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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APPETIZER

Halls of Montezuma

"Celebrating the Armed Forces of the USA" dinner

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ENTREE

Curried Meatloaf with Pomegranate Reduction

"In Celebration of Grandparents" dinner

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DESSERT

Baked Pears with Pecan Stuffing

"Thanksgiving Transformed" dinner

JULY

THE ICE-CREAM DINNER

Inspiration: July is National Ice-Cream Month

Ice Cream in Every Dish: A Kid’s Dream, But Not a Dietician’s Nightmare. Cool!

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HOST'S INTRODUCTION

Ice cream in every dish? Some will take to the idea immediately; it’s pure indulgence, a kid’s dream. Others will be aghast; all that sugar and fat, a dietician’s nightmare. Not to worry. 

  • Too many evil calories? Not really. Each dish uses just a small amount of ice cream, no more than a tablespoon, except, of course, the desserts. 

  • Too much ice cream to buy? Nope. Not with petite portions. A half-cup of ice cream will serve eight people one tablespoon so you don’t have to buy very much of the various flavors. Not to mention how welcome leftovers will be. 

  • Aren’t sweets only for dessert? No way. Sugar appears often in main dishes in the form of fruit sauces, glazes and sides; caramelized condiments; and sweet and sour concoctions. For example, since duck is often served with a sweet orange sauce, why not serve it with orange sherbet. 

 

Virtues.

  • Each ice cream flavor complements those of its dish, typically in well known, harmonious combinations such as orange and licorice.

  • Ice cream delivers to each dish cool contrasts, so pleasing in summer. 

  • The ice creams make colorful additions to the dishes.

  • The resulting dinner is sophisticated, delicious, eye-catching and just plain fun. 

  • To clear away any remaining crumb of hesitation, think of the dinner as your civic duty; July is National Ice Cream Month. 

 

In short, 

GO FOR IT!

Appropriate for: It will be cool on any hot day.

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MENU

THE ICE CREAM DINNER

Ice-cream in every dish: A kid’s dream but not a dietician’s nightmare. Cool!

 

COCKTAIL

Creamy Bellini

Ice Cream: Peach

 

APPETIZERS

Mascarpone and Parmesan Cheeses in Pastry Cup

Ice Cream: Hazelnut Gelato

 

Pumpernickel Crostini with Goat Cheese

Ice Cream: Dark Chocolate

 

Pretzel Sticks

Ice Cream: Cotton Candy

 

SOUP

Cold Cucumber with Mint Sorbet

 

ENTRÉE 

Blackened Chicken

Ice Cream: Praline

 

Grilled Vegetables

Ice Cream: Orange Sorbet

 

Saffron Rice

Ice Cream: Lime Sorbet

 

SALAD

Mixed Greens with Balsamic Vinegar

Ice Cream: Vanilla

 

DESSERTS

Grilled Zucchini Cake

Ice Cream: Piña Colada

 

Very Berry Strawberries

Ice Cream: Red Raspberry Sherbet

DETAILS OF DAZZLE

 

Invitation. A blank card will work well. On the outside print in color your name with an apostrophe and the words “ice-cream parlor,” e.g., SMITH’S ICE-CREAM PARLOR. Inside, if you can, place an image of a dish of food with an upside-down ice-cream cone on top. Or use email with an amusing ice cream image.

Text for invitation.  Here’s the scoop. July is National Ice-Cream Month. Come celebrate it with us. 

 

Entrance décor. Order an ice-cream poster from the Internet and position it on your door. One that shows an ice-cream parlor would be especially appropriate.

 

Greeting guests. Play ice-cream truck music as guests enter. Hand each guest a menu inside an actual ice-cream cone.

 

Souvenir menus. Make it a strawberry ice-cream cone. Use brown ink to print the menu on pink card stock. Cut that into a circle. From light brown card stock, cut a triangular cone and attach to the “ice cream.” Place in the real cone.

 

Room décor. Fill apothecary jars or other glass containers with candies, ice cream toppings, whatever you might find in an ice-cream store.

