coverphoto.jpg

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.

DSC_1490.jpg

APPETIZER

Baby Beets to Dip in Creme Fraiche, Sorrel & Chives

"Spring Into Summer" Dinner

DSC_1196.jpg

SOUP

Minestrone with Root

Vegetables and Mojo

"A Caribbean Columbus Day" Dinner

DSC_0029.jpg

DESSERT

German Chocolate Cake

"An Academy Award" Dinner

NOVEMBER - ELECTION DAY

Inspiration: Election Day, Of Course

elecfiller.jpg

A culinary staging of an election’s stages; unlike elections, there is no baloney here!

 

COOK’S INTRODUCTION

Elections are serious business – but we can still have some fun with them. If you are entertaining around the time of an election, whether a primary or general election, you have a winner in this dinner. It is a spoof of the course a typical candidate takes, from declaring candidacy to election night. The humor is in matching the ingredients and the appearance of food to what goes on in an election. As elections highlight contrasts, all the courses feature culinary contrasts of color, texture and taste. The recipes discuss the contrasts.

 

Each stage in an election is depicted in the different courses of the dinner. For example, candidates first enter the primary race and so the appetizers portray different types of candidates, one with star power and two meatballs, one of whom is foul (fowl), the other, fishy. The candidates get their just desserts on election night and so the dinner’s desserts represent sweet victory and bitter defeat.  


Like politicians and political events everywhere, patriotism is on display. Red, white and blue predominate for stunning visual effects in appetizer, soup, entrée and dessert. Many dishes feature distinctively American ingredients. For example, the candidate with star power is certainly something to see, a star cut from a ruby red prickly pear from the Southwest, topped with Wisconsin blue cheese and a Maine blueberry. It’s an innovative and delicious variation on the classic combination of fruit and cheese.

 

More than patriotic, many dishes are replete with political import. The soup, representing a heated debate, will definitely give your guests a charge. The entrée, a culinary tableau representing a political party’s convention, brims with political correctness and bursts with sinfully rich flavor. Standing on a green platform of sweet broccoli spears enlivened with lemon and sea salt, we see the red-blooded American nominee. It’s a slice of hearty bison roast, uniquely American and very, very healthy.  Blue potatoes (also very, very healthy) represent convention delegates, suitably smashed (mashed, that is). Red stars, sketched with a rich and savory red-wine sauce, encircle the political players, completing the tableau. The dinner ends with another red, white and blue stunner, a heavenly looking Pavlova that tastes of paradise.  

 

It is important for your guests to “get it,” so you (or someone you choose) will clue them in. Before you serve each course, read the description of that course from the menu. These descriptions poke fun at features of an election while relating the food to the election stage. Be entertaining. Read out each description as if it were the kind of bombast associated with elections. Deliver the “speech” with dramatic flair and tongue in cheek. As appropriate, be droll, jovial, ironic or sarcastic. Your guests will grasp the gastronomic wit and your dinner will surge to success.

 

With colorful election paraphernalia as the backdrop to delicious food that is exciting and fun, there is no contest. Your guests are the winners and they will enthusiastically cast their votes in favor of …

 

YOUR PARTY!

 

Appropriate for:  The time around any election or political convention, to celebrate the winner of any type of election, when your guests are devotees of politics.

Elecdaytable1.jpg

MENU

 

ELECTION DAY

A culinary staging of an election’s stages. Unlike elections, there is no baloney here!

 

Cocktail

Testing the Waters 

Champagne with Berries Red and Blue

Before a run for office, potential candidates “test the waters.” Since many a campaign begins with champagne, we offer you red and blue candidates to dip in sparkling champagne. See if they fizzle out.

 

Appetizers

Primary Candidates

The All-American Candidate: Prickly Pear Topped with Blue Cheese and Blueberry

The Fowl Candidate: Duck Meat Balls with Cherry Marmalade

The Fishy Candidate: Sea Bass Balls with Dill and Yogurt Sauce

Three candidates in the primary election show up as appetizers. The three are common to many primary contests – two meatballs and an all-American with star power. Our irresistible all-American features favorites from all America, cactus fruit from the West, cheese from the Heartland and blueberries from the East. The duck-meat ball is, of course, a fowl ball and a quack while the sea bass is positively fishy. But who wins the primary is anybody’s guess.

