The Dish on Dazzling Dinners

Staging Fun-Filled, Impressive, Themed Dinners From Invitations to Favors

With Guidelines for Recipes and Suggestions for Simplification 

 

Whether you wish to mark a special occasion or please cherished guests, or when you need to impress or just for personal pleasure, THE DISH ON DAZZLING DINNERS is your guide.

There are 24 dinner plans that dazzle, two for each month, each with an intriguing theme carried throughout all elements of the dinner. Specific instructions cover the major features of a dinner party: clever invitations, informative Host’s Introduction, beguiling ways to greet guests, a visually striking souvenir menu, room and table décor, mood music, and charming take-home favors. Instead of recipes, THE DISH makes theme related suggestions for each dish so that you can use the Internet or your own expertise to tailor the tastes to your liking. In short, here is your guide to superlative dinner entertainment.

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SOUP

Squash, Carrot & Apple 

"Go Green! (Earth Day)" Dinner

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ENTREE

Ostrich Burger

"Graduation Day" Dinner

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DESSERT

Tomato and Cheese Pizza

!Loof Lirpa (April Food!) Dinner

JANUARY

A FEAST FOR GOOD FORTUNE

Inspiration: New Year’s Day

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Let’s prod fate to grant our wishes with lots of lucky foods.

 

HOST’S INTRODUCTION

It’s the New Year! Let’s have a feast - one that will bring good fortune. Different countries trust their luck to different foods. Even so, some foods keep cropping up as good-luck symbols - pork, fish, greens, beans, eggs, round foods and whole, intact foods such as whole fish or chicken. We can easily see why these foods are “lucky.”

 

The connotations and multiple meanings of pork and whole foods suggest abundance. Round foods and eggs evoke fertility, rebirth, eternity. Leafy greens and beans signal prosperity; the former may remind people of paper money, the latter of coins. Sometimes, coins are hidden inside one portion of the food; the person who finds it is, so they say, sure to prosper in the New Year.

 

All the dishes outlined here use at least one, and typically several, “lucky” ingredients. Many can be presented in good-luck forms. Be sure your guests know how lucky they will be by describing the good fortune symbolism of each dish, given with the description of each dish. 

 

With good friends and plenty of lucky foods, you and your guests are sure to have a

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Appropriate for: The menu is ideal for New Year’s Day but great to use for the Bowl Games of January, on a birthday or when someone is embarking on a new path in life.

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MENU

 

A FEAST FOR GOOD FORTUNE 

Let’s prod fate to grant our wishes with lots of lucky foods.

 

COCKTAIL

Grapes Galore: Sparkling Wine with Grapes and Grape Juice

 

APPETIZERS

Whole Fish of Herring Salad

Rice Balls

Eight-Ingredient Dip for Seven Round Vegetables

 

SOUP

Egg-Drop with Lentils

 

ENTRÉE

Boneless Rolled Pork Loin Roast

Long Noodles in Saffron Cream Sauce

Collard Greens with Bacon

 

SALAD

Golden Beet, Carrot and Tangerine Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

 

DESSERTS

Frosted Grapes with Edible Gold

Orange Ring Cake

DETAILS OF DAZZLE

 

Invitation. Cut the invitation into a symbol of good luck such as a horseshoe or four-leaf clover, using appropriately colored paper or card stock. Paste it onto the inside of a Happy New Year card. If emailing, use stationery or icons that signify good luck.

Text for Invitation. Start the New Year with a feast for good fortune. Join us, please, for a  dinner filled with foods said to bring good luck. Include time, place and R.S.V.P. if desired. 

 

Entrance décor. Decorate your front door with a symbol of good luck. Write on it: Enter here for good luck and prosperity in 20??.

 

Greeting guests. As guests enter, wish them “Happy New Year!” and have them rub the belly of a happy Buddha (small is fine) and make a wish. Hand them a souvenir menu representing a gold coin.

