
2.  In a small saucepan over medium low heat, warm the cream with the sugar and vanilla until sugar is completely dissolved.  Do not boil.  Add the gelatin, take off heat and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.  If necessary, return the mixture to a low flame for a minute or two.  
3.  Add the cream mixture to the blueberry mixture, a little at a time, combining the ingredients with each addition.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
4.  Make crust.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mix together the dry ingredients, then add the butter and egg and mix well.  On a non-stick baking pan, form into 8 circles about 3–3½ inches in diameter.  Place in oven, lower temperature to 300°F and bake for 20 minutes.  Cool.
5.  Make topping.  Beat cream until almost stiff.  Add the sugar and almond liqueur and beat until stiff.

Presentation – see recipe above for chocolate wings

PEACE COOKIES
A Fitting Favor

Peace is the ultimate goal of the armed services; fittingly, the favor symbolizes peace.  
Flavoring the cookies are black olives, symbolizing the olive branch of peace, and orange, for its culinary harmony with olives.  The peace sign decoration completes the sweet taste of peace.  Serves 8.

Notes

Yield:  24-32 cookies.
Freeze up to 2 months:  Make dough and wrap tightly in plastic; when ready to proceed, allow the dough to thaw for several hours in the refrigerator.  
Up to 1 day in advance:  Bake cookies and store at room temperature in a covered container.
   
Ingredients

Cookies
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda 
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons orange zest
½ cup unsalted butter 
½ cup white sugar 
½ cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1½ teaspoons orange extract    
2 tablespoons sour cream
4 tablespoons orange juice
4 cerignola black olives, chopped in large bits
   
Icing
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ounces white chocolate
   
                                                                                                    Preparation

Cookies 
1.  In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and orange zest.  Set aside.  
2.  In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Whisk in egg and orange extract.  Stir in half the flour mixture.  Add sour cream, orange juice and olives.  Stir in the remaining flour mixture.  
3.  Refrigerate batter for at least 1 hour.  
4.  Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment.
5.  Scoop enough dough from the bowl to make a 1-inch ball.  Place the dough ball on the prepared cookie sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough, allowing about 2 inches between dough balls.
6.  Place a small piece of wax paper (about 2x2 inches) on top of each dough ball.  Use a flat-bottomed glass to flatten to about 1/16 of an inch.  
7.  Bake on lower rack 13-15 minutes, or until edges are brown.  Remove from oven and let cool on the parchment sheet for 1 minute.  Transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.
8.  Make peace sign with icing.  After cookies are baked and cooled, melt chocolate with butter and cool slightly.  Transfer to heavy-duty sealable plastic bag.  Snip a 1/16-inch opening in one corner and pipe the chocolate thinly around the circumference of each cookie.  Pipe a straight line down the middle of each cookie.  Beginning at the center of the circle, pipe two straight lines out to the circumference, each forming a 45-degree angle with the diameter.  Let stay at room temperature until icing solidifies, about 1 hour.

Presentation

Place 3-4 cookies inside each of eight plastic baggies.  Wrap each plastic bag with decorative paper and ribbons in red, white and blue.