Click here for the Magazine. Updated May 10, 2013
While our short summer season may inspire us to host many as many dinner parties or cocktail get-togethers as possible, due to the heat sometimes the last thing we want to do is cook.
To make our food, we escape the oppressive heat of our kitchens and flock outdoors to the breezy relaxed environment of the terrace where we grill our meats and then assemble quick and refreshing salads.
But what about dessert?
When you think of dessert what are the first dishes that come to mind? Cake, tarts, custards? Yes, it’s true, most of the fail-safe and staple desserts we all love so much require an over 400-degree Fahrenheit oven — which does not bode well in 35 degree weather.
While I love my tarts and my cakes as much as the next person, come summer time I say abandon the oven and take another path, the no-bake path.
Here are some great desserts that require absolutely no baking whatsoever and are very summery and refreshing.
Greek yogurt with nuts, berries and fruit preserves.
I’m not quite sure why it happened, but in the last year Greek yogurt has entered the mainstream and changed the world of yogurt. I used to think of yogurt as a kiddie snack, but thanks to Greek yogurt, I now have a very healthy dessert option which is one of the easiest, stress-free dishes to assemble. If you have never tried Greek yogurt and don’t know what all the fuss is about, imagine yogurt, tangy and fresh, but thick like custard and you have Greek yogurt.
At Greek tavernas, it will be serves on a platter, drizzled with honey for contrasting sweetness, toasted nuts (i.e. walnuts), dark juicy berries (blackberries, or cherries) and finally some fruit preserves on the side (fig).
What’s fabulous about this dessert, aside from not having to make or bake a thing, is that it works because of all the contrasting flavours and textures. There’s nothing worse than a one-note dish, savoury or sweet. Serving Greek yogurt with all these accoutrements makes for not just a refreshing not to mention healthful dessert, but an exciting one as well.
I like the Oikos Greek style yogurt, or the Liberty Greek, both in plain or vanilla. Greek yogurt comes in almost every flavor, but I like to keep it plain, and then add the flavors myself. The honey variety is too sweet for my liking; I prefer to drizzle it myself.
You can’t say the word yogurt and not mention the parfait: a layered cup of yogurt, fruit or fruit preserve and possibly some type of crunchy crumb for some additional contrast.
Again, a parfait is an example of a dessert that requires absolutely no baking, and as an added bonus, it can be assembled well in advance and simply kept in the refrigerator. You can play with the presentation as well; try using a Champaign flute or mason jar- any glass or clear plastic vessel which allows you to see the layers will suffice.
As for the fillings, you’re not limited to using yogurt; you could use whip cream or even pudding as the creamy portion of your parfait. Then for the crunchy part you could use nuts, praline (candied nuts), broken cookies or biscotti, cookie crumb (Graham or Oreo crumb), or even a crunchy cereal like Kashi. One of my favourite breakfast dishes is yogurt, berries and Kashi, just instead of layered it I mix it all up in a bowl. The high fibre from the Kashi makes for a very filling, and energy packed breakfast.
Often with dessert as in life, the simplest things bring us the most pleasure. Is there anything more simple than soaking berries in liqueur? I think not. Berries are so good on their own, they need little help or altercation in order to be transformed into a haute cuisine desserts.
Macerating simply means soaking in liquid; the alcohol is just an added bonus. Strawberries are probably the most common berry of choice for macerating because of their tartness which does get mellowed by the macerating, and of course their vibrant color and esthetic appeal both in their whole form, or when sliced are other contributing factors for their choosing.
Something beautiful happens when you soak strawberries in Champagne, but as not everyone always just has a bottle of Dom or Veuve Cliquot sitting around, you could opt for a more budget-friendly option, like port or Marsala wine. Even regular white or red will do the trick; like I said before, berries don’t need much help.
Serve your berries with a little dollop of whip cream, just to round everything out. But if you really want to add a killer final touch make (or buy) a little balsamic reduction. It is the finishing note that makes this dish sing.
Summer dining is very different from eating during the rest of the year. We play with our methods of food preparation and greatly expand on the types of dishes that we serve. Hot summer heat is enjoyable when it comes from the sun hitting your face, not from a 400-degree oven turning your house into a sweat bath.
Like food, dessert can be made to fit the conditions of summer. For the next month, forget your oven and try these lighter style, no-bake desserts. You will be less stressed, and less guilt-ridden about it.
Click here for the Magazine. Updated May 10, 2013
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