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DAZZLING   DINNERS:  Recipes, Decor and More

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

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

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APPETIZER
Steak, Salmon and Pear suitably wrapped

"All Wrapped Up" Dinner

  

ENTREE

Steak, Purple Potatoes

and carrot coins 

"Mardi Gras" Dinner

DESSERT

German Chocolate Torte

"Academy Awards" Dinner

OCTOBER

A CARIBBEAN COLUMBUS DAY

Inspiration:  Columbus Day, October

Set sail on a voyage of discovery

where Italian cuisine meets Caribbean flavor.

Oh, the glory of a Caribbean vacation – a beautiful white sand beach, balmy breezes, the heady scent of flowers, gorgeous color everywhere and vibrant tastes in all you eat. For his “discovery” of this New World, Christopher Columbus deserves our thanks. Surely he was thankful, too. Imagine the rigors of crossing the cold, gray Atlantic and finally reaching the beautiful Caribbean shore, a warm, tropical land with everywhere green growth and brightly colored fruits and flowers.

 

So this October, as the air turns chill and we prepare for the rigors of winter, commemorate Columbus and his discovery in your dinner party. Transport your guests to tropical shores. Capture Caribbean charm with warmth and color, aromas and tastes; credit Columbus with allusions to Italy.  

 

With perfumed flowers, evoke the Caribbean as guests enter. Then have them set sail on a culinary crossing of Italian preparations with bold, island flavors. Most look like the traditional Italian dishes – but each bite bares big, brash, Caribbean flavors. The Caribbean ingredients are not those of Columbus’ day. Rather, Caribbean cuisine is the result of immigrants from many parts of the world who brought their foodstuffs and cooking to the area. There is no single Caribbean “taste”; different islands have different cuisines. Ironically, considering that Columbus thought he had found a route to the Indies, many “typical” Caribbean foods and flavors, from fruits like the mango to curries and other spicy preparations, have Indian heritage. Other staples and seasonings, such as plantain and Jamaican “jerk” dishes, hail from Africa and yet others from China, the South Pacific and Mediterranean. Here we have a recipe for creative cuisine that will transport all who partake to a new and glorious world of flavor. Your guests will surely savor the surprises in this feast of fusion food - New World tastes in Old World dishes.

Let Columbus Day symbolize voyages of discovery and this dinner a celebration of the joy of discovery.

 

BON VOYAGE!

 

Appropriate for: Any day in October, or any time you want to bring some warmth, surprise and fun to your party.

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MENU

A CARIBBEAN COLUMBUS DAY

Set sail on a voyage of discovery where Italian cuisine meets Caribbean flavor.

 

Cocktail

Prosecco

With Mango Spear

 

Appetizers

Rice Balls

With Mango Dipping Sauce

Frutti di Mare

With Curry Marinade

Caponata

With Plantain and Tomatillo

 

Soup

 Minestrone

With Root Vegetables and Mojo 

 

Entrée

Lasagna

With Kid and Jerk Seasoning

Escarole

With Orange and Spices

 

Salad

Caesar Salad

 With Avocado Oil and Bitter Orange

 

Dessert

Tiramisu

With Rum, Lime and Banana

Fruit

A Tropical Assortment

 BACKING UP THE THEME

Souvenir Menus

Basic: Print the menu on colorful card stock. Attach an image from the Internet of Columbus’s ship or a statue of Columbus.

Ornamental: For a totally spectacular menu, make a paper replica of Columbus’ ship with the menu printed on one of the sails. The instructions that follow are for an individual menu. For each, you’ll need one sheet of printing paper, one brown and one white sheet of 8½x11-inch construction paper and one sheet of blue card.

 

For the boat: On the long side, very close to the bottom of the brown paper, draw a line 8 inches long. Two inches above it, draw a parallel line 9 inches long. To form a bow and a stern, draw a curved line from each end of the bottom line to a point about 1 inch above and 1 inch to the side of the upper line. With another curved line, connect each point to the corresponding end of the upper line. Cut out the shape.

For the masts: From the remaining brown paper, cut 3 thin rectangles. One should be 7x½ inches long and both of the other two, 5x½ inches long. Masts are tapered, narrower at the top, so trim the edges of each mast accordingly.