 

Table décor. Dress your table in pastel linens. In its center place three ice-cream sundae bowls. To represent vanilla ice cream topped with a cherry, fill the center bowl with white carnations and top with one red carnation. Fill the other bowls with peach colored or pink carnations topped with one white carnation – for peach ice cream and whipped cream. 

 

Mood music. After the ice-cream truck music as guests enter, continue with ice-cream songs taken from the Internet. Otherwise choose up-beat selections that suggest summer fun.

 

Favor. Place a gift certificate for a local ice-cream store into an ice-cream cone, wrap in clear cellophane and tie with pastel ribbon.

Note for favor. If dinner’s small portions failed to fill your ice-cream hunger, go for a full-sized tasting. 

RECIPE GUIDELINES

With suggestions for plating and complementary beverages

Note: Small spoons are used for several courses. Get colorful plastic ones from your local ice-cream parlor. 

COCKTAIL

CREAMY BELLINI (Peach Ice Cream)

First served more than half a century ago in the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, the Bellini is sweet and fizzy and still a summer favorite. It is usually made with Prosecco and luscious white peach purée.

Guidelines: For this dinner, put a small scoop of peach ice cream or sherbet in a Champagne glass and fill with ice-cold Prosecco. 

Plating. If using a classic, wide diameter glass, serve with a small spoon. If using a flute, you will need a longer spoon such as one for iced tea or a cocktail stirrer with a spoon-like bottom.

APPETIZERS

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Because ice cream melts quickly, serve the appetizers separately. For each appetizer, put a large scoop of its ice cream into a bowl. You may either pass the bowl around and have each guest scoop out a small spoonful or you can place a small spoonful on each guest’s appetizer.

PUMPERNICKEL CROSTINI WITH GOAT CHEESE

(Dark Chocolate Ice Cream)

This dish is complex with multiple layers of flavor and texture. The pumpernickel is sour, dense and chewy, its caraway seeds crunchy and bitter. The cheese is rich, creamy and softly tart. The chocolate melts quickly in the mouth, cloaking all in cool, bittersweet goodness.

Preparation. Lightly toast one side of small rounds of pumpernickel with caraway seeds. Spread a young goat cheese on the other side. Broil until cheese melts. 

Plating. As above, serve the ice cream in a bowl so that guests can scoop out a bit of chocolate ice cream to top their crostini.

 

MASCARPONE AND PARMESAN CHEESES IN PASTRY CUP

 (Hazelnut Gelato)

Continue à la mode Italiana with two of Italy’s famous cheeses and its contribution to the ice-cream family, gelato. Make it hazelnut, Italy’s favorite nut. The cheeses are soft and warm, providing perfect contrast to the crispy pastry and the cool gelato. It’s a savory take on the classic combination of pastry, nuts and creamy cheese. 

Preparation. Mix three parts mascarpone to one part grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Put into small pastry cups and heat. 

Plating. Pass around the hazelnut gelato in a bowl. 

 

PRETZEL STICKS 

(Cotton Candy Ice Cream)

I (L.P.) remember the first time my mother gave my brother and me pretzels with our vanilla ice cream. We both scoffed - and probably made gagging noises. She insisted so we dipped our pretzels into the ice cream and WOW! Our mouths rock ‘n rolled when the hot crystals of salt on the yeasty, crunchy pretzel collided with the cool, sweet, rich ice cream. We were hooked. For this dinner, cotton candy or multi-colored ice cream will add to the fun.

Guidelines. Slightly soften the ice cream so that guests can dip their pretzel sticks into it and swirl it around their pretzel as if they were making cotton candy.

Plating.  Present pretzels and the ice cream in separate colorful containers.

SOUP

(Mint Sorbet)

This beauty is pale white with flecks of green, topped with a small ball of mint green. Truly “cool as a cucumber” – in looks and taste. It refreshes at a glance and with each spoonful.

Preparation. Make a cold cucumber soup with yogurt and chopped chives. 

Plating. Put soup into individual bowls white if possible.  Top each bowl with a small scoop of mint sorbet.  If you cannot find mint sorbet, it will be simple enough to make a mint granite.  Garnish the mint sorbet with a small spring of mint.