 

Souvenir menu. Print the menu on gold card stock cut into a circle, representing a coin signaling prosperity. You could add dollar signs or go international with yen, euro, etc. signs.

 

Room décor. Decorate for good luck. Place symbols of good luck around all the rooms where your guests will be. Don’t forget the powder room. Use your imagination in placing them on tables, walls, or furniture. Here is a partial list: 

  • Animals: Rabbit foot, dolphin, pig, frogs, turtles, bats, bears, goldfish, maneki neko (the lucky cat of Japan), white elephant.

  • Insects: Ladybugs, dragonflies, scarab beetles, crickets.

  • Plants: Four-leaf clover, bamboo, money tree, jade plant, basil, aloe.

  • Objects: Coins, wishing well, horseshoes, wishbones (for DIY, boil to get rid of shreds of meat), St. Christopher medal, ankh, dream catcher.

  • Geometric forms: Circle, ring, cross, heart. 

  • Numbers: 7, 8, 18

 

Table décor. For a dramatic dinner or buffet table, dominate it with red, the most auspicious color in Asian lore, and gold, everybody’s color of good fortune. Red placemats or tablecloth with gold-rimmed plates would be ideal. Encircle the stems of glasses with red and gold ribbon. Scatter red and gold confetti around the table. Add good luck symbols such as dollar bills or horseshoes or the lucky cat or…

 

Mood music. Upbeat, lively music is the thing; no sad songs. You will find lots with a lucky theme to download. A classic is Luck Be A Lady.

 

Favor. You must send your guests home with a favor for good fortune. Chocolate coins covered in gold will do the trick. A healthy alternative is a selection of round fruits. Buy oranges or tangerines for their good luck color and shape.

Note for favor. These gold coins/round fruits symbolize good fortune to start you on a year filled with good luck and prosperity. Happy New Year!

RECIPE GUIDELINES

With Suggestions for Plating and Complementary Beverages

 

COCKTAIL

Grapes Galore: Sparkling Wine with Grapes and Grape Juice

Grapes are round, therefore lucky. “Grapes Galore” is a triple dose of good luck. 

Preparation. Fill a champagne glass with sparkling wine and a jigger of brandy (both made from grapes). We like Grand Marnier because it is distilled from grapes with the addition of bitter orange (also lucky). Just before serving, drop 2 or 3 seedless purple grapes, cut in half, into the glass. The grapes will bounce around a bit and make more bubbles. 

APPETIZERS

Whole Fish of Herring Salad

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Here is a super-sized serving of good luck, a herring salad in the shape of a whole fish. In Asia, a whole fish represents abundance and ensures good luck for the whole of the New Year, from head to tail, i.e., start to finish. Many cultures consider fish lucky because their silvery scales resemble coins; they swim in schools, representing prosperity; and they swim forward, symbolizing progress. Germans and Poles believe that having herring for the first bite in the New Year will bring good luck.

Preparation. Place a herring salad on a platter and shape it like a fish. Use sliced red onion rings for fins, a slice of pimento-stuffed olive for an eye and a small red onion arc for a mouth. Serve with rye crackers.

Plating. Choose a platter in a bright color to contrast with the pale color of the fish.

Rice Balls

Rice symbolizes fertility and longevity. That’s why bride and groom are showered with it following the marriage ceremony. 

Preparation. For a symbolic double dose, make or buy rice balls and serve with a marinara sauce that is bright red, the most auspicious color in the lore of Asia. 

Plating. Use a plate with color that sets off the rice balls. Present the marinara sauce in small individual bowls or a large bowl with a spoon.

 

Eight-Ingredient Dip for Seven Round Vegetables

Eight is a lucky number in Japan and China. Recall that the Summer Olympics in Beijing started at 8 minutes and 8 seconds after 8:00PM on August (the 8thth month) 8th, 2008. The number 8 also has positive significance in, among many traditions, Judaism (Hanukkah is an eight-day holiday), Christianity (the number of Beatitudes), Islam (the number of angels carrying the holy throne of Allah in heaven), Hinduism (Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and abundance has eight forms), and Buddhism (the eightfold path).