 

For the sails: Use the white paper to make 3 sails, one for the front, one for the rear and one for the main (middle) sail. For the front sail, cut out a 3x3-inch square. To make it appear as if filled with wind, cut curves into the sides, 3 sides concave (curving in) and 1 side convex (curving out). For the rear sail, cut out a 3x4x5-inch triangle. Cut a convex curve along the two short sides and a concave curve along the 5-inch side. For the main sail, download the text for the ornamental menu and print it. Now, cut out a 5x5-inch square that encompasses all the text. Curve the sides so that this sail is convex on the left and concave on the other three sides.  

 

To complete the menu: Use the blue card as the background (sea and sky). Holding it vertically, glue the boat about 1 inch above the bottom. The boat’s sides will jut out from the sides of the paper.

 

Now glue the small masts onto the top of the boat bottom about two inches from each outer side. Glue the large mast in the center of the top of the boat’s bottom.  

Next, glue the sails to the masts. For the rear sail, glue it so that the 4-inch side is parallel to the boat bottom and the sail is centered on the rear mast. Next, glue the menu onto the large mast so that about an inch of the mast shows above it. Finally, glue the small front sail about two-thirds of the way up the front mast with the convex side on the left. Make sure it does not cover any of the words on the menu.

 

You can add some finishing touches. For example, Columbus’ flag displayed a red Isabella Cross. You can draw one on the front sail and also add a small flag on top of the front mast.

           

Color. The Caribbean evokes two color schemes. Blue with beige/sand suggest the ocean and beaches; red, yellow, orange and green are the bright colors of houses, trees, bushes, flowers, clothing and food. Either scheme or a combination will do the job. Avoid white, dark or dull colors.

 

Table décor. Be informal. Use linens made of woven, natural materials. Choose a brightly colored tablecloth or placemats. Catch your guests’ eyes with napkin rings made of beads or shells or tied raffia.

 

For the centerpiece, create a tableau made of items that suggest the islands. For example, purchase a yard of natural woven material or a fishnet. Bunch it up in the center of the table so that it is approximately 1½ feet long and no wider than 8-10 inches. Make sure to puff it up at intervals of 6-8 inches, giving it an uneven, natural look. Add to it some seashells, little wooden boats, etc. Insert several fresh orchids or other tropical flowers (stems removed). Make a small mound and insert a small Italian flag in the middle.  

 

Other décor. Set a Caribbean mood at the entrance to your home with large, colorful tropical flowers in a big, colorful vase. They may be either real or artificial. Perfume them with a tropical scent such as gardenia. Its aroma is heady, sweet and spicy and it’s readily available in potpourri and perfume.  

 

But don’t forget Columbus; include signs of Italy. Place an Italian flag in the middle of the flowers, or display a glass holding a bouquet of small Italian flags or tape to your door streamers in Italy’s colors of red, white and green.

 

Wear colorful clothing with island or Italian motifs. You may want to ask your guests to do the same.  

 

Music. Download well-known Caribbean songs, such as Harry Belafonte’s calypso music - Banana Boat Song (Day-O’), Jamaica Farewell, Man Smart (Woman Smarter) and Brown Skin Girl.  Reggae is right, too. More current selections include Madonna’s La Isla Bonita and the Beach Boys’ Cocomo. Intersperse the Caribbean songs with some Italian songs such as That’s Amore or lively Italian folk music such as the tarantella.

  

Favor. Biscotti with tropical flavors makes a great favor, to savor with coffee or rum or own their own. The biscotti will ring an Italian bell so let its wrapping strike a Caribbean chord. Use tissue paper and ribbon in at least three of the bright colors of the Caribbean.

Note for Favor: Discover an Italian treasure inside this Caribbean cover.

BEVERAGE RECOMMENDATIONS

In keeping with the theme, serve Italian wines.

 

Opening Cocktail. Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) with mango spear is the suitable sendoff for this dinner voyage.

 

Soup. A glass of slightly cool Valpolicella will pair well with the tropical and citrus tastes.

 

Entrée. A Reserve Chianti or Zinfandel (has Italian ancestry) will stand up to the richness of the lasagna.

 

After Dinner. Serve a coffee from a Caribbean country and spike it with a shot of Sambuca Romana or other licorice-flavored Italian liqueur.

