My dad was a great food and cooking enthusiast. He was Captain of the Kitchen and my mother was only too happy to defer to his initiative. Except in the sweets department, which was clearly her domain. She merrily kept him plied with cream puffs, chocolate cake, and homemade fudge until eventually the piper needed paying, and sadly,“D” no longer stood for dessert. Given her penchant for cream and sugar, it seems odd that the concept of trifle did not enter my consciousness until I was manning my own kitchen and the folks were well into the dieting stage. This was obviously a gaping hole in her Collected Dessert Wisdom. I’m sure that if my mother had had it once, she would have hastened to have it again. Dad would have loved it too. Here is my sort of, kind of Trifle that has been toyed and tampered with to blasphemous extents, but with results that still bring smiles of gratification.
Recipe: A Strawberry-Rhubarb Kind of a Trifle
4 c chopped rhubarb
½ c sugar
¼ c water
2 c milk
½ c sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp butter
1 ½ to 2 c whipping cream
3 Tbsp sugar
½ of a 400 gm. pkg. of lady fingers, aka, ‘savoiardi’ biscuits
(equivalent to 2 dozen)
1 c white wine, or white grape juice (somewhat diluted with water and
2 to 3 c sliced strawberries
Whisk together in a saucepan the milk, sugar, and cornstarch, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the boil is reached, continue stirring for one more minute, then turn off heat. Stir in the vanilla and butter. Pour into bowl, cover, and cool in fridge for at least a few hours. I prefer to do this the day before.
In another saucepan bring to a near boil the rhubarb, sugar, and water. Lower heat, stir, and simmer until tender, between 5 and 10 min. Allow to cool.
Whip cream w/ 3 Tbsp sugar to almost stiff peaks.
Whisk the milk pudding to a smooth consistency. Fold in about 2/3 of the whipped cream.
Place wine or grape juice in a shallow dish. Briefly dip lady fingers, both sides and make a single layer of these in a trifle or comparable dessert dish.
Top with some of the rhubarb, strawberries, and pudding. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Top finally with the reserved whipped cream. Refrigerate for at least a few hours.
When serving, you may simply spoon into bowls. Or, if you have any of the rhubarb and berries left, layer these with the trifle in glass goblets for a more attractive effect. Makes about 8 to 10 portions, depending.
For those in the market for a less rich dessert (yikes, even vegan), here is a seaweed based sweet. Keep in mind that although there may always be ‘room for Jello’, kanten is another matter. It is made from agar agar which is reputed to have a suppressant effect on the appetite. (I suppose this supports the case for having dessert before the meal.) More information about agar agar is available here and also in my post of Aug. 14, 2011. The following recipe contains Earl Grey tea. I like how the tannins connect with the cherries. If you have none, or have an aversion to it, you could use another kind of tea. Or you could skip it altogether and just use more juice. Wine might be nice too.
Recipe: The Earl of Kanten’s Fruited Gel
2 Tbsp agar agar flakes (try the health food store)
1 ½ cups grape and/or apple juice
½ cup steeped Earl Grey tea
1 c cherries, halved and pitted
1 pear, peeled and chopped
Bring to a boil the agar and juice, whisking frequently to dissolve the flakes. Turn heat down, add tea, and simmer for 5 minutes, continuing to whisk.
Remove from heat. Cool slightly. You may now stir in fruit, or add fruit later after kanten is set.
Pour the kanten into a bowl or individual serving dishes, with or without the fruit. It will gel, just sitting out on the counter, but it’s quicker to do it in the fridge. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
A SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP…… The Ant and the Peony…….