Complementary beverage. Water flavored with your choice - cucumber slices, mint sprigs, or lemon or lime juice.

ENTRÉE

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BLACKENED CHICKEN

(Praline Ice Cream)

New Orleans cuisine stars here. Cold, creamy praline ice cream accentuates the smoky spiciness of blackened chicken. It’s a Cajun concoction crammed with contrasts of taste, texture and color.

Preparation. Use your favorite blackened chicken recipe. 

 

GRILLED VEGETABLES

(Orange Sorbet)

Orange flavor pairs beautifully with bitter foods and licorice-flavored ingredients. 

Preparation. Select vegetables with a bitter component such as eggplant, green pepper, or carrot. Avoid sweet vegetables such as red pepper. Brush vegetables with olive oil mixed with ground fennel or anise seeds and grill. 

 

SAFFRON RICE

(Lime Sorbet)

The inspiration for this dish comes from Wikipedia’s history of ice cream. As early as 400 B.C., the Persians had a special summer dish for royalty that used rose water and vermicelli with saffron-flavored ice. A couple of centuries later, Chinese were eating a frozen mixture of milk and rice. These two facts suggested pairing saffron rice with an ice cream. We chose lime sherbet for gorgeous color contrast and because a favorite rice dish of ours uses saffron and kaffir lime.

Preparation. Make a batch of saffron-flavored rice. If saffron does not fit your budget, substitute ground turmeric. It will work almost as well as saffron in terms of color and flavor. 

Plating the entrée

Maximize color contrast by placing a small scoop of the appropriate ice cream atop each element of the entrée.

Complementary beverage

A big, fruity red such as Zinfandel will stand up to the strong flavors in the entrée.

SALAD

MIXED GREENS with BALSAMIC VINEGAR

(Vanilla Ice Cream)

A salad without a vinaigrette? Only the vinegar? Here, for fat’s all-important contributions of taste and mouth feel in a salad dressing, ice cream substitutes for oil. Vanilla is the flavor of choice in this unusual salad because it pairs so well with balsamic vinegar. If not familiar with this combination, try it yourself. Place a drop or two of a good balsamic vinegar on cold vanilla-poached pears or vanilla ice cream - heaven.

Preparation. It’s your choice for the greens, although we recommend a good complement of bitter ones. Dress them lightly with a high-quality balsamic vinegar. Top each serving with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and, to top that, a drop or two of the balsamic vinegar.

Plating. For a beautiful presentation, serve the salad in a martini glass or other wide-mouth, footed glass. 

DESSERTS

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GRILLED ZUCCHINI CAKE

(Piña Colada Ice Cream)

This time of year there is plenty of young, flavorful zucchini just waiting to be turned into luscious zucchini cake. Piña colada makes a fanciful and fun companion for it.

Preparation. Grill individual slices of the cake for smoky flavor and striking stripes. A substantial scoop of piña colada ice cream completes this superb summer treat.

Plating. Choose a colorful plate, perhaps a patterned one as shown. Place the ice-cream scoop on top of the cake or just to the side.

 

VERY BERRY STRAWBERRIES

(Red Raspberry Sherbet)

Preparation. Cut small strawberries in half and large strawberries in quarters. If necessary, add sugar. Pour some black raspberry liqueur such as Chambord over the berries and let stand for ½ - 1 hour. Soften red raspberry sherbet shortly before serving. Fold in the strawberry pieces. 

Plating. Scoop into individual bowls and spoon some more liqueur over top. If desired, top with whipped cream flavored with liqueur, either black raspberry, red raspberry or strawberry.

Complementary beverage

A berry liqueur, of course. 

EASY DAZZLE RECIPE GUIDELINES

Cocktail. The Creamy Bellini is so yummy and such a great starter that we recommend it – and it is simple enough to do. However, a plain glass of sparkling wine is fine.