 

Seven occurs repeatedly as a sign of good fortune in Western tradition and other cultures. The Old Testament mentions, among many others, the seven days of Creation, the seven days of Passover and the fall of Jericho on the seventh day after seven priests with their seven trumpets marched around the city seven times. In Jewish weddings, the bride circles the groom seven times to create a magical wall of protection from evil spirits, temptation and the glances of other women.  The New Testament tells us, among other references, of the miracle of the seven loaves and fish, that Jesus said he would forgive those who sinned against him seventy times seven times, and of his seven last words on the cross. The number seven also appears prominently in Islam and Hinduism and in the folklore of many cultures. Gamblers like it, too. Surely, a rich and delicious eight-ingredient dip with seven round vegetables will guide your guests to great good fortune. 

Preparation. For the dip, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, grated Parmesan or aged Gouda cheese, bacon bits, marjoram or oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Serve with ripe cherry tomatoes, mushroom caps, round potato chips, carrot and zucchini circles, and small, rounded cauliflower and broccoli florets

PlatingYou might arrange the seven round vegetables in a horseshoe pattern on a serving plate. Pass the plate and sauce together.

SOUP

Egg-Drop with Lentils

Egg-drop soup is easy to make and lovely to look at. Eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth; therefore, eternity or long life. 

Preparation. Make (it’s easy) or buy egg-drop soup. Add lentils (preferably red or green for color) because their coin shape signifies prosperity and wealth. Sprinkle some green scallion or chive rings on top for color and another symbol of eternity.

Plating. A green soup bowl would be super. 

Complementary Beverage. A small glass of rice wine would be fine.

ENTREÉ

Boneless Rolled Pork Loin Roast

Pigs get a lot of bad press. But not everywhere; in many traditions pigs are lucky. Germans, to indicate a fortunate experience, say: “Ich habe Schwein gehabt” – “I have had a pig.” Pigs symbolize abundance – wealth and fertility. Think piggy banks. Or that pigs breed prolifically, eat just about anything (great for farmers), and can thrive almost anywhere people can. Pigs are associated with gods or believed to have magical powers in a number of cultures. 

Preparation. For a double dose of luck and deliciousness, serve a rolled (i.e., round) loin roast and stuff it with dried fruit that has been poached in brandy or liqueur. Our favorite stuffing - chopped dried apricots (a round fruit) poached in half Grand Marnier (a liqueur made from  two round fruits) and half water. Mix with fresh chopped sage before stuffing.

 

Long Noodles in Saffron Cream Sauce

Wish your guests a long and wealthy life with this dish. Long noodles symbolize longevity. The sauce symbolizes wealth because saffron is the color of gold and the most expensive of spices. With the richness of cream and the bitter, savory and sweet notes of saffron, the dish will harmonize beautifully with the pork roast.

Preparation. A pasta such as bucatini is ideal in length (10-12 inches) and a thick saffron cream sauce will cling snugly to it. 

 

Collard Greens with Bacon

Greens are a traditional Southern New Year’s Day dish, the leaves resembling dollar bills. Add a bit of symbolic abundance with pork bacon and the result will be, at very least, a wealth of flavor. 

Preparation. Fry bacon until about half-cooked, add onions followed by a bit of garlic and hot sauce. Add chopped greens and cook until tender. 

Plating the Entrée 

Place the circular slice of pork loin in the plate’s center. Above it place some collards in a circular shape and below it, some noodles, also in a circular shape.

Complementary Beverage 

Pinot noir or other medium-bodied red wine will work well. While some prefer white wine with pork, the richness of the side dishes suggest red.