APPETIZERS

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FRUTTI DI MARE

With Curry Marinade

An essential dish on Christmas Eve for the many Italian families who follow the tradition of a dinner of seven different fishes, marinated “fruits of the sea” make a light and bright appetizer at any time. Here, sweet and hot peppers confer on the cool, white seafood a Caribbean accent of color and spice. Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 1 day and at least 8 hours in advance: Complete preparation.

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

 

Ingredients

Marinade

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground

½ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground

4 cloves, ground

Zest of 1 lime, finely grated

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 ounces red onion, finely chopped

1 small hot chili or more to taste, minced

¼ cup sweet red pepper in small dice

¼ cup sweet yellow pepper in small dice

¼ cup green pepper in small dice

¾ cup avocado oil

¼ cup chopped, fresh coriander leaves 

 

Seafood

Ice cubes and cold water

3 garlic cloves, crushed

½ yellow onion, peeled and in thick slices

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon rice vinegar

½ pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ pound sea scallops, cut into bite-size portions

½ pound small squid, tentacles removed, bodies cut into ¼-inch sections

1 dozen mussels, scrubbed and debearded

 

Preparation

  1. Make marinade. Combine all ingredients in large glass or ceramic bowl.

  2. Prepare ice bath. Place ice cubes and cold water in large bowl.

  3. Put garlic, onion, bay leaf and vinegar in large pot with 6 quarts of cold water.  Bring to boil. Remove 2 cups of water and set aside. Add shrimp and scallops, bring back to boil and cook for 1½ minutes. Add squid and cook for 1 minute.  Quickly drain and plunge into the ice bath to stop cooking.  

  4. Put reserved water into pot, bring to boil and add mussels. Cover and cook until shells open, about 4 minutes. Drain and remove bodies from shells.

  5. Combine marinade and cooked seafood in glass or ceramic bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

 

Presentation

Serve from a colorful bowl onto individual plates, scallop shells if you have them.

RICE BALLS

With Mango Dipping Sauce

Savory Italian rice balls are dipped, not in the traditional tangy tomato sauce, but in the sweet and sour tang of the Caribbean. Serves 8.

Notes

Yield: Approximately 16 rice balls

Up to 1 day in advance: Prepare dipping sauce; cover and refrigerate; reheat to room temperature before serving.

Up to 2 hours in advance: Fry rice balls; cool completely, cover loosely and keep at room temperature; reheat in 200ºF oven or microwave.

 

Ingredients

Dipping Sauce

½ cup mango jelly

1 teaspoon lemon juice

 

Rice balls

1½ cups chicken stock, preferably home-made

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup jasmine or other long-grain rice

2 eggs, lightly beaten, plus 2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

½ cup chopped flat (Italian) parsley

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

½ cup canola oil

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

 

Garnish

Sprigs of flat (Italian) parsley

 

Preparation

  1. Mix jelly with lemon juice and heat, stirring, until smooth.

  2. In large pot bring stock and oil to a boil. Add rice and return to boil. Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove covered pot from heat and let rest for 15 minutes. Empty rice into bowl and cool for 15 minutes. Add 2 of the eggs, cheese, parsley and pepper. Mix well.  

  3. Make rice balls using approximately ¼ cup of the mixture for each. Set aside.  

  4. Coating. Place the remaining 2 eggs in a bowl and spread the breadcrumbs on a shallow plate. Dip the rice balls in the eggs, then dredge with breadcrumbs.

  5. In a medium skillet, heat oil to 375ºF. In batches, fry rice balls until golden brown on all sides, turning with tongs. Place on paper towels to drain excess oil.  

 

Presentation

Put sauce in dipping bowl and place in center of a large colorful platter. Arrange the rice balls and parsley garnish around the bowl.

CAPONATA

With Plantain and Tomatillo

Caponata is a sweet/sour Italian vegetable stew featuring eggplant and tomato with a bit of vinegar. This recipe preserves the elements of caponata’s composition. Eggplant is a fruit much used in southern Italian cooking; plantain is a fruit commonly used in Caribbean cooking. Tomatillos substitute for tomatoes while rice vinegar and lime provide the acid. Both versions are rich with flavor and brightly tart, but the Caribbean style accents spice and color. Serves 8.

 

 Notes

Up to 2 weeks if freezing or up to 4 days in advance: Complete Step 1.