 

Appetizer. Pretzel sticks swirled in multi-colored ice cream is the simplest, but the pumpernickel crostini is more impressive with more complex taste. To simplify, do not toast the bread or melt the cheese. Just spread goat cheese on the room-temperature bread and top with a small scoop of chocolate ice cream.

 

Soup or salad. The soup is easy to make and can be prepared a day in advance, but cannot be frozen. The salad will be a breeze with packaged greens and simple topping of ice cream and balsamic vinegar.

 

Entrée. Either side with the blackened chicken will work. We favor grilling or frying long slices of yellow summer squash. Place them in a V-formation on the plate with the blackened chicken inside the V. Place the scoop of orange sherbet at the bottom of the V. Very pretty!

 

Dessert. The berry dessert is simple and always luscious. Of course, zucchini or similar cakes are widely available in groceries and bakeries.

 

Favor. You can simply give departing guests a gift certificate for ice cream, but, several days in advance, you can put the gift certificate into ice-cream cones - much more impressive.

A COOL MENU FOR A HOT SUMMER

Inspiration: Mid-summer, July’s heat

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For relief from the heat: fun foods in shapes symbolic of winter and a frosty décor. Cool!

HOST’S INTRODUCTION

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

 

Imagine their surprise! The evening is hot and humid. You greet your guests at the door with a foam snowman at your side. The air smells of pine and is notably cool. It looks like winter.  Artificial snow lines the windows and a pair of skis leans against one wall. On the coffee table are the appetizers arranged in an eye-catching scene that calms and cools: a miniature snow-capped mountain on an expanse of grass. A set of snowmen and a pile of snowballs are also in view. Like all the dishes in the menu, these are sculpted in wintry forms, designed for intrigue and fun and to be cool and cooling. Wintry scenes are featured. Besides the snow-capped mountain, the “iceberg” soup looks amazingly like icebergs floating on a cold sea, while the entrée depicts a winter landscape.

 

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

 

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

CHILL OUT!

Appropriate for: Any summer day.

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MENU

A COOL MENU FOR A HOT SUMMER

It’s been a very hot summer. This wintry menu will chill you out.

 

Cocktail

Ice Cold Lemonade (Spiked with Rum)

 

Appetizers

Snow-Capped Mountain (Pureed Lentils with Orange and Spices)

Snowmen (Scallop Ceviche)

Snowballs (Teleggio Cheese with Prosciutto and Fig)

 

Soup

Iceberg Soup (Thai-Style)

 

Entree

Yule Logs on Bed of Snow with Evergreen Branches 

(Grilled, Dry-Aged Strip Steaks)

(Rosemary-Scented Mashed Potatoes)

(Broccoli Rabe with Lemon Salt)

 

Salad

Iceberg Salad (Iceberg Lettuce on “Sea” of Bleu Cheese Dressing)

 

Desserts

Christmas Tree (Pistachio Cake with White Chocolate/Mint Ganache)

Ornaments for a Christmas Tree (Melon Balls in Melon Liqueur)

DETAILS OF DAZZLE

Invitations. It’s July. Imagine getting a Christmas card showing a wintry scene along with “Seasons Greetings” and the intriguing text below. A plain card with wintry images or an email with wintry stationery will also do the job.

Text for invitation. It’s been a hot summer. It’s time to chill out. Please come for a wintry dinner.

 

Entrance décor. Set the scene with a large vase of freshly cut pine boughs or other evergreen branches near the door so that guests catch the scent as they enter. Buy some large white foam balls in different sizes and make a “snowman” to greet your guests at the door. We like the “classic” snowman with carrot nose, button eyes and stick arms.  

 

Greeting guests. Turn up the AC, but not too much for your guests will be wearing summer clothing. Wear winter clothes but if that will be too uncomfortable, greet guests wearing a winter wrap that you can take off after all guests have arrived.

 

Souvenir menus.  Use the whitest paper or card stock you can find. Print the menu in blue and add snowflake or other winter images on both sides. Roll and tie it with silver ribbon. 

