Post # 255 Just Desserts

May 21, 2014 at 5:51 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 255 Just Desserts

A few nights ago, the Partner/Spouse and I were talking with my sister over a glass of wine.  She was telling us about a cruise she’d been on a few years ago.  As usually happens with us, the conversation moved to food and she was describing the elaborate meals, service, and wine.  But she laughed about the server not understanding that she didn’t want dessert.  He made certain that she understood that it came with the meal, while she was trying to make him understand that another glass of wine would be her dessert.  My sister is very aware of calories and prefers a glass of wine to a slice of cake.  When the server came back with the desserts, he handed everyone their selection then turned to my sister.  He had a glass of wine and a small plate.  With great flourish and a certain amount of smugness, he presented her the small plate with two berries amid a swirl of chocolate sauce.  Two small bites with chocolate.  My sister laughed and thanked him.  He made sure every night after that to have her two berries and chocolate sauce when everyone else was having dessert.  She loves consideration like that.

It made me think a lot.  For us, dessert has always been a baked good, and chocolate usually features prominently in it, although not always.  Last night, we had Angel Food cake with fresh raspberries, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream.  It was good, but very filling.  Since we’d only had the Big Salad for dinner, a filling dessert was okay.  But dessert doesn’t have to be that.  Dessert, at the end of the meal, should be a part of the whole meal and should be the logical end and complement to the meal.

For instance, let’s say you’re eating a meal of ribeye steak of about 3/4 pound to one pound, with a baked potato on the side, a vegetable mix (salad or cooked), a roll or two, and drinks.  That’s a lot of food, and a lot of calories.  When I have that meal, I’m so full by the end of it that I’m reduced to very small sips of wine, and dessert is out of the question.  But if I were going to have a dessert, I’d want something light and something that wouldn’t sit like a labrador on top of that meal.  So, if I were going to have a dessert, I’d choose a mousse, either chocolate or fruit based.

Fruit often ends a meal in formal situations.  Whatever is currently thriving can be turned into a great dessert.  I don’t typically eat a lot of fruit by itself because I find it to be too sweet.  I know that sounds odd coming from the guy who thinks chocolate is a food group to be eaten daily, if not every meal.  There is some fruit that I eat all the time because it’s so dam good.  Watermelon is one; banana is another.  I’ll eat cherries in nearly any form whenever I can get them.  (When I was a kid, I used to eat the cans of Comstock Pie Filling in cherry whenever mom had them in the cupboard.  She’d get really mad at me, too.)  A small bowl of fresh fruit, naturally sweet and/or tart, with a simple sauce can be an amazing finish to a heavy meal.

Conversely, when you have a light meal, you can finish it off with a heavier dessert.  For instance, last night we had Big Salad night.  It was a huge bowl (I really mean huge.  It holds four or five gallons of stuff) FULL of cut vegetables of nearly every kind, with some sunflower seeds, some cheddar cheese, some real bacon bits, and a couple of different fresh herbs from my garden with a very light champagne vinaigrette tossed over all and croutons on top.  It was light, cool, healthy, and delicious.  Any dessert could end this meal perfectly, except fruit.  Fruit would not complement the vegetables as an ending.  Even a light mousse of any kind would feel unsatisfactory since it would leave you feeling like you wanted more.  Any kind of a baked good, cake, pie, a parfait with pound cake in it, etc. would be excellent.  A cooked pudding, whether something substantial like a break pudding, or a little lighter like a milk or cream pudding would be good, too.  Custard would wonderful.  A bowl of ice cream with a berry sauce, or berry sauce and chocolate sauce would be a real treat.

Desserts can be as simple or complex as you choose to make them.  Some higher end restaurants will use candied flower petals to decorate their desserts.  I use sugar sprinkles to decorate mine.  I tend more towards the simplistic than the complex.  But that’s just me.  One dessert sauce that I make fairly often is raspberry sauce.  It’s a good, colorful, sweet and tangy sauce.  You can follow this technique with pretty much any berry, you just have to be certain they’re ripe, and the pieces are small and easily breakable.

Take one cup of raspberries at room temperature and put them in a fine mesh wire strainer over a bowl.  Use a strong spoon of any material, just be aware that this will stain a wooden spoon and it will never lose that stain.  Mash the berries into the strainer using the back of the spoon.  Keep mashing them.  As the berries liquefy, more juice will flow through the strainer.  Stir the pulp around and keep mashing until you’re left with nothing but seeds in the strainer.  The bowl will have slightly less than a cup of bright red tart juice.  It can be used just like that, or you can add sugar to it.  Some people add half as much sugar as juice, but I think you should add sugar one tablespoon at a time until it gets to the sweetness you like.  Stir the sugar to make certain it’s dissolved into the juice.  You don’t want a gritty raspberry sauce.  Everyone will think it’s the seeds.  Once it’s done, you can chill it in the bowl and serve with any dessert.  Alternatively, you can pour it into a squeeze bottle and make sweet decorations on your dessert plates, or on the dessert itself.  It will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, but I’ve never had it last that long.

I used to travel with a young lady who had a unique philosophy on life.  She always said, “Life is short.  Eat dessert first.”  There’s some sense to that.



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