The impromptu dessert, the kind that requires no cooking, no fuss, no muss, especially during the busy holiday season when every minute counts, is truly a godsend.
We've selected several simple, no-cook desserts you can either prepare ahead or at the last moment.
One of the easiest and probably the most effective of all no-cook, spur-of-the-moment desserts is a fruit plate. But not just any fruit plate. Prepared with artistry by Katsu Michite of Katsu restaurant in Los Angeles, the fruit plate becomes a still life portrait that will have guests oohing and aahing. You can use Michite's formula of standing the fruit on a marble slab or any glass surface for artistic effect, or use your own artifacts to mount and design the fruit.
Michite used whatever fruit he had on hand: pineapple, papaya, kiwi, melons and grapes, to create an impromptu still life in yellow, green and orange on a small slab of black granite. You can mix and match colors or use a single color scheme to carry out your theme. Arch-cut fruit were placed upright to give height and importance to the design.
Another fruit dessert idea is based on old-fashioned ambrosia, a dessert that often doubles as a salad. We have layered red and green fruit in a crystal bowl, in keeping with the season's colors.
Fruited Kir Royale is a simple Champagne-dessert that's quick, easy and glamorous. You can use several finely cut fruits or whole berries or a single fruit.
Ice cream, we found, is another ingredient you can dress up for a party dessert. Many gourmet food stores supply sherbet in fruit shells, which are a festive, colorful, simple and inexpensive answer to a holiday dessert. You can buy them if you are pressed for time, but you will save a few dollars by making them yourself. They are easy enough to do.
Tartufo requires a little planning, but once the ice cream balls are made and frozen, you will have an elegant last-minute dessert. You can prepare the dessert up to three months in advance or even several hours before serving.
We found a similar version served at Curry Club cafe on Melrose Avenue. The ice cream balls are served on a paper holder for convenience, but you can use stemware or other favorite dishes.
Bakery cakes can easily be jazzed up with fruit or ice cream for impromptu desserts that can look like a million dollars but cost pennies.
I have fond memories of the old-time coffee shop dessert of pound cake topped with ice cream and hot fudge. Why not try the same idea using one of the many glamorous ice creams offered today along with a fine Swiss bittersweet chocolate to which you can add liqueur? We used pistachio ice cream with pistachio-flavored liqueur. Also, try raspberry ice cream or sherbet with framboise , the raspberry-flavored liqueur, or mocha ice cream with creme de cacao. Scan the liqueur sections of the market for a flavor that captures your imagination.
An angel fruit cake makes use of bakery cake and whole or half-cut canned and fresh fruit for a fruit-in-the-basket effect. Tie a colorful ribbon around the cake to act as both anchor for the heavy filling and as a decoration.
You might also consider doctoring up store-bought cakes to suit your needs. One hostess uses a supermarket frosted cake and adds a sprinkling of nuts or colored or chocolate sprinkles.
You can decorate tops of plain frosted cakes with messages. A white frosted cake might be a candidate for a holiday scene with snowmen, skiers and miniature trees mounted on raised frosting. A jellyroll can be the basis for a chocolate log, garnished with meringue mushrooms you can buy at most markets during the holiday season. You can try poundcake and lady fingers to create other ice cream cakes, or cakes covered with whipped cream and decorated with fruit. Here are a few recipes to start you off.
KATSU'S STILL LIFE FRUIT PLATE
1/2 honeydew melon
1 large cluster green grapes
Peel cantaloupe, honeydew and papaya. Seed and slice to form arches. Cut thin layer of flesh from rounded side in strip short of cutting through other side. Tuck loose strip underneath to form loop.
Peel and slice kiwi. Peel and slice orange, then cut in halves. Wash grapes. Slice lime. Cut peel in strip short of cutting through other side. Tuck in loose strip underneath to form loop.
Keeping fruit groups together, arrange on any desired surface, standing fruit upright, rounded side up. Arrange grapes stem up. Garnish with mint. Makes 6 servings.
CURRY CLUB TARTUFO
4 strawberries or 4 maraschino cherries
1 pint mocha or chocolate ice cream
Chocolate sprinkles, miniature chocolate chips or 8 ounces chocolate, melted
Whipped cream, optional
Cookie wafer rolls, optional
For each ice cream ball, insert strawberry or cherry in center of level, slightly softened scoop of ice cream. Mound more ice cream on top of scoop to form ball. Place ice cream ball on plate and freeze to harden. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 4 balls.