 

Room décor.  Prop ice skates or skis or snow shoes in a corner of the living room or dining room. Obtain artificial “snow,” the kind used underneath a Christmas tree, and fix it to the bottoms and up the corners of windows to resemble snow piling up on a windowsill. Use any “snow globes,” carvings or figurines of arctic animals such as polar bears or penguins, miniature evergreen trees, etc. Place them as appropriate to your living and dining areas. Prepare a bowl of small white foam “snow” balls. If inclined, invite your guests to have a snowball battle. 

 

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

 

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

 

Alternatively, along with some pine boughs, scatter a few Christmas ornaments and silver confetti around the table.

 

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

 

Favor. Make a batch of “dirty snowballs.” Melt white chocolate and heavy cream (2:1 ratio) and mix with chopped cookies and nuts. Form small balls around a chocolate covered espresso bean. Coat in chopped, sweetened coconut and a few small bits of semisweet chocolate. Give about 3 “snowballs” to each guest. Wrap in plastic and then make a sachet of silver or white tissue paper. Tie with silver or blue ribbon.

Note for favor. Remember the snowball battles? The ones when the kids used dirty snow and sometimes put little stones in the center? Toss these “dirty snowballs” into your mouth and bring back the thrill.

RECIPE GUIDELINES

With suggestions for plating and complementary beverages

 

COCKTAIL

Start the show with a wintry looking cocktail with quintessential summer flavor.

Preparation. Chill home-made (fresh lemons, please) lemonade. Add rum and serve in tall, freezer-frosted glasses with ice cubes.

APPETIZERS

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SNOW-CAPPED MOUNTAIN

 Lentils with Orange and Spices

Bean spreads make healthy, great tasting appetizers that can be molded into interesting shapes. Brown lentils will make a magnificent mountain, especially when topped with sour cream to represent snow. Orange will brighten the taste of the lentils; spices and hot pepper will add punch. The result will be as refreshing as the cool air on a mountaintop.

Preparation. Cook brown lentils with aromatics (onion, garlic), spices (cumin, anise, cloves), and chili peppers. For the liquid, use half orange juice and half water. Cook until all liquid is absorbed or drain excess liquid.

Plating the lentils. Make a scene of a snow-capped mountain standing on a grassy plain. For the grassy plain, cover a large platter with chopped parsley. Mound the lentil puree into a mountain shape. Place the “mountain” onto the platter, standing up. Make a “tree line” on the “mountain” by pressing chopped parsley around the bottom, not too evenly.

Top the “mountain” with sour cream to resemble snow. The “snow” should come farther down some sections of the “mountain” than others, as if the snow melted unevenly. Place two small rocks (after washing them thoroughly) on the “grass.” Serve small sections of pita and a small bowl of sour cream separately. Guests can mound a little mountain of lentils onto a piece of pita and top it with a dab of sour cream.

 

SNOWMEN

Scallop Ceviche

The cool, clean taste of ceviche will contrast nicely with the spicy lentil puree.

Preparation. Use scallops in your favorite recipe for ceviche. 

To make the snowmen, process the scallops into a paste. Use 1 rounded tablespoon of the scallops for each body and ½ teaspoon for each head. Roll into balls. Secure head to body with a toothpick inserted through upper part of body and lower part of head. Put 2 red peppercorns (or use red pepper) into the head for eyes. Insert 2 jalapeño strips into upper sides of the body for arms. Put 3 capers down front of body to resemble buttons. The “snowmen” will leak some liquid, so place them on absorbent paper towels on a plate and refrigerate for at least 2 hours in advance. Blot bottoms before placing on serving plate.  

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

SNOWBALLS

Teleggio Cheese with Prosciutto and Fig

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

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

Plating the snowballs. Pile “snowballs” on a dish in the kind of formation that was used for ammunition such as cannonballs: a triangular bottom layer with successively smaller layers on top, ending in just one ball in the top layer. A second possibility is to present each guest’s “snowman” along with 3 “snowballs” on individual plates. Place the “snowman” off center and the “snowballs” to his side.

SOUP

ICEBERG SOUP

Thai-Style Soup

How cool are “icebergs” floating in a sea that’s soup? This witty soup looks cold but it’s hot with spicy, peppery tastes that, paradoxically, cool one down while the “icebergs” melt in the mouth.