 

Soup

Heated Debate

Red-Hot Beet Soup and White-Hot Cauliflower Soup

Two of the primary candidates face off in the soup. Debates are a must for those vying for their party’s nomination. The more heated, the better. Our red-hot candidate gets fired up with Schezuan peppercorns and Chinese chilis! Will it win over the contender, white-hot with white peppercorns? 

 

Entrée

Party Convention

The Nominee: Bison Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce

The Platform: Buttered Broccoli Spears

The Delegates: Potatoes with Horseradish

The main course at the convention presents the nominee and the party’s platform. A true, red-blooded, native American, the bison tenderloin stands firm on the party’s platform of green, politically correct, broccoli planks. Saucy stars provide the surround. Completing the tableau are admiring potato delegates, smashed, of course.

 

Salad

Bitter Debate

Arugula and Radicchio in Sour Cream Dressing

The salad engages the nominees of the two parties in bitter debate. Opposite in color, assertively bitter and a tad peppery, radicchio and arugula are the perfect candidates to mix it up, and they do in this salad. But, don’t worry. The creamy dressing is as adept as a skilled moderator in cooling things down.

 

Desserts

Election Night

The Winning Candidate: Pavlova with Berries – The Sweet Thrill of Victory

The Losing Opponent: Mocha Sorbet – The Bitter Agony of Defeat

The results are in, bringing the sweet thrill of victory and the bitter agony of defeat. The winning candidate is on Cloud 9, a Pavlova filled with sweet cream and berries. The losing opponent sits in the shadows, a dark and bitter mocha sorbet.

BACKING UP THE THEME

Souvenir Menus

Basic: Print the menu on white card stock with red and blue text as shown. You will need to print both sides or use two sheets of card stock.

 

Ornamental: Print the text for the menu in booklet form, using theme-related paper, e.g., one decorated with stars or flags or a red border. Print each course from the menu, complete with its description, on a separate sheet of paper, but use only the top half. Cut each sheet in half. Put the printed halves in the proper order of courses. Punch two holes in the side or top of the assembled sheets, depending on the design on the sheet. Through the holes insert a narrow ribbon, of red or blue, and tie.  

 

Symbols. Balloons, buttons, banner flags, election hats, pompoms, elephants and donkeys.  

Color: Red, white and blue.

 

Table décor. Set the table in red, white and blue. Ideally, we suggest a red charger or placemat, a white dinner plate and blue soup bowl with napkins in red, white and blue. However, any combination of the three colors will work, although, since the soup course features a red soup and a white soup presented in the same bowl, a blue bowl is the best color to set off the soups.

 

Prepare a simple centerpiece of red roses in a bubble vase, preferably blue or white. Scatter red and blue confetti stars around the table.

 

Other décor. Display a banner flag outside your home. Make a large sign that says, “Vote Here” and place it at the entrance. Use red and blue helium balloons with long white streamers in the foyer of your home. Five or six balloons will be festive and ten or more will be WOW!

 

If there is a chandelier in your dining area, tie red, white and blue streamers of varying lengths from it. Place red and blue helium balloons in and around your dining area, enough for that festive look. Since platforms play important roles in elections, present the appetizers on cake stands (platforms) of different heights. Use cocktail plates and napkins in red and blue or ones with patriotic designs.  

 

Complete the election scene with political paraphernalia, such as old or current campaign buttons, banners, signs, hats or pompoms.

 

Music. A great opener is Stars and Stripes Forever by John Phillip Sousa. All patriotic songs are appropriate, such as America the Beautiful, Born in the USA and This Land Is Your Land.

 

Favor. The winner of a presidential election or a gubernatorial election moves to an official residence. Make your guests winners with a scrumptious representation of the White House.  Directions are in the recipe.  

Note for favor: You get the White House without having to run for President. Enjoy!

 

BEVERAGE RECOMMENDATIONS

As befits the theme, let “Made in America” guide your selections.

 

Opening Cocktail. An American sparkling wine, of course, since Champagne is French. For thematic color, place one blueberry and one raspberry into each glass and pour the sparkling wine over.  

 

Soup. The heat in both soups suggests beer, rather than wine. Choose one of medium body with a light taste. A patriotic choice is Samuel Adams Irish Red.

 

Entrée. A Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, preferably the same one used to make the sauce.

 

After Dinner. A good brandy is the thing, smacking as it does of back-room deals. If your guests are likely to approve, pass out cigars as well for a smoke-filled back room.