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

 

Ingredients

½ cup peanut oil

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 pound green plantain, peeled, in ½-inch cubes

1 large sweet batata or sweet potato, peeled, in ½-inch cubes

1 large onion, in large dice

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 medium green pepper, seeded and cut in large dice

1 medium red pepper, seeded and cut in large dice

1 medium yellow pepper, seeded and cut in large dice

2 (more to taste) small red chili peppers, minced and, optional, seeds removed

½ pound tomatillos, outside covering removed, chopped

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground

1 teaspoon allspice berries, toasted and ground

1 tablespoon lime zest

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

¼ cup chopped, fresh coriander leaves

2 tablespoons lime juice

 

Garnish

Large sprig fresh coriander

 

Bread or cracker rounds

 

Preparation

  1. In large pot mix together all ingredients except coriander and lime. Cook uncovered over low heat. Stir and scrape bottom often enough to prevent sticking until almost all of the liquid is gone, about 1 hour.  

  2. Stir in the chopped coriander and lime juice just before serving.

 

Presentation

Mound the caponata in the center of a bright platter. Place a sprig of coriander in the center of the mound. Surround the mound with bread or crackers. 

SOUP

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MINESTRONE

With Root Vegetables and Mojo 

This take on the traditional Italian vegetable soup incorporates mojo, a flavorful Cuban sauce, as well as some distinctly Caribbean vegetables. The result is an exotic-tasting soup, chock full of bold island flavors and colors. Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 1 day and at least 4 hours in advance of making soup: Make mojo; keep at room temperature for 4 hours, then refrigerate.

Up to 8 hours in advance: Make soup.  

 

Ingredients

Mojo

1 tablespoon canola oil

½ medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

1½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice

¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

½ (more if desired) small habanero chile, seeded and chopped fine

½ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Soup

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup) 

1 cup okra (about 8 ounces), in ½-inch rounds

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 cups peeled calabaza (about 1½ pounds) in ½-inch cubes

2 plantains, in ½-inch cubes 

1 stalk celery (about ½ cup), in ½-inch cubes 

1 teaspoon salt 

¼ teaspoon black pepper 

6 cups light vegetable broth

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon vinegar

3 cups fresh spinach (about ½ bunch), chopped

15-ounce can black beans, drained

 

Garnish

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

 

Preparation

  1. Make mojo. Sauté onion and garlic in warmed oil, over medium-low flame, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add juices and chili pepper and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by two thirds. Mix in cumin, salt and pepper. Keep at room temperature for at least 4 hours.

  2. Make soup. Warm oil and butter in soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, okra and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add calabaza, plantains, celery, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add broth, tomatoes and vinegar.  Bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until plantains are almost tender, about 30 minutes. Add spinach, beans and mojo. Continue simmering for another 7 minutes, until spinach is tender and beans are hot.

 

Presentation

Serve in a colorful, large tureen or bowl. At the table, ladle into individual bowls, preferably ones that will emphasize the beautiful colors of the soup. Pass a small bowl with grated Parmesan to sprinkle on top. 

ENTREE

LASAGNA

With Kid and Jerk Seasoning

A classic Italian dish gets a classic Caribbean taste with Jamaican jerk seasoning. Kid is our first choice for the meat in this dish. It is popular around the Mediterranean, including Italy, as well as the Caribbean. Kid is lean but tender with its own delicious flavor. Serves 8.

 

Notes

Up to 2 days and at least 8 hours in advance of preparing lasagna: Marinate meat; refrigerate.

Up to 2 days in advance: Make tomato sauce; cover and refrigerate.

Up to 1 day in advance: Complete lasagna; cover tightly with foil and refrigerate; allow at least 2 hours to bring to room temperature before reheating in 250ºF oven for about 15 -20 minutes.

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

 

Ingredients

Meat

2 pounds boneless kid or goat, pork, mutton, beef, or chicken thighs, in 1-inch cubes

10 ounces Jamaican Jerk seasoning (paste form)

1 pound full-fat yogurt, preferably goat’s milk

 

Tomato sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

1½ cups finely chopped yellow onion

2 large garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cloves, ground

1 teaspoons coriander seeds, ground

½ teaspoon green cardamom seeds, ground

1½-inch piece ginger, in 3 slices 

1 pound plum tomatoes, chopped

1 small red bell pepper, diced

 

Béchamel

2 cups milk

3 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon toasted, ground cumin seeds

6 tablespoons flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pinch of cayenne pepper

