Entertaining with the Charleston Silver Lady

Posted 4/16/20

Driving along a country road, I saw emerald green, low growing leaves with white flowers and spot of red hidden beneath them.  This is a welcome sight to many of us. We know it is spring by the …

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Entertaining with the Charleston Silver Lady


Driving along a country road, I saw emerald green, low growing leaves with white flowers and spot of red hidden beneath them.  This is a welcome sight to many of us. We know it is spring by the beginning of strawberry season! 
In Charleston, this coincided with the Cooper River Bridge Run. My tradition for many years was to participate and then head straight over to John’s Island to the fields I remember from childhood.  
By the time I had picked a bucket of berries, the effects of the bridge run would have kicked in and I would half walk, half limp out of the damp, sandy soil underfoot.  
By the time I got downtown, it was truly an effort to get out of the car without a twinge or two - but - this is a whole other story for another time...
Like many of you, when the strawberries come in, I feel a great excitement and desire to have some - either to eat fresh, bake or cook with or preserve.
One of the most elegant desserts I can recall being served was in a friends home in New York. She lived in one of those apartment buildings that housed many of the movie stars of the 1940s and 50s.  Her apartment was as elegant a place as I have ever visited and each detail of her life played like a well tuned instrument ... including her dinner parties.
Her desserts were simple but truly memorable as they featured ways of cooking that those like Julie Child brought to America. Most of what we were served would have been dishes made famous in the 1950s.  
I was at her home often so I found the courage to venture into the cook’s kitchen and saw this dessert being prepared.  The cook told me it was easy to make but would take all day.  It was her version of ‘Floating Island.’  I saw a straw basket of just picked strawberries sitting in the sink and knew this was likely to be a wonderful treat.
I watched as she made the ‘island’ which were meringues.  Please look up any recipe for meringues as any you find will work.  In this case, the meringues were flavored only with sugar and liquid, clear vanilla. No vanilla bean as it makes the ‘islands’ too dark.
After the meringues are made and set aside, serve the dessert within a few hours or it will get chewy. For this dessert, make the ‘islands’ about the size of a large egg and make a small hollow in the top of each one about the size of a teaspoon. This will help the strawberries stay atop the island. 
The sauce is the ultimate for strawberry lovers. I suggest you make a double batch!
2 cups washed, crushed strawberries
Juice of one mineola orange.
Please use a mineola- it makes a huge difference in the end.
Reserve the rind of the orange
Zest a teaspoon full of the orange rind
1 cup of heavy cream
Add the crushed strawberries to the orange juice. Heat them gently on the stove.
Mash the berries to a pulp. This does not take long and just a little heat.
Remove from heat when mashed.
Let them cool in the refrigerator.
Add the orange rind to the heavy cream and let it set in the refrigerator. 
After cooling, remove the orange rinds and stir berries with the heavy cream.
Pour the mixture into individual serving bowls. Antique soup plates are perfect for this but any bowl will do. I have seen this done with a large platter with multiple ‘islands’ floating in the berries and cream. No one will forget this impressive dessert.
Another way to wow your guests is to make this using a champagne coupe or any stemmed individual serving piece that can hold the size of the ‘islands’ you make.
After you place the cream/berry mixture in the bowls, lightly drop a meringue island on top, garnish  with the sliced and chilled strawberries and a bit of orange zest.
If you are able to bring them to the table on a silver tray- do it, It is a beautiful sight! 
Serve immediately using a silver soup spoon and a linen napkin. 
It has been many years since I was served this dessert and I still make this when I want a beautiful, simple spring or early summer dessert.
So many memories are made around the table, now that many of us have time to do more at home, perhaps you will be inspired to make this elegant dessert and in doing so, craft a memory of your own!


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