The members of my book club love food as much as they do books. So, when it’s my turn to host the group, I spend a little extra time preparing dishes for sampling during the “very important social hour” that precedes our literary discussion. Yesterday, everyone arrived at my house on a glorious spring day (one of a handful so far this season). I had set out a seasonal spread, including a pot of fresh green pea soup with diced feta and tarragon as garnishes, a platter of grilled asparagus spears with a mayonnaise sauce, plus whipped feta with dill surrounded by toasted baguette slices, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. For a sweet ending there were coconut and raspberry parfaits. True to form, the readers ate with gusto, leaving few leftovers!
Most of the dishes I prepared were favorites I have cooked before, but the coconut and raspberry parfaits were a new creation. Made by layering raspberries, with coconut-scented whipped cream, and toasted coconut flakes, they were a light, yet sumptuous finale. They were also a breeze to make and could be assembled several hours ahead.
For the coconut cream, I simply whipped heavy cream, and added a small amount of cream of coconut for a sweet accent. Toasting the coconut flakes in a small skillet took only about 5 minutes.
Oh, and our book selection this month was The Library Book by Susan Orlean. This fabulous nonfiction work made us aware of the many roles libraries play in helping dispense knowledge to all (for free).
PS. If you need a quick and easy dessert for Easter or for Passover, keep this one in mind. It can be doubled easily for a larger group!
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Coconut Raspberry Parfaits
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (See cooking tip.)
1/3 cup cream of coconut (Goya brand works well. See cooking tip.)
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 cups (8 oz) or more fresh raspberries
Mint sprigs for garnish, optional
1. Have ready four 8- ounce old fashioned glasses or use medium wine glasses. Chill the mixing bowl and whisk of your electric mixer.
2. Add the coconut flakes to a small, heavy skillet set over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the flakes start to take on color and then become golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove flakes from the pan and set aside. (Coconut can be toasted 3 to 4 days ahead; cool and then transfer to a plastic sandwich bag, and refrigerate.)
3. Open the cream of coconut can, and with a table fork stir the mixture well so that all of the liquids and solids are blended. Measure 1/3 cup and set aside. (Transfer remaining coconut cream into a glass or plastic container with a lid and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for longer. Save for another use such as making pina coladas.)
4. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, whip the cream in a mixing bowl until it is just firm and soft peaks have formed. Then gradually pour in the cream of coconut. Continue to beat until incorporated and whipped cream is firm but not stiff.
5. To assemble parfaits, spoon 1/4 cup of the raspberries in each glass and then spoon 1/4 cup of the cream over them. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the toasted coconut. Repeat to make another layer in each glass. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. (Parfaits can be prepared 4 hours ahead.) Garnish each parfait, if desired, with a mint sprig.
Makes 4 servings.
Cream of coconut, a sweet mixture of coconut cream combined with added sugar, is available in cans in most supermarkets. After opening a can, be certain to use a table fork or spoon to mix the solids and liquids (which will have separated) together until well blended.
Leftover toasted coconut flakes can be sprinkled on scoops of ice cream or added to granola.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2019