by Nancy Caivano
June, for me, has always been an "ending" month, much in the same way that September is a "beginning" month. I'm sure it's a school thing. Graduations and the end of some school sports happen in June. It is also the end of spring, and the next month, July is the beginning of the real hot weather, usually. Lately, in NY, you never know, it can be hot in May and cold in June.
The reason for my musings is that we have come to the end of my series on table courses. of course, the best is last, as this is the column in which we discuss dessert. This has been a wonderful and very informative journey for me, and I hope for you as well. I wrote in one of the previous columns that my family had Sunday dinner with courses for years, and I had no idea. I just knew that was the way my Grammy cooked every Sunday. They weren't totally traditional courses, but courses they were, with changing plates, and what always seemed to me to be an endless procession of food. I loved every minute of it, and was thrilled when I was old enough to help out. Now, in our family, there are too many of us to do the coursed meal anymore, and I do miss it. I'm secretly plotting a way to bring it back, but that's just between you and me.
I'm sure that some of you are scratching your head thinking "How in the world are you doing pasta and risotto for dessert?" Well, both of these, especially risotto, lend themselves perfectly to the dessert course. Risotto cooks up into a rich, creamy warm rice pudding. Think the Ultimate Rice Pudding. Rice Pudding Heaven. Dessert Nirvana. The same starch that makes traditional risotto dishes creamy, makes dessert risotto unbelieveably good. The additions of fruits and flavorings only enhance the experience.
As for pasta, it lends itself to dessert as well. I have seen recipes on the Internet for recipes such as "Chocolate Ravioli", "Chocolate Pasta", "Sweet Stuffed Shells" and more. A friend once gave me what I thought was a yucky recipe for Apple Lasagne. But then I read it again. It had possibilities. Then I changed most of the ingredients and tried it at a buffet. People went wild over it—and was I surprised! It was absolutely scrumptious. So I'm giving it to you.
The three recipes for this column are all pretty tried and true. Besides having used them in my AOL chat, I also make them quite often at home. I think your family will come to love them as much as mine does. First, we have the Apple Lasagne that I mentioned above. You'll be amazed at it—I know I was. Layers of creamy rich ricotta filling flavored with vanilla and mascarpone cheese, plus layers of buttery, cinnamon-y apples pair perfectly with the tender pasta and sweet breadcrumb topping. The hardest part of this recipe is waiting the ten minutes for it to set after coming out of the oven!
The other dessert choices are lovely as well, Peach, Plum and Raisin Risotto and Pumpkin Pie Risotto. The first risotto is basically a rice pudding that made a visit to the produce aisle. It is studded throughout with ripe peaches, plums and Amaretto-soaked raisins, and flavored with the soaking Amaretto, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. The pumpkin pie risotto is one I have made on a few Thanksgivings, and even the pumpkin pie haters liked it. It's rich with nutty, roasted pumpkin purée and flavored with vanilla, Amaretto, brown sugar, cinnamon and has toasted almonds stirred in at the end for great texture contrast. Both risotti can be served warm or cold, plain or topped with whipped cream, crème fraiche or crème anglaise.
What should you serve with your luscious desserts? Coffee or tea is an obvious choice, or you can try espresso, cappuccino or a latte. You also might want to investigate some liquor options, such as Vin Santo (Italian sweet wine), a Spanish port, or a good quality brandy. Remember, just as appetizers start the meal and break the ice, dessert is the part of dinner that guests linger over the longest. You can sit and talk over numerous cups of coffee, and maybe another helping of dessert. with that in mind, make the dessert something that your guests will remember as fondly as the wonderful conversation.
I hope you have enjoyed my "Course on Courses" as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I will see you again in July when we explore Summer Celebrating.
Copyright © 2001, Nancy Caivano. All rights reserved.
This page created June 2001
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