SALAD

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Golden Beet, Carrot and Tangerine Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Here is a golden salad sure to bring good fortune. Rounds of golden beets and carrots look like gold coins. In China, tangerines “must” be eaten on New Year’s Day because they are golden red in color and the name for them is a homophone of “gold” in the Chinese language. Pomegranates symbolize abundance and fertility in many Middle Eastern cultures. In Greece, at New Year’s and weddings, whole pomegranates are thrown on the floor. They burst open, spilling out their brilliant ruby seeds and juice to symbolize fertility and good fortune. Salad greens (leafy greens suggest money) will add even more good fortune. The salad is wonderfully colorful, shades of green and gold punctuated by ruby red pomegranate seeds. Its taste matches the vibrancy of its color, the sweetness of the roasted vegetables balanced by the slightly bitter mesclun and tart dressing.

Preparation. Roast the golden beets and carrots and then slice into disks. Make a dressing of pomegranate juice, orange or tangerine juice, white wine vinegar and grapeseed oil. 

Plating the Salad. Place green leaves on individual salad plates and top with the beets, carrots, tangerine sections and a few pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with dressing.  

DESSERTS

Frosted Grapes with Edible Gold

We also suggested this dessert for midnight supper on New Year’s Eve. It is very lucky, very gorgeous and very delicious. To bring in the New Year, Spaniards eat twelve grapes (a round fruit), one at each stroke of midnight. Twelve is also the number of months in the year. Frost them with sugar and sprinkle them with edible gold flakes for a spectacular start to the New Year. The edible gold is optional; the grapes are quite lovely when simply frosted.

Preparation. Choose large black seedless grapes. Trim off small clusters. Dip the clusters in an egg-white wash. To avoid the risk of salmonella from raw eggs, use pasteurized egg whites. Sprinkle them with superfine sugar and place on rack to dry. Then sprinkle on the flakes of gold if using.

Orange Ring Cake

Almost universally, cakes suggest good fortune and appear as major players on festive occasions. For New Year’s Day, make it round and orange flavored for lots of good luck. You may wish to put a coin into the batter before baking. The person who gets the coin is supposed to have good luck in the New Year. Be sure to tell your guests that they will be lucky in the coming year if they find the coin in their cake. So, be careful and pay careful attention to each bite.

Preparation. Make an orange Bundt cake. Slather it with frosting generously flavored with Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur. 

Plating the Desserts 

Place the two desserts on a plate with the grapes in the foreground. 

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EASY DAZZLE RECIPE GUIDELINES

 

Cocktail. Do do Grapes Galore. Simple, splendid, and ever so lucky.

 

Appetizers. All three are easy because the basics can be bought. Take a bit of time to shape the herring salad into a fish form. You can skip the touches for fins and tail. 

 

Soup or Salad. The salad is a beauty, as colorful as can be, but it will take some time to prepare. Egg-drop soup is easy to make. Even easier, order it from a Chinese restaurant.

 

Entrée. You can skip the stuffing for the pork roast. Even simpler, some Italian delis will sell or can make a stuffed pork roast. The noodles are so delicious and such a great accompaniment to the pork roast that we strongly recommend you make them. You can purchase cooked collard greens and serve with or without the bacon, onion and garlic.

 

Dessert. Buy a round cake and cover with frosting flavored with orange liqueur.

 

Favor. Fortunately, it is easy as pie to buy chocolate coins covered in gold foil or round fruits.

ALL WRAPPED UP

Inspiration:  January, the dead of winter

Your guests will arrive all wrapped up. Keep them warm and cozy with foods handsomely wrapped

and suitably scrumptious.

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HOST’S INTRODUCTION

The holidays have come and gone, the days are darker and temperatures have dipped. We all want to ward off winter’s bleakness, so it’s the perfect time to gather with guests and share the warmth of friendship and dining together. What could be better for the occasion than food that’s all wrapped up? Wrappings warm us and comfort us. From swaddling, an ageless practice that soothes infants, to the cozy security of a shawl around one’s shoulders, a wrap conveys contentment and well-being. And when everything you serve is wrapped, each dish will be seasoned with mystery and surprise, a strategy guaranteed to build intrigue and interest. Handsome wrappings and alluring aromas will entice your guests. Contrasting textures and warm, satisfying tastes will reward each bite they take. 