APPETIZERS

DSC_1653.jpg

PRIMARY CANDIDATE: THE ALL-AMERICAN CANDIDATE

Prickly Pear, Blue Cheese and Blueberry

Perfectly patriotic and culinarily correct, the granular texture of the sweet cactus fruit reacts with the soft and savory cheese for taste with star Pow! 

 

Notes

Yield:  16-20 stars

Up to 8 hours in advance: Prepare the prickly pear stars; place on serving platter; cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving.

Ingredients

4 prickly pears 

4 ounces good quality creamy blue cheese at room temperature

16-20 blueberries

     

Preparation

  1. Peel the prickly pears and slice each crosswise into 4 or 5 circles. Using a star-shaped cookie cutter (1¼-1¾ inches, ideally 1½ inches), make a star out of each prickly pear circle.  

  2. Shape the blue cheese into balls of about ½-inch diameter. Place one ball at the center of each prickly pear star. The ball should cover just the center, so that the star outline is clear. Top each cheese ball with a blueberry.

 

Presentation

Place prickly pears on a blue or white serving platter.

PRIMARY CANDIDATE: THE FOWL CANDIDATE

Duck Meat Balls with Cherry Marmalade 

Succulent duck breast is combined with the sweet and spicy flavors of apple and cinnamon along with a bright touch from cherries. Definitely a delicious contender, there is no foul ball here! Serves 8.

 

Notes

Yield: Approximately 24

Up to 4 hours in advance: Prepare duck balls through Step 5. Cover and refrigerate. 

Ingredients

 Duck

     1 pound lean duck breast, about 13-14 ounces of meat without fat

     1 tablespoon unsalted butter

     1 large shallot, chopped fine

     2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine

     2 tablespoons of peeled, finely chopped tart apple such as Granny Smith       

     1 large egg, beaten     

     ½ teaspoon cinnamon

     ¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped fine

     ½ cup panko breadcrumbs

     2 tablespoons milk

 

Garnish

    Small jar of cherry marmalade, at room temperature

    32 toothpicks, preferably with a blue, curly top

    Blueberries, 25-40, depending on size of serving plate

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a large baking sheet.

  2. Cut off the skin from the duck breast, leaving about 1/8 inch of fat with the skin. Grind or finely chop the duck meat. Finely chop enough skin for 1 tablespoon.   

  3. Sauté duck skin in butter until golden. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add apple and sauté for 1 minute. Set aside to cool.

  4. In a medium mixing bowl, add cooled duck skin, duck meat, egg, cinnamon and parsley and mix well.  

  5. In a small mixing bowl, put breadcrumbs and milk and mix well. Add to duck mixture, incorporating well. Shape into 1-inch meatballs.

  6. Place on baking sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes.

 

Presentation

Use one plate, preferably blue, for both the duck and fish balls. Divide the plate in half with the blueberries. Skewer each duck ball with a toothpick. Put large dabs of cherry marmalade on one half of the plate. Place a duck ball on each dab of marmalade. (The fish balls in the next recipe will be placed on the other half of the plate.)

PRIMARY CANDIDATE:THE FISHY CANDIDATE

Sea Bass Balls with Dill and Yogurt Sauce

The fishy “candidate” has a hidden agenda. The tender fish balls conceal a sly little surprise center. Serves 8.

 

Notes

Yield: 16-20 fish balls

Up to 8 hours in advance: Prepare fish balls through Step 5 and refrigerate; about half an hour before serving, bring to room temperature and continue with recipe. Prepare sauce and refrigerate.

Up to ½ hour in advance: Bake fish and let stay at room temperature.

 

Ingredients

Filling

   16-20 regular size capers, drained and wiped dry

   1/8 (approximately) pound Nova lox, of good quality, cut into 16–20 pieces, each    about 1½ inch square  

 

Fish balls

   Pam or olive oil for greasing the pan

   1 teaspoon butter

   8 scallion heads, white parts only, minced

   ¾ pound Chilean sea bass fillets or other boneless, skinless, mild white fish, such as halibut, dorado or flounder 

   1 slice challah or other egg bread, crust removed

   1 large egg white

 

Yogurt sauce 

   ¾ cup yogurt

   ¼ cup sour cream

   ¾ teaspoon minced fresh dill weed

   ½ teaspoon cracked white pepper

   1/8 teaspoon paprika

   1 tablespoon lime juice

   ¼ teaspoon cracked sea salt

   3 medium scallion heads, white parts only, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

 

Toothpicks, preferably with red curly tops

 

Preparation

  1. For the filling, wrap each caper with a piece of lox, gathering the edges to make a round ball. Set aside.

  2. Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease a non-stick baking sheet with cooking spray or olive oil.

