Floating Island Hispaniola
The use of vegetables in desserts is unusual to Americans, but many cultures make use of the sugars in vegetables to create dessert dishes. These floating islands are adrift in a sea of red, or kidney, bean puree scented with cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla. It is a sauce that is usually made for Easter on the island; the floating islands are a classic French preparation. Begin the day before: the dried beans must soak for 24 hours.
- Red Bean Sauce
- Dried Red (kidney) Beans - 1 pound
- Vanilla bean - 1 split
- Allspice - 3
- Coconut - 1 fresh, split (see Basics)
- Cinnamon - 1 stick, snapped in half
- Milk - 2 cups plus 1 cup
- Sugar - 1/3 cup
- Coconut Liqueur - 1/2 cup
- Floating Islands
- Egg Whites - 4
- Cream of Tartar - pinch (if not using a copper bowl)
- Sugar - 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
- Coconut Liqueur - 1/4 cup
To prepare the sauce: Soak the red beans in water to cover for 24 hours. Drain. Open the coconut (see Basics), drain and reserve the liquid inside for another use, and split the coconut into 8 sections. In a large pot place the red beans with one half of the vanilla bean, 3 allspice, one half of the cinnamon stick, and one section of the coconut. Add water to cover by 2 to 3 inches and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until the beans have completely softened, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Drain the beans, discard the spices, and puree with 2 cups of the milk in a blender or food processor until they are a creamy consistency. Press the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve. Place the red beans and remaining half of the spices, 1 cup of the milk, and the sugar in a covered pot over low heat and simmer for 1 hour, whisking occasionally to keep the mixture from sticking. Add more milk if necessary to keep the mixture from getting too dry and sticking to the pot. Toward the end of the hour, stir in the coconut liqueur. Remove from heat.
To make the floating islands: In a deep bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until stiff. Beat in the sugar a little at a time, beating until the mixture forms a stiff meringue. In a large saucepan, bring several inches of water to a boil, reduce heat, and let the water simmer. Dip a large spoon into cold water, then scoop a large spoonful of meringue from the bowl. Using another large spoon, shape the meringue into an oval quenelle shape and drop into the simmering water. Turn after 30 seconds and cook another 30 seconds on the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer and set on a wire rack that is covered with a cloth to dry. You may cook several at a time, but do not let them touch.
To serve: Remove the spices from the bean sauce. Spoon the sauce into the bottom of 8 large soup bowls. Place 3 floating islands in each. Shave long strips of fresh coconut over the floating islands. Spoon a little coconut liqueur over each.