 

So, there you have it. In the dead of winter, put on your favorite wrap, gather your guests and get 

ALL WRAPPED UP!

Appropriate for:  Anytime in January, of course, or whenever it’s cold outside.

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MENU

 

APPETIZERS

MASCARPONE WITH CAPERS AND CHIVES

Wrapped in Smoked Salmon and Arugula

 

FILET MIGNON WITH ANCHOVY/ROSEMARY MAYONNAISE

Wrapped in Flour Tortilla 

 

PEAR WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Wrapped in Baked Parmesan Cheese

 

SOUP

FENNEL AND LEEK BISQUE

Wrapped in Puff Pastry

 

ENTREÊ

PORK TENDERLOINS AND SAGE LEAVES

Wrapped in Prosciutto

 

SAUTÉ OF RUBY CHARD WITH GOLDEN RAISINS AND PINE NUTS

Wrapped in Chard Leaves Poached in Merlot

 

MUSHROOMS IN MUSHROOM SYRUP

Wrapped in French Bread Crust

 

SALAD

GREEN SURPRISE

Mesclun Wrapped in Belgian Endive with Tie of Chive

 

DESSERTS

BLOOD ORANGE CAKE

Wrapped in Fondant Ribbon

 

ANJOU PEARS

Wrapped in Dessert Crêpe

DETAILS OF DAZZLE

Invitation. This invitation is a warm-up! Prepare a small Mason or other glass jar with the makings of hot chocolate. Layer it with cocoa powder, miniature marshmallows and peppermint candies. Print the note below on cream-colored card stock. Cut the note out and wrap it around the glass jar, securing it with tape. Wrap the jar with cream-colored paper and tie with a ribbon of warm brown. Hand deliver. Or, enclose the note in an appropriate card or send an email with appropriate stationery.

Note for Invitation. Please come to a winter dinner designed, like hot chocolate, to keep you warm and cozy. Include time, place and R.S.V.P. if desired. 

 

Entrance décor. Display a few large scarves, shawls or stoles on a small table or other piece of furniture or, if you have a staircase near your home’s entrance, tie scarves, etc. from the bannister. Or tie them around some boxes or other objects. If children or pets are usually present when guests arrive, and if they would enjoy the experience, dress them in scarves or mufflers. You, of course, will be decked out in your favorite shawl. Or use your imagination to wrap yourself in ribbons, scarves or ties.

 

Greeting guests. Welcome your guests with your warmest smile and hug. Lead them to your cocktail table, hand them a cup of warm mulled wine and present the set of souvenir menus.

 

Souvenir menu. Print the menu on cream-colored or parchment paper. Wrap it, of course; roll and tie it with suitable ribbon. Tie all the menus together with a broad, fancy, warmth-evoking ribbon. As guests arrive, have each select one from the all-wrapped-up set.

 

Room décor. Place a decorative throw on your sofa, preferably one that is fuzzy, furry or velvety. If you have a fireplace, use it. Keep the room lighting low, but be extravagant with candles.

 

Table décor. Show off the appetizers on your cocktail table. Enclose each in a beautiful cloth, scarf or shawl, or large napkin. An alternative is tissue paper in warm colors, although paper does not communicate warmth as well as cloth. If you have one, a three-tier dessert stand enclosed in handsome fabric will beguile your guests. Whichever presentation you use, unwrap with panache before serving.

 

For your dining table, use linens in shades of brown or other warm colors, incorporating some contrast. Examples are tablecloth or placemats in taupe with creamy napkins (or vice versa) or cream with forest green or auburn. Similarly, use dishes that reflect warmth. If you can, avoid white china, which has a cold, formal look. In keeping with the theme, you could wrap the dishes of each place setting, or each set of flatware, in the guest’s napkin. A centerpiece that evokes warmth or a pleasant wintry scene will fit the theme.