  3. Sauté scallions in butter for 1-2 minutes to soften. Remove from heat.

  4. Rinse fish and pat dry. Cut into large pieces and place in food processor together with trimmed bread slice. Pulse to chop, about 20 times. Do not puree. Remove to a bowl and add egg white. Mix to blend.

  5. Shape into 16-20 balls (about ¾-inch diameter). Flatten each ball into a pancake, approximately 1/8 inch thick and 2 inches wide. Spread the sautéed scallions over the fish pancakes. Place a caper/lox ball in the center of each pancake and use your fingers to gather the edges to enclose the filling completely inside the fish ball.

  6. Place on greased baking dish, and bake for 5 minutes. Turn and continue baking for another 4 minutes.

  7. For the yogurt sauce, mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until needed.

 

Presentation

See instructions for presentation in the recipe for duck balls, above. Place small dabs of yogurt sauce (one for each fish ball) on one half of the plate. Skewer each fish ball with a toothpick and place one ball on each circle of sauce.  

SOUP

HEATED DEBATE

DSC_1259.jpg

Red-Hot Beet Soup and White-Hot Cauliflower Soup

The soup is a visual representation of a debate. A bowl is half-filled with a red soup and half-filled with a white soup. Question marks and exclamation points made from blue sour cream emphasize the idea of a debate. Both soups are full of culinary contrasts. One is red, smooth, distinctly sweet with a bitter undertone and uses Eastern ingredients. The other is white, coarse and rich with dairy products, in the European tradition. Both soups are peppery hot, but from different sources. The red-hot soup uses Schezuan peppercorns. These are berries, not true peppers. They are mildly hot and quite fragrant, as you will appreciate when you toast them. The white-hot soup uses crushed white peppercorns to add crunch to the coarse texture as well as to supply the heat. Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 1 day in advance: Roast beets and onion; wrap tightly and refrigerate. Separate cauliflower into florets; place in plastic bag and refrigerate.

Up to 8 hours in advance: Complete red-hot soup; refrigerate if necessary. Complete white-hot soup just through Step 2; refrigerate if necessary.

Up to 2 hours in advance: Prepare the garnish. Put into pastry bag and refrigerate.

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

 

Ingredients

Red-hot soup

   1½ pounds red beets, preferably small

   1 large onion, peeled and quartered

   1 tablespoon Schezuan peppercorns, toasted and ground

   1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground

   1 tablespoon sesame oil 

   2 whole chili peppers, preferably Chinese, such as Tien Tsin

   ¾ teaspoon salt

   1½ tablespoons finely grated ginger

   2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

 

White-hot soup

     2 medium leeks, white and light green sections only, roughly chopped

     2 tablespoons unsalted butter

     1 small cauliflower (16–20 ounces), broken into florets

     2/3 cup chicken stock, preferably home made

     6 tablespoons white wine, preferably a Chardonnay

     1½ tablespoons (more if necessary) coarsely cracked white pepper

     ½ teaspoon (more if necessary) salt

     2/3 cup heavy cream

     6 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese

 

Garnish

     ½ cup sour cream

     Blue food color

 

Preparation

Red-hot soup

  1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Trim stem from the top of each beet. Wrap the beets loosely in foil and, separately, wrap the onion quarters. Leave a small opening at the top of each foil packet. Roast the onions for about 45 minutes, until tops are caramelized. Roast the beets for about 1¼ hours or until they are easily pierced with a fork. When beets are cool, peel and quarter them.  

  2. In a medium pot, combine all ingredients and bring to boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the two chili peppers. Process all ingredients until smooth. Warm just before serving.

 

White-hot soup

  1. Sauté leeks in butter until soft, about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower florets and stir. Add chicken stock and wine, bring to boil, cover and simmer until cauliflower is tender but not soft, about 10 minutes.

  2. Process the cauliflower mixture in brief pulses just until ingredients are combined. The texture should be coarse to contrast with the smoothness of the red soup. Return to pot. Stir in white pepper and salt. Taste and add more pepper and salt if necessary.  

