- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

The older I get, the better I am at entertaining dinner guests. It’s not that my cooking has radically improved, it’s just that I have learned to let go and allow others to join in and help prepare the meal.

In the old days, I’d slave away in the kitchen on my own while everyone chattered on the patio or in the den. Now everyone gathers in the kitchen, and if they don’t ask for a task, they are assigned one.

Take this simple meal for fall entertaining. Someone must go outside and grill the sausages. (That would be the husband in this household, since men in general seem to like to man the grill, and other men like to help them.)

Someone might set the table and arrange simple but delicious mustards on the table. Set them out in their jars so you can read the labels and learn as you taste.

Hopefully, someone (you) has made the slaw and the potato salad ahead of time.

Having two do-ahead side dishes in the refrigerator assures that you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your company. Then someone (the children) can preheat the oven and prepare dessert while the sausages cook.

This simple dessert makes use of convenient crescent-roll dough and ripe fall plums baked in a muffin tin. Place these pastries in the oven before you sit down to dinner, and get up once to remove them. Serve warm with ice cream as you usher in autumn in a style known only to relaxed cooks — those who entertain and delegate at the same time.

Spiced plum pastries

The preparation time is 15 minutes, and the baking time is 12 to 15 minutes.

1 8-ounce package refrigerated crescent rolls

4 fresh, ripe medium-size red plums, halved, pitted and chopped

4 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons butter, diced

Vanilla ice cream, optional

Open the package of crescent-roll dough, and separate it into 8 triangles along the perforated lines. Into each cup of an 8-cup (3-inch) muffin tin, place 1 triangle of dough, letting the corners hang over the edge of the cup.

Place a generous tablespoon of chopped plum on top of each piece of dough, then add a teaspoon of sugar to each. Dust the plums with the cinnamon; dot them with the butter. Pull the corners of each piece of dough up and fold them over on top of one another. Loosely tuck the edges into the muffin cups. Sprinkle the top of each pastry with some of the remaining 4 teaspoons of sugar.

Bake pastries on center rack of preheated 400-degree oven until they are well-browned and the plums are bubbling, 12 to 15 minutes.

The bottom of the pastry will still be soft. Remove muffin tin from oven, and let the pastries rest 2 to 3 minutes. Slide a fork underneath each pastry to remove it; transfer it to a bowl or plate. Serve with vanilla ice cream on the side, if desired.

Makes 8 servings. (Store these little pastries in a cake saver or under a cake dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

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