Dash of deviltry for Halloween Treats: Adult party guests can delight in some wickedly wonderful holiday-themed creations.

October 28, 1998|By Tina Danze | Tina Danze,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

Children aren't the only ones looking for treats on Halloween -- adults crave them, too. But save the frightful food, witches' brew and cute cookies for the kids.

There's a sophisticated side to the holiday that grown-ups grasp, and you evoke it subtly with hauntingly beautiful and devilishly tricky drinks and dishes. How about black bean soup with spindly sour cream spider webs, ghostly vodka ice molds or unnaturally tall apple oddities?

Or hit the Halloween theme dead-on with pumpkins cleverly cast as serving bowls and orange-black pairings that show surprising style -- black-on-orange chalupas, two-tone ravioli, caviar appetizers on sweet and purple potatoes.

Read on for some wicked Halloween creations that adult party guests won't soon forget. Don't get spooked by the preparation -- most dishes are easier than they look.

Pumpkin vessels

Pumpkins double as serving pieces with recipes such as Baked Beef Stuffed Pumpkin (below). Go with the traditional orange, or scout out a ghostly white pumpkin at a farmers' market. To prepare the pumpkin, cut the top off and scrape out the seeds and fibers inside using a large spoon or your hand.

Halloween Black Bean Chalupas

Bright orange chili tostadas are the base for Halloween Black Bean Chalupas. For the topping, puree a drained (15-ounce) can of black beans with 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon cider vinegar, a pinch of cumin and a dash of cayenne pepper. Heat and spread on a tostada; garnish with additional whole canned black beans, if desired, grated Cheddar cheese and chopped tomato. Offer other garnishes such as salsa, lettuce and guacamole on the side.

Horned Melon Bowls

Put guacamole and other chalupa condiments in hollowed-out bowls made from spiky horned melons -- which add a nice otherworldly touch. Find them in the produce department at upscale and specialty markets.

Spider Web Soup

Decorate black bean soup with a sour cream spider web. After ladling the hot soup into bowls, pipe concentric circles of sour cream on the surface. Drag a toothpick from the innermost circle to the outer rim. Repeat dragging step five times, spacing the design at regular intervals. No pastry bag? Use a plastic sandwich bag with a corner snipped off.

Yummy yams

Fried sweet potato rounds dusted with cinnamon-sugar make a tasty Halloween-hued sweet -- and they hold well in a warm oven. To prepare, peel sweet potatoes and cut into 3/8-inch slices. Fry in hot safflower oil until golden. Remove to paper towels and drain. Put on a black serving platter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon-sugar. For a crispier treat, slice even thinner or grate the potato. (From Lee Bailey's "Country Weekends.")

Finger sandwiches (Hold the fingers)

Use pumpernickel bread and pimento cheese for holiday color theme and variations. Cut the sandwiches into triangles or use Halloween or fall cookie cutters for seasonal shapes.

Okra spikes

Take advantage of pickled okra's natural spikiness: Spear them lengthwise, points-up, on bamboo skewers, then fan the skewers like flowers in a short vase. Or set up a "forest" of okra-skewer appetizers using a plastic-foam base.

Brain food

Crunchy dried wasabi peas look like tiny ghoulish gourds or, better yet, little shriveled brains. Plus, the spicy coating of Japanese horseradish jolts the taste buds. Set some out for munching. Or use them to garnish salads.

Dr. Jekyl-Mr. Hyde Mix

Play off Halloween's good-evil undercurrent with sweet and spicy Cajun nuts, whose extreme cayenne heat contrasts with oh-so-sweet brown sugar.

To prepare, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine a pound of peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans with 2 tablespoons well-beaten egg white in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/4 teaspoon paprika; stir into the nuts.

Lay the nuts in a single layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cook until the sugar forms little crystals, about 15 minutes. Watch closely so nuts don't burn. Remove nuts from oven, separate and cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Halloween Caviar

Purple and sweet potato rounds paired with black and orange caviar extend the Halloween color theme, not to mention adding elegance worthy of a count. To prepare, peel and steam purple and sweet potatoes just until tender. Cut into 3/8-inch-thick slices and top each with a small dollop of sour cream and a bit of inexpensive contrasting black or orange caviar.

Chocolate-Dipped Apricots

Dark-chocolate-dipped dried apricots contrast orange with near-black for a sophisticated sweet. Melt chocolate chips in a bowl over simmering water. (Don't let the bowl touch the water.) Once the chocolate is melted, turn off the heat (but keep the bowl over the hot water), dip apricots in halfway and lay on sheets of wax paper to dry. When dry, remove from paper and store in an airtight container.

Spiky Frosting

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