  3. Before serving, reheat the cauliflower mixture with the heavy cream. Stir in cheese and remove from flame.  

 

Garnish

Add the blue color to the sour cream until the mixture is a strong medium blue. You will need a fair amount of food coloring to produce a good blue. Spoon the sour cream into the funnel of a cake decorator.

Presentation 

If possible, use medium-blue soup bowls to set off the colors of the two soups. Heat the soup bowls. Carefully spoon the red soup into half the bowl, then fill the other half with the white soup. Pipe a “!” of blue sour cream on one soup and a “?” on the other soup.

ENTRÉE

THE NOMINEE

Bison Tenderloin with Red-Wine Sauce

An American icon signifying strength and freedom, bison is perfect to represent a great American candidate. Bison is a great food, too, with a flavor like that of beef. The meat itself is lean, quite red, very tender and exceptionally healthy. 

 

Notes

Up to 1 day in advance: Make sauce; cover tightly and refrigerate; warm before serving.

Up to 8 and at least 2 hours in advance: Cover tenderloin with herb rub; wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before roasting.

 

Ingredients

Sauce

   4 plus 2½ tablespoons butter

   1 medium onion, chopped

   4 large shallots, chopped

   2 medium parsnips, chopped

   1 medium carrot, chopped

   2 tablespoons chopped parsley

   1 tablespoon thyme leaves

   1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves

   1 bay leaf

   2 anchovies

   1 cup beef or veal demi-glace

   4 cups red wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot

   ½ teaspoon salt

   2½ tablespoons flour

 

Tenderloin

   2 garlic cloves, grated or chopped fine

   2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary

   2 tablespoons finely chopped thyme leaves

   1 tablespoon finely chopped sage

   3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

   3½-4 pounds bison tenderloin

 

Preparation

  1. Make the sauce. Over low heat melt 4 tablespoons butter. Sauté onion and shallots until soft, about 5 minutes. Add parsnips, carrot, parsley, thyme, sage, bay, anchovies, demi-glace and salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook at a brisk simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Strain, pressing down on solids until all liquid is released.

  2. With a fork, thoroughly blend the remaining 2½ tablespoons of butter with the flour. Over low heat, whisk the butter/flour into the sauce, about ½ teaspoon at a time. After all the butter/flour is incorporated, simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is thickened and coats a spoon.  

  3. Put about 1/3 of the sauce into a plastic squeeze bottle to make stars on the plates (see Entrée Plating below). Warm the remainder of the sauce before serving.

  4. Combine garlic, herbs and olive oil. Spread over tenderloin. Tie roast with butcher’s twine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate. Keep herb rub on for at least 2 hours before roasting.  

  5. Preheat oven to 475ºF. Bring bison to room temperature. Place bison on rack and roast for 20 minutes. Turn and insert a meat thermometer (if using). Roast for another 20 minutes or until thermometer reads 120ºF. Remove from oven and allow roast to rest for 10-15 minutes. The roast should then be medium rare, reading 130ºF on the thermometer.

  6. Cut 8 slices from the roast, each about 2 inches thick.  

 

Presentation

If you are not plating in the kitchen, place the roast on a platter, preferably white. You may add some herb sprigs for garnish. Serve sauce separately.

THE PLATFORM

Buttered Broccoli Spears

Simply prepared, crisp broccoli stalks serve as a politically correct, green platform for Mr. Bison, the party’s nominee. Serves 8.  

 

Note

Up to 8 hours before serving: Peel broccoli stalks.

 

Ingredients

16 broccoli spears, from about 7 – 8 medium heads

2 tablespoons butter

½ tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon cracked sea salt

¼ teaspoon cracked white pepper

 

Preparation

  1. Cut the broccoli florets off the stems and reserve for another use. Peel the fibrous outer layer from the broccoli stalks. Slice them in half horizontally. Trim so that they each measure about 3 inches long. You will have 32 spears.

  2. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Remove from heat and add lemon juice, salt and pepper.

  3. Steam spears for 5-8 minutes over boiling water, until just tender enough to be pierced with a fork, but still crisp.

  4. Pour prepared butter over broccoli spears.

 

Presentation

If you are not plating in the kitchen, place the spears in rows on a platter. You may use some broccoli florets as garnish.

 

THE DELEGATES

Blue Potatoes with Horseradish

Horseradish and sour cream are a classic combination that will perk up just about anything. Here, their bright tastes in the potato contrast nicely with both the deep, earthy taste of the bison and its wine sauce and with the fresh sweetness of the broccoli platform. Texture contrasts appear between the crisp broccoli, tender bison and soft potato. Serves 8.