 

An alternative will make your dinner table radiate warmth and light. For the centerpiece, use one or more ice luminaries. Follow instructions from the Internet. Fill with evergreens such as holly and red cranberries with a candle in the center. Place a dish under each luminary to catch drip. The ice represents winter’s cold; the evergreens and berries, its beauty.  The candle flame conveys warmth in the face of winter’s cold. 

 

Mood music. The occasion calls for soft, relaxing music. Nostalgic love songs, especially oldies, will work for most guests.

 

Favor. Blood oranges, available only during winter months, make a delicious and appropriate take-home souvenir. Place two or more in a decorative pouch or wrap in festive paper.

Note for favor. We hope you enjoy these blood oranges. Unwrap (i.e., peel) these jewels of the citrus family to reveal segments as lush in coloring as they are luscious in taste.  

RECIPE GUIDELINES

With Suggestions for Plating and Complementary Beverages

 

COCKTAIL

Warm and spicy, mulled wine makes a perfect start for this dinner. 

Preparation. Choose a recipe from the Internet. Serve in glass mugs or cups with a cinnamon stick. 

 

APPETIZERS

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MASCARPONE WITH CAPERS AND CHIVES

Wrapped in Smoked Salmon and Arugula

This dish is a sensual symphony of color, taste and texture. With each bite, the firm, smoky flesh of coral salmon yields to soft white cream and emerald counterpoints of parsley, tangy capers, sharp chives and peppery arugula. 

Preparation. Mix mascarpone with minced chives, capers, Italian parsley, a touch of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Lay out a strip of smoked salmon. Place on it a leaf of baby arugula so that some green shows above the salmon strip. Place a spoonful of cheese mixture on the arugula and top with another arugula leaf. Roll it up and tie with a long chive.

 

FILET MIGNON WITH ANCHOVY/ROSEMARY MAYONNAISE

Wrapped in Flour Tortilla 

Guaranteed, your guests will get an explosion of flavor as the contents of the wrap contact their taste buds.

Preparation. Mix mayonnaise with chopped rosemary, some garlic, a touch of anchovy paste, lemon juice and black pepper. Broil or grill filet mignon, in ½-inch slices, and then cut into strips. Over the flame on the stovetop, toast 8-inch flour tortillas on both sides. Cut them in half. Spread each half with a layer of mayonnaise mixture and 2 slices of filet mignon, covering about half of the tortilla. Add a few sprigs of watercress, roll and fasten with toothpick.

 

PEAR WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Wrapped in Baked Parmesan Cheese

The combination of ripe pear, balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese is a popular party dish. Transform it by baking the cheese over the pear. Now, the soft, sweet pear contrasts with the crispy, savory cheese wrap. A good balsamic vinegar adds an extra burst of flavor.

Preparation. Slice ripe Bosc pears into small, flat pieces. Put 1 or 2 drops of balsamic vinegar on each pear piece. For each wrap, put a generous tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese on a plain baking sheet to form a circle about twice the size of the pear pieces. Lightly flatten the center of the circle. Bake in 350°F oven for about 4 minutes until cheese has melted but is not yet crisp. Remove baking sheet from oven and immediately place one pear piece at the edge of one circle.  With a spatula, fold the cheese over the pear so that the edges of the cheese completely cover the pear. Continue for the remainder. Return sheet to oven and bake for about 1 minute, until cheese is crisp and golden brown.

Plating the Appetizers

On circular appetizer-size plates, place 1 or 2 of each appetizer in a circular pattern, with a small bunch of parsley or baby arugula in the circle or edge of the plate.

SOUP

FENNEL AND LEEK BISQUE

Wrapped in Puff Pastry

This soup is a showstopper! The pastry over the bisque puffs up like a huge chef’s hat. A fork breaks the hat and POOF! A cloud of fragrant steam!