Preparation. Make a soup in Thai-style with some, but not a lot of, solid ingredients. Beat egg whites with salt until stiff for the “icebergs.” Pour the hot soup into a tureen with a wide diameter. Slide egg whites onto the surface of the soup. Using a folding motion with a large serving spoon, plunge the egg whites by spoonfuls into the soup. Do so just once for each spoonful of egg white. The egg whites will change shape when pushed under and will come up with a broken shape quite like an iceberg.

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

Complementary beverage. Serve Singha or other Thai beer in a frosted glass. If you prefer wine, a crisp white such as a Sauvignon Blanc suits the soup. 

ENTREE

YULE LOGS ON BED OF SNOW WITH EVERGREEN BRANCHES

Grilled Strip Steak, Rosemary-Scented Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli Rabe

Pagan winter feasts in many parts of Europe featured Yule logs, huge logs meant to burn a long time and often elaborately decorated. A steak cut in log shape and decorated with white horseradish sauce is perfect for this wintry feast. Put on a bed of snowy-white mashed potatoes scented with piney rosemary. On the side, place broccoli rabe “evergreen branches” and you will have the coolest entrée ever.  

Preparation. Trim strip steaks, preferably dry-aged, into a log shape. Prepare a thick horseradish sauce. Infuse cream or milk with rosemary. Add the cream (or milk) and butter to steamed white potatoes and mash. Sauté spears of broccoli rabe in garlic and olive oil; sprinkle with lemon salt (slow baked, ground, lemon zest mixed with an equal amount of coarse sea salt) for zest and crunch.

Plating the entrée

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

Complementary beverage

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

SALAD

ICEBERG SALAD

Iceberg Lettuce on “Sea” of Blue Cheese Dressing

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

Preparation. Make a blue cheese dressing. Cut iceberg lettuce into wedges to look like icebergs.

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

DESSERTS

CHRISTMAS TREE

Pistachio Cake with White Chocolate/Mint Ganache

Gorgeous to see, looking like a Christmas tree, this cake, with its wintry tastes, is a fitting finish to an evening of frosty fun. The batter is rich with yummy, green pistachios. To top it all, a luscious frosting imparts the cool taste of fresh mint. Decorate the “tree” with candy balls.

Preparation. Make a 9x13-inch pistachio cake. Make a white-chocolate ganache infused with fresh mint and then add green food coloring. Make a dark or bitter-sweet chocolate ganache. Purchase small, colorful candy balls.

Plating. 

1.  Make a paper cut-out of a Christmas tree with trunk. Use a piece of wax or parchment paper the size of the cake pan (13x9

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

     (trapezoid) for the brown trunk.

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

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

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

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

            points to form the sides of the tree trunk.  

      c.   Check the dimensions before cutting out. The tree triangle: 12-inch sides, 9-inch base. The trunk: 2-inch top, 4½-inch

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

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

      shape. Using a wide spatula, carefully lift the cake onto a serving platter. Frost the tree with the green ganache and the

      trunk with the brown ganache.  

3.  Decorate the cake. It is easiest to make two or three rows of the small candy balls, as shown in the photo, but feel free to

      decorate as you choose.

 

ORNAMENTS for a CHRISTMAS TREE

Melon Balls in Melon Liqueur

Red and green melon balls macerated in a melon liqueur make a cooling, colorful and delicious dessert.

Preparation. Use watermelon and honeydew. Cut balls with a melon baller. No more than two hours ahead, pour melon liqueur over the balls and refrigerate. 

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

Complementary beverage

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

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EASY DAZZLE RECIPE GUIDELINES

 

Cocktail. Lemonade with rum is easy enough. 

 

Appetizers. The “snowballs” are the easiest to make. 

 

Soup or Salad. The salad is simple.

 

Entrée. Skip the broccoli rabe.

 

Desserts. Melon balls are simple to prepare.

 

Favor. Purchase round white chocolates such as Lindt’s truffles or small white cookies. Insert a small nut into the bottom and package in white with blue ribbon.