¼ cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

12 ounces ricotta cheese, preferably freshly made, at room temperature

 

Lasagna

1 pound lasagna, preferably fresh

1 large bowl ice water

2-3 dish towels, very slightly dampened

 

Cheeses

8 ounces Monterrey Jack with hot peppers, shredded

¾ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

 

Garnish

8 large sprigs of fresh coriander

1 sweet red pepper in small dice

1 green pepper in small dice

 

Preparation

  1. Prepare meat. Rub meat cubes all over with jerk paste. Place in large plastic bag and marinate, refrigerated, for 6–24 hours. In large pot over low heat, place meat cubes with their marinade and the yogurt. Bring to slow simmer. Cook, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and continue simmering for another hour, stirring often to prevent sticking. The meat should be quite tender and most of the liquid absorbed. When cool, shred meat.  

  2. Make tomato sauce. In large pan over low flame, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, just until they begin to turn color. Add cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cardamom and ginger. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients. Bring to slow simmer and continue simmering, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Remove ginger slices.

  3. Prepare béchamel. Heat milk until bubbles begin to appear. Turn off heat and reserve. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Add cumin and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Turn heat to medium low and stir in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Pour in the hot milk, salt, pepper and cayenne, whisking constantly for 3-5 minutes more, until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and stir in coriander and ricotta.  

  4. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

  5. Cook lasagna. Bring 7 quarts salted water to a boil. If using fresh noodles, cook 2 or 3 at a time for 40 seconds. If using packaged dry noodles, follow package directions but be sure not to overcook. With tongs or large slotted spoon, remove noodles from heat. Plunge into ice water for a few seconds. Take out and place on damp towel.

  6. Build lasagna layers. Coat a colorful (see Presentation) lasagna pan (approximately 12x10x3 inches) with olive oil. Make a layer of cooked lasagna noodles on the bottom, trimming them with a knife or scissors to an exact fit without overlap. Cover with 1/3 of the shredded meat, then 1/3 of the tomato sauce followed by ¼ of the béchamel, then ¼ of the Monterrey jack cheese and ¼ of the Parmesan. Repeat this sequence of layering twice more. Cover with a final layer of noodles, béchamel and cheeses. Bake 20-25 minutes, until top is nicely browned. Let cool 10-15 minutes before serving.     

Presentation

If possible, use a lasagna pan with bright color; any color will do. Place the coriander sprigs on the top. Put the diced peppers together into a small cup or bowl for decorating individual plates. See Entrée Plating.

ESCAROLE

 With Orange and Spices

This recipe steers a new course from the savory Italian style of escarole, voyaging to the sweet curry flavors of the Caribbean. Serves 8.

Note

Up to 4 hours in advance: Complete the dish; cover and keep at room temperature.

 

Ingredients

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large head of escarole, chopped into 1-inch pieces

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup orange juice

Zest of ¼ orange

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon, or more to taste, sweet (mild) curry powder

 

Preparation

  1. Heat oil in large sauté pan. Add escarole, salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes. Add orange juice, zest and nutmeg. Continue to sauté for 5 minutes.

  2. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle in curry powder, stir well, cover and simmer for about 10 more minutes, until escarole is tender.

 

Presentation

Serve in a vegetable dish that will provide color contrast – yellow, orange, or white.  

 

Entrée Plating

Cut lasagna into portion-size squares. Place one portion in center of dinner plate. Arrange escarole around one side of lasagna portion. Place one sprig of coriander on the lasagna and sprinkle a portion of the diced red and green peppers on the remainder of the plate.

SALAD

CAESAR SALAD

With Avocado Oil and Bitter Orange

It’s the avocado oil that makes this salad one both Caesar and Columbus would adore.

 

Notes

Up to 2 days in advance: Make the croutons; place in airtight container and store at room temperature.

It is best to prepare the dressing and salad just before serving.

 

Ingredients

Dressing

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 anchovies, preferably marinated in vinegar

2 garlic cloves, minced

¾ cup avocado oil

¼ cup bitter orange

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Salad

1 head of Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1 loaf of cornbread, cut to size of small croutons

 

Preparation

Make dressing. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Place lettuce in large, wooden or colorful bowl, pour dressing over and stir gently to combine.

 

Presentation

Place individual portions into wooden bowls or salad plates. Sprinkle the croutons over the top.