Preparation. Recipes for fennel and leek bisque call for sautéing fennel, leeks, onion and garlic in butter. For liquid, we like simmering a combination of Chardonnay wine, vegetable or chicken stock and water followed by the addition of heavy cream (1wine: 1cream: 2 stock: 1water) and a small amount of a licorice liqueur. After pureeing, spoon soup into ramekins. Cover the tops and ½-inch of the sides with puff pastry, pressing the pastry against the sides. Bake in 400°F oven until pastry rises and turns light brown, about 12 minutes. Cool for a few minutes and serve.

Plating. Present each ramekin on a small plate decorated with a few fennel fronds. 

Complementary beverage. Make it a buttery Chardonnay, the same as the one in the soup.

ENTREÉ

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PORK TENDERLOINS AND SAGE LEAVES

Wrapped in Prosciutto

Pork and sage, a classic combination, do double duty in this preparation. Sage lends its dusky flavor to two distinct pork tastes. Savory prosciutto encases sweet tenderloin slices and sage leaves. High heat and fast cooking preserve flavorful juices and the different dimensions of flavor.

Preparation. Cut a room-temperature, boneless pork tenderloin into slices about ¾-inch thick. Place 2 sage leaves on top of each pork tenderloin in a crisscross pattern. Wrap a wide slice of prosciutto, 1/8-inch thick, over the sage leaves and around the tenderloin. Place seam side down in a roasting pan. Brush with olive oil and roast for 10 minutes in a 500°F oven. Garnish each wrap with 2 sage leaves.

 

SAUTÉ OF RUBY CHARD WITH GOLDEN RAISINS AND PINE NUTS

Wrapped in Chard Leaves Poached in Merlot

Strikingly colorful, ruby chard is chock-full of rich flavor. The large leaves wrap a mixture of chopped chard enriched with sweet raisins and nuts. Poaching the leaves in wine subtly alters their flavor.

Preparation. Set aside one large chard leaf for each guest. Sauté chopped ruby (or green) chard and onion in olive oil until tender. Add raisins with enough water to prevent sticking and simmer for a few minutes. Briefly poach the large chard leaves in a mixture of vegetable stock and merlot. Lay the leaves out and place about 1 tablespoon of sautéed chard and about 1 teaspoon of toasted pine nuts on one side. Roll and place seam side down.

 

MUSHROOMS IN MUSHROOM SYRUP

Wrapped in French Bread Crust

A mushroom reduction intensifies the earthy flavor of mushrooms. The better the mushrooms, the richer the flavor so use "wild" mushrooms such as trumpets, morels, etc. or a mixture of "wild" and common white or creminis.. The crisp wrap supplies contrast in texture.

Preparation. 

1. For the mushroom mixture, sauté roughly chopped mushrooms in butter with grated or minced garlic until they begin to brown and give up their liquid. Cook for a few minutes with minced parsley, tarragon and lemon zest.

2. For the syrup, sauté mushrooms in butter with shallots or garlic until becoming soft. Boil for about 15 minutes in a mixture of white wine and water (for every 8 ounces of mushrooms use 1 cup of wine and 1 cup of water) with a bit of lemon zest. Strain thoroughly, then boil down to a syrup.

3. For the wrap, cut a crusty French bread into ½-inch slices. Remove inside soft bread, leaving unbroken rings of crust. Mash olive oil with grated garlic and brush on crusts, inside and out. Bake crusts in 500°F oven for about 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Fill with warm mushroom mixture and drizzle warm syrup over top. 

Plating the Entrée 

Place pork wrap at bottom center of plate. Position wrapped chard to one side above it and mushroom wrap to the other side. Use some mushroom syrup to make a pattern of dots such as a half circle in the empty space on the plate.

Complementary beverage

A red wine with medium body, such as a Chianti reserve, will work well.

SALAD

GREEN SURPRISE

Mesclun Wrapped in Belgian Endive with Scallion Tie

 

When untied, the salad unfolds like a flower. Add to the surprise with the tantalizing fragrance of vanilla. 

