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Edible Containers Complement the Taste and Texture of Their Fruity Fillings. Since They Can Be Made Ahead, They Are Perfect for Entertaining Summer Guests. : FRUIT IN A BASKET

June 25, 1987|ROSE DOSTI | Times Staff Writer

How about a basket of fruit? Or to be more precise, fruit in a basket that you can also eat?

We've come up with half a dozen or so edible baskets in which to serve fruit. These baskets not only provide complementary flavor to the fruit, but also enhance their beauty.

Best of all, the baskets can be prepared ahead and refrigerated or frozen to be brought out whenever needed during the busy summer season, when friends and relatives tend to drop in most often. The baskets can be filled as we suggest in the recipes given, or with concoctions from your own imagination. There are no rules. Creams, puddings, syrups, sauces and fruits of all kinds may be used.

One of the most elegant containers for fruit is the white chocolate scallop shell, which we formed directly on a scallop shell, chosen for its especially suitable design. The melted chocolate is simply spread on the rounded side of the shell, cooled until hardened, then pried off when ready to use. You can use any container shape you want, including paper cups. The same spreading principle applies. The only trick is to apply several coats of chocolate in order to achieve a durable shell or container. Although durable and sufficiently lubricated due to the fat content in chocolate, shells should be carefully handled. Keeping them chilled will diminish the chance of their cracking, breaking or melting quickly.

Our shells were filled with melon mousse (which can be done ahead) and topped with assorted fruit and melon balls, resembling pearls.

In another dessert, instead of meringue shells, we used frozen whipped cream shells made with yogurt and whipping cream for stability. The shells are filled with mascarpone cream (plain cream cheese can be substituted for the creamy Italian cheese) and crowned with berries.

The whipped cream shells (with or without their cheese filling) can be frozen until ready to use.

Fried tortilla shells, another dessert shell that can be prepared well ahead and stored airtight in the refrigerator until ready to use, does especially well with ice cream and puddings as well as fruit. We give a recipe for shells filled with mangoes and an easy mango cream made with ice cream, fruit and tequila. You can vary the ice cream and the fruit for this simple sauce.

Bread pudding is a perfect shell for brandied fruit. The pudding is formed in miniature ring molds and baked. You can add hard sauce or any fruit sauce desired. We chose a brandy sauce with peaches.

If you've never worked with shredded filo dough, you will find the experience well worth the price of a package of kadaif , the Arabic name for shredded filo. The dough can be found at most Middle Eastern stores that also sell filo dough. Desserts using kadaif are widespread throughout the Middle East and the Balkans. Kadaif is used chiefly for layering desserts made with nuts. We have used the natural suggestion of texture of the shredded dough to make a nest resembling a haystack and filled it with sorbet and raspberry sauce. In Middle Eastern cuisine, a honey syrup is usually used to soften and flavor the shredded dough, but any syrupy sauce can be used. We also suggest using ice cream or puddings with the kadaif.

And, finally, fruit form natural shells for ice cream in another dessert. Peaches, nectarines, pears or apricots can be used for this dessert. The peeled and halved fruit are sprinkled with brown sugar and drizzled with brandy to cook in foil on a grill. Once cooked, cavities are topped with ice cream and served warm.

MELON MOUSSE IN WHITE CHOCOLATE SHELLS

2 cups cantaloupe or honeydew puree (mashed pulp of 1 small melon)

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons melon or raspberry liqueur, optional

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

1/4 cup whipping cream

White Chocolate Shells

Assorted fruit and tiny melon balls

Combine puree, lime juice, sugar and liqueur in bowl. Remove and set aside 1 cup puree mixture.

Add gelatin to cold water and dissolve over hot water. Stir into remaining puree mixture. Fold in whipping cream. Chill to set slightly. Spoon mousse into White Chocolate Shells.

When ready to serve, spoon some of reserved puree onto bottom of serving dishes. Place shell over puree and garnish mousse and plate with fruit and melon balls. Makes 6 servings. White Chocolate Shells

6 scallop shells

2 cups chopped white chocolate

Place scallop shells in freezer overnight. Melt white chocolate in top of double boiler over hot water or carefully in microwave.

Spoon to coat back of a scallop shell sprayed with non-stick coating, rotating to spread chocolate evenly and thickly. Place on saucer and freeze quickly just until set. Carefully remove molded chocolate from scallop shell. Repeat with remaining scallop shells and chocolate. (Paper cups with fluted sides can be substituted for shells.)

DEEP-FRIED TORTILLAS FILLED WITH MANGO CREAM

6 small flour tortillas

Oil for deep-frying

Powdered sugar, optional

2 large mangoes, peeled and sliced or diced

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