 

Note

Up to 4 hours in advance: Finish potatoes; cover tightly with plastic wrap; reheat before serving.

 

Ingredients

2 pounds blue or purple potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch cubes

6 tablespoons butter, melted

¾ cup sour cream

3 tablespoons finely grated fresh horseradish, or use drained, prepared horseradish

½ teaspoon salt

Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste

 

Preparation

  1. Steam potatoes for 10–15 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork. Put through ricer or mash. Add butter, sour cream, horseradish, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

  2. Form potato mixture into 24 balls, using about 2 generous tablespoons for each ball. Or, divide mixture in half. Divide each half into quarters and each quarter into thirds. Gently reheat before serving.

 

Presentation

If you are not plating in the kitchen, as you form the potato balls, place them on a serving platter, preferably white.

 

Entrée Plating

This is a visually striking plate that your guests will rave about. It will be easier and generate more surprise if you do the plating in the kitchen. Start by placing the “saucy” stars. You may want to practice making stars in advance, using any liquid of the right consistency (e.g., mustard or ketchup). To make a star with the squeeze bottle of sauce, put a dab on the plate. With any tool that has a small, blunt end (e.g., a blunt toothpick or the edge of a spoon), push the sauce out into 5 points, just as you would draw a five-pointed star.  

 

Place 4 stars around one end of each dinner plate. At the other end, make a platform by placing two broccoli spears about 2 inches apart. Place two more spears on top and perpendicular. Place a slice of bison on top. Place three potato “delegates” in a semi-circle in front of and facing the “platform.” Pass the remaining sauce after serving the entrée. 

SALAD

BITTER DEBATE

Arugula and Radicchio in Sour Cream Dressing

Bitter radicchio and peppery arugula keep cool with the creamy dressing. The bright notes of sour cream and mint predominate. Garlic contributes pungency; cumin adds another bitter note, though softened by toasting. Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 8 and at least 2 hours in advance: Prepare the dressing and refrigerate.  

Up to 2 hours in advance: Tear lettuces; place in plastic bag and refrigerate.

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

 

Ingredients

1 teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground

¾ cup sour cream

¾ cup good mayonnaise

1 tablespoon finely chopped, fresh mint leaves

1 garlic clove, crushed

1-2 heads radicchio

1-2 bunches arugula

 

Garnish

4 tablespoons roughly chopped mint leaves

 

Preparation

  1. Whisk together cumin, sour cream and mayonnaise. Add mint and garlic clove. Stir. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Remove garlic clove after 2 hours.

  2. Tear radicchio and arugula leaves into bite-size pieces.

 

Presentation

Divide the lettuces among 8 individual plates. Top with a generous portion of dressing and scatter the chopped mint leaves over that.

DESSERTS

DSC_1381.jpg

THE WINNING CANDIDATE

Pavlova with Berries – The Sweet Thrill of Victory

 

A puff of white meringue to melt in your mouth, a cloud of heavenly whipped cream, sensuous custard cream, luscious berries and a whimsical chocolate “V” – visually and in taste, the perfect embodiment of that Cloud 9 feeling brought on by VICTORY! Serves 8.

Notes

Up to 1 day in advance: Make Pavlovas; store in airtight container at room temperature.

At least 8 hours in advance: Start preparation of Pavlovas.

Up to 8 and at least 4 hours in advance: Make custard; cover and refrigerate.

Up to 8 hours in advance: Make whipped cream; cover and refrigerate. Make chocolate Vs; cover and refrigerate.

 

Ingredients

Pavlovas

     4 large egg whites, at room temperature

     ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar     

     1 cup superfine sugar

     1 teaspoon cornstarch

     1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, of good quality

     

Custard Cream

     2 cups heavy cream

     1 vanilla bean, split in half, or 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract 

     4 large egg yolks

     ½ cup sugar

     Pinch of salt

 

Whipped Cream

     2 cups heavy cream

     2 tablespoons sugar

     

Chocolate Vs for “Victory”

    4 ounces of chocolate, in chunks

 

Topping

     1 pint blueberries

     6 ounces raspberries

     8 teaspoons maraschino or raspberry syrup

 

Preparation

Pavlovas

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  

  2. Separate the 4 eggs for the whites. Cover and refrigerate the egg yolks to use in the custard.

  3. In medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites on slowest speed until frothy. Add cream of tarter and increase speed. When soft peaks form, add sugar gradually. When mixture resembles marshmallow cream, mix in the cornstarch and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form.