DESSERTS

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FRUIT

A Tropical Assortment

Dinner must end with a splash of Caribbean color. A carefully arranged platter of colorful tropical fruits will enchant and refresh. Buy several kinds with different colors such as mango, papaya, pineapple, red and green melon. Try to include some less familiar fruits such as passion fruit, star fruit (carambola), custard apple or jackfruit.  

 

Note

Up to 4 hours in advance: Prepare fruits and arrange on platter. Prepare dressing.  Cover both and refrigerate.  

 

Ingredients

An assortment of fruits sufficient to serve your guests and garnish the platter

 

Dressing

3 tablespoons mild honey

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon very finely grated ginger

 

Preparation

  1. Peel, section or slice the fruits as necessary.

  2. Combine honey, lime juice and ginger.

  3. Just before serving, spoon dressing over fruits.

 

Presentation

In arranging the platter, place different fruits to enhance color contrasts (slices of red melon next to yellow pineapple next to orange papaya, etc.) and contrasts in shape. Use a few whole fruits to garnish the platter. Just before serving, spoon the dressing over the fruits.

 

BISCOTTI (Favor)

Traditional biscotti receive an unusual spin with rum, lime zest and toasted cashews.

 

Notes

Yield: 2-3 dozen

Up to 1 month if freezing or up to 2 weeks in advance: Prepare biscotti; if freezing, wrap tightly in plastic wrap; otherwise, keep in airtight container at room temperature.

 

Ingredients

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter, softened, plus some for greasing pan

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons dark rum

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lime zest 

1 cup cashews, lightly toasted and chopped

 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a baking sheet and dust with flour. Tap out the excess.

  2. In a bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, rum and vanilla.

  3. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add to batter gradually. Stir in lime zest and chopped cashews.

  4. Shape dough into 2 slightly flattened 12x2-inch logs. Place on baking sheet.

  5. Bake until golden and slightly firm to the touch, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven. Turn oven temperature down to 275ºF.

  6. Cool logs on baking sheet for 5 minutes. On cutting board, cut on the diagonal into ½-inch-thick slices, using a serrated knife. Place slices on baking sheet, return to oven and bake another 10 minutes.

  7. Cool on wire racks.

TIRAMISU

With Rum, Lime and Banana

Perhaps Italy’s most famous dessert, tiramisu has lavish looks and fabulous flavor, yet is light, a cinch to make, and better if made a day ahead. This exotic version adds Caribbean touches to the traditional tiramisu, already tropical in pedigree thanks to its major flavors, chocolate and coffee.

 

Note

Up to 1 day and at least 8 hours in advance: Make the tiramisu, cover, and chill; stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before serving.  

 

Ingredients

Tiramisu

1 pound mascarpone cheese 

1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 medium lime)

1½ cups freshly brewed, strong, dark roast coffee, or espresso   

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 tablespoons rum

45 (approximately) savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers)

1½ bananas in thin (1/8-inch) slices + ½ banana reserved for the topping

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, grated 

1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest

 

Garnish

8-10 coffee beans

 

Preparation

  1. Place the mascarpone in a medium bowl. Whisk in the confectioner’s sugar and lime juice. Set aside.

  2. Stir the granulated sugar and rum into the hot coffee and let it cool.  

  3. Set a 9-inch springform pan on your worktable. Slice about ½ to ¾ inch from one end of 26 of the ladyfingers. Briefly, for only one second (so they don’t get soggy), dip the ladyfingers into the cooled coffee mixture.Stand these up, rounded tip pointing up, around the wall of the springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan completely, in one layer, with additional ladyfingers. If necessary, trim them to fit. Brush or sprinkle liberally with the coffee mixture. 

  4. Cover the ladyfingers with half the cheese mixture. Cover the cheese with half the banana slices. Follow with a thick dusting of grated chocolate.  

  5. Repeat with an additional layer of ladyfingers, brushed or sprinkled with the coffee mixture, the remaining cheese, the second half of the sliced bananas, and the remaining chocolate gratings.

  6. Slice the banana half reserved for the topping into very thin slices. Arrange around the periphery and in center. Sprinkle top lightly with the grated zest.

  7. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.  

  8. Before serving, let stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.  

 

Presentation

Place a coffee bean on each banana slice around the periphery. Unmold on a colorful platter.