Preparation

  1. Tear mesclun into small pieces. Dress with vinaigrette. We suggest one made of white wine vinegar, a fragrant oil such as hazelnut and vanilla vodka (or plain vodka with enough vanilla extract to clearly flavor the vodka). Use these proportions - 1:2:2. Add a touch of honey, salt and pepper.

  2. You will need one head of endive for each guest. For each, in the palm of hand, place two endive leaves so their bottoms overlap.  Continue adding leaves, 8-10 in total, overlapping them until it resembles a completed flower. Drop in ½ cup of dressed mesclun. Bring fingers together to close salad within endive leaves. If you need to add another endive leaf to ensure outside of packet is solid, do so at this point. If you have a helper, have them wrap a long scallion (white bulb removed) around the endive packet and pull ends into a knot. If working alone, hold packet firmly, lay it down and then tie a scallion around it.

Plating. Stand each tied endive bunch in center of a flat, individual plate.  Once scallion tie is removed, endive will unfold like a flower in bloom!

Note: See EASY DAZZLE for a simpler salad.

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DESSERTS

BLOOD ORANGE CAKE

Wrapped in Fondant Ribbon

Because winter is the season for blood oranges, take advantage of them to make a cake that stands out in color and flavor. 

Preparation. Use a recipe for orange cake, substituting blood oranges for the usual. Decorate with fondant to resemble a ribbon tie. Check the Internet for images of several types of fondant ties. 

 

ANJOU PEARS

Wrapped in Dessert Crêpe

The warm pears, poached in a spicy liquid, will both contrast and harmonize with the cool flavor of the cake.

Preparation. Poach pears in a liquid with a flavor to harmonize with the orange cake such as anise or cinnamon. For intense pear flavor, use pear nectar and water in equal amounts. When pears are soft, remove from liquid and slice. Boil the liquid down to a syrup. Make or buy dessert crêpes and fill with pear slices. Spoon some poaching syrup over the top. Roll the crêpes, drizzle each with a bit of honey and top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Plating the Desserts

Sprinkle powdered sugar or a mix of powdered sugar and cinnamon on a dinner plate, preferably colorful. Place a slice of cake on one side and a crepe on the other. A few mint leaves will add color.

Complementary Beverage

A good cognac or brandy to warm your guests before their departure makes a cordial conclusion.

EASY DAZZLE RECIPE GUIDELINES

 

Cocktail. Mulled wine is easy to make, but is best if made shortly before serving or no more than one hour in advance. Some websites say that you can make mulled wine a day in advance, refrigerate it and then rewarm. We have tried it but found it unsatisfactory. An alternative is a glass of sparkling red wine. 

 

Appetizers. The easiest one to make is the mascarpone wrapped in smoked salmon. However, a warm appetizer fits the theme better than a cold one and the pear wrapped in parmesan cheese is not much more difficult to make. For a very simple warm appetizer, purchase baked crostini and cover with goat cheese. Make it look like a pretty package by laying two strips of roasted red pepper from a jar (cut ahead of time) in a cross on top and place a small olive at the center. Serve warm.

 

Soup or salad. The soup is spectacular and so very theme-related. It and the pastry can be made in advance and frozen so that’s a plus. The salad suggested here will be easier to assemble than the one described above.

Preparation. For each serving, place a small handful of mesclun dressed with your favorite vinaigrette at the end of a large leaf of Romaine lettuce. Top the mesclun with one pansy or other edible flower. Roll the leaf to form a closed package and secure with a colorful toothpick. 

 

Entrée. The side with chard will be simpler to make than the mushrooms. 

 

Dessert. Substitute a cake from your favorite bakery. Ask them to decorate it to look like a package. The pears can be made as much as two days ahead. It will be simple to wrap them in store-bought crepes.

 

Favor. What could be easier than buying some blood oranges several days ahead and popping them into pretty bags from a crafts store? So do it.