  4. Spoon mixture carefully onto baking sheets, making 8 circles about equal in size, four on each sheet. Use a teaspoon to make an indentation in the center of each Pavlova.

  5. Put baking sheets into oven and turn heat off immediately. Let Pavlovas remain in oven for at least eight hours. Do not open the oven door during this drying process.

 

Custard Cream

  1. Put cream into a heavy medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Cover and steep for 30 minutes. If using vanilla extract, simply add to cream (no need to heat it).

  2. In medium mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar to blend. Gradually add in cream mixture. Put this mixture into the saucepan. Stir over medium low heat until the custard thickens enough to leave a finger path on back of spoon.  Remove from heat. Cover the top of the custard with wax paper or plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming.

  3. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before use.

 

Whipped Cream

In medium mixing bowl whip ingredients to soft peaks.

 

Chocolate Vs for Victory

  1. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Melt chocolate in small pan. Using a teaspoon, drizzle melted chocolate onto parchment in the shape of Vs, approximately 3 inches in height. Make 8.

  3. Refrigerate immediately. Remove from refrigerator just when ready to place on Pavlovas.

 

Presentation

Place Pavlovas on individual dessert plates. Pour 4 tablespoons of custard cream in center of each Pavlova. Top with blueberries, raspberries and whipped cream. Drizzle on maraschino or raspberry syrup. Insert a chocolate “V” in the whipped cream and serve immediately.

 

THE LOSING CANDIDATE

Mocha Sorbet – The Bitter Agony of Defeat

Poor losing candidate. No wonder defeat is deemed bitter. Bitter things beget scorn, aversion and rejection. Except when, as is so often true in life and cooking, bitter is paired with sweet. One bittersweet classic is mocha, a double dose of bitterness from chocolate and coffee. Sweetened up, the combination is a triumph. Serves 8.  

 

Note

Up to 1 week in advance: Make sorbet and freeze.

 

Ingredients

Sorbet

     1½ cups plus ½ cup water

     2/3 cup sugar

     1 teaspoon hazelnut cocoa powder, or flavor of your choice

     6 ounces of good quality bittersweet chocolate, cut in chunks

     Large pan of ice water

     1 tablespoon instant coffee powder, unflavored

 

Garnish

     8 dark chocolate-covered coffee beans

 

Preparation

  1. Prepare ice cream maker according to instructions.  

  2. In a medium saucepan heat 1½ cups of water with sugar and cocoa powder.  Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add chocolate and, stirring constantly, increase heat. As soon as it boils, remove from heat and set in pan of ice water until chocolate is cool.

  3. Boil ½ cup water. Stir in coffee powder. When cool, add to the chocolate mixture. Mix well, pour into ice cream maker and freeze. Remove from freezer at least ½ hour before serving.

 

Presentation

Place two scoops in a small bowl. Garnish each dish with a chocolate covered coffee bean.

THE WHITE HOUSE

White Chocolate and Butterscotch Blondies

Rich, moist and flavorful, these cake-like blondies will get everyone’s vote. Serves 8.

 

Notes

Yield: 8 1x4-inch bars 

Up to 1 day and at least 12 hours in advance: Make blondie and refrigerate; when chilled, cut into individual bars and wrap; bring to room temperature before serving.  

 

Ingredients

½ pound plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature

2½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

¼ cup milk

2 tablespoons light sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup white chocolate chips

½ cup butterscotch chips

 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

  2. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Line with parchment paper.

  3. In a mixing bowl, cream ½-pound butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in eggs, milk, sour cream and vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix just until dough has formed. Fold in the chips.

  4. Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Smooth the top. Bake 30 minutes. Check with toothpick. The toothpick should come out clean but the cake should still be moist. Bake additional minutes if necessary.

  5. Let cool on rack, then refrigerate. When chilled, cut into eight 1x4-inch bars.

 

Presentation

Wrap each bar in clear cellophane and tie with red, white and blue ribbons. Download 8 copies of a 1x4-inch image of the White House. Tape the picture to the side below the tied ribbons. With clear tape, attach a note (see ‘Favor’ in “Backing Up the Theme”) to the opposite side. Serve at room temperature.