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EDIBLE & INCREDIBLE YOU CAN MAKE BEAUTIFUL CENTERPIECES THAT LOOK GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT.

Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

They look good enough to eat.

Made with fruits or vegetables, these striking table centerpieces are destined to be conversation pieces at your next summer party.

You can make them yourself with a seasonal array of fresh produce. Some creative options include a colorful edible fruit bouquet, an arrangement of beautiful greens, a watermelon and flower fruit medley or a vase filled with gorgeous artichokes and anthuriums.

We turned to the talented Mark Held, co-owner of Mark's Garden in Sherman Oaks, who came up with four distinctively, wowing, summer-oriented designs based on supermarket produce. These are simple enough for readers to assemble at home. For the past 13 years, he's been creating smashing floral centerpieces for the Academy Awards Governors Ball. He was recently named a floral wedding trendsetter for 2006 by Modern Bride magazine.

``Our inspiration comes basically from the materials themselves,'' says Held. ``We get new ideas from a flower, fruit or vegetable -- and they inspire us to use them in a new and unique way.

``Fruits and vegetables work well for outdoor entertaining. They are a little less formal.''

We were also inspired by designs from the Northridge location of Edible Arrangements (a franchise started in Connecticut nine years ago that now has more than 500 outlets nationwide). More than 25 different fruit arrangements made with various combinations of fruits, some dipped in chocolate, are available.

Although Northridge franchisees (of four years), Patricia and Elias Younan couldn't share corporate secrets, we created our own fruit bouquet version inspired by the company's Berry Chocolate Bouquet.

It sports chocolate dipped and plain strawberries, pineapple cut-out shapes, cantaloupe balls and red grapes. Make it in a basket as they do or use a small watermelon half as the base which is a bit easier to handle.

The arrangement takes time and patience, but the results make it all worthwhile as it looks fabulous and rates raves. Another time, assemble a smaller arrangement with all chocolate-dipped strawberries (best when serving inside).

``People order and send these instead of flowers -- for occasions like baby showers, housewarmings, wedding reception centerpieces, graduation parties, gifts for friends and thank yous,,'' says Patricia.

Re-creating the designs Held shared can be a family project with the kids involved. ``They don't have to be works of art, they should just be fun.''

Although Held uses a small seedless watermelon, halved lengthwise in the fruit salad-floral arrangement, he suggests using a large, full-size watermelon if you're planning to serve a large crowd. To save time, buy the fruits already cut up.

To keep the flowers from touching the fruit salad, wrap the vase in cellophane and place it in the cut-out watermelon.

Held assembled big artichokes with green anthurium from Hawaii in a glass vase with collard green leaves tied to the outside. ``Green is a hot color now,'' he notes. Another time, use shocking-pink flowers (like hydrangeas) with the artichokes.

For another easy-do centerpiece, arrange assorted colored flowers in a low, tight design, placing the stems directly in the flesh of a small watermelon half. ``It's easier to design arrangements with short stems,'' advises Held, adding that such arrangements require fewer flowers and last better in the heat. ``The shorter, tighter look in arrangements is `in' now -- and you can do them in glass vases, baskets, etc.''

Some of today's creations can be made a day in advance while others are best assembled the day the day they are being presented. Both the artichoke arrangement and floral watermelon centerpiece, for instance, hold up well and can be made a day ahead. The fresh produce greens arrangement and the fruit bouquet, on the other hand, are best put together the day they are being used.

The watermelon with fruit salad is best completed just before placing on the table, although the calla lily floral portion can be completed a day ahead.

Two of the arrangements require Oasis -- a type of floral foam, available at craft or florist shops -- that's soaked in water at least 10 minutes and used as the base to hold vegetables and flowers and keep them moist.

``When using, be sure to cut it about the size of the vase and squeeze it in.'' It should be a little snug -- and come up 1/2 to 3/4 inch above the edge of the vase so you can stick fruits or vegetables in sideways.'' Be sure to water arrangements once completed -- and add water every couple of days.

When Held started his floral business 13 years ago, he included fruits such as champagne grapes in his arrangements and then expanded the concept to incorporate all kinds of fruits and vegetables -- such as kumquats, artichokes, cherries, strawberries, lemons, limes, crab apples, persimmons, pomegranates and pears.

``Our things are mainly flowers, but we like to have a little surprise in each arrangement, and people are delighted with it.''

Natalie Haughton, (818) 713-3692

natalie.haughton(at)dailynews.com

FESTIVE FRUIT BOUQUET

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks

44 large strawberries (firm; not overly ripe), with calex (green leaves) left on, rinsed and well-dried with paper towels (20 will be dipped in chocolate and 24 left plain)

1 large pineapple (not too ripe)

About 40 red grapes, rinsed and well-drained

1 package of 8-inch-long bamboo skewers

About 23 cantaloupe balls (made with a melon baller from 1 or 2 cantaloupes; you need about 18 for skewers and 5 for the center of large pineapple shapes)

1 (6- to 6 1/2-inch) basket, with or without handle, lined with foil and then plastic wrap to prevent leaking (or buy a basket with a plastic liner but still line with plastic wrap or foil)

6 to 8 kale leaves, rinsed and dried

1 medium to large head iceberg lettuce, core removed

Place chocolate in a glass bowl and heat in a microwave oven on high power about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir until all chocolate is melted. If needed, microwave chocolate in additional 10 second intervals until completely melted. Dip 20 large dry strawberries, one at a time, into chocolate, coming 3/4 of the way up the strawberry, almost to green part; let any extra chocolate drip off and place on a waxed-paper-lined baking sheet.

Let stand 10 minutes, then place in refrigerator until hard, at least 1 hour or longer.

Meanwhile slice top and bottom off pineapple. Stand pineapple up on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut skin off pineapple going down sides and then all around pineapple (following the form of the pineapple, cut off in strips from top to bottom) so you end up with one tall piece that looks like a log. DO NOT CORE. Turn pineapple on its side and cut into 3/8- to 1/2-inch slices. You should end up with at least 10 slices.

Using a 3-inch-diameter cutter in the shape of your choice (daisy, star, heart, etc.) cut a large daisy, star or heart from each of 5 slices (save any extra pieces left from cutout to eat). Using a 1 1/2- or 2-inch cutter in shape of choice, cut remaining slices (at least 5 or 6) into smaller shapes (daisies, stars, hearts, etc.). You should have at least 5 large and 5 or 6 small pineapple shapes/designs.

Place 3 or 4 red grapes at the top of the pointed-tip end of each of 8 or 10 skewers. Place 3 cantaloupe balls at the top of the pointed-tip end of each of 4 to 6 skewers.

To assemble fruit arrangement/bouquet, be sure basket is well-lined with foil and plastic wrap to avoid any leakage. Place a kale and a lettuce leaf or two in the bottom of the basket. Place whole lettuce head, core side down (with core removed) in basket. Lay kale leaves over top of lettuce head to cover.

Skewer plain and chocolate-dipped berries, one on each skewer, and press/poke skewer down through kale into lettuce (as far as desired), making an attractive arrangement. Add skewers of grapes and cantaloupe balls. Skewer large pineapple shapes by placing slice flat, then poking skewer in at a right angle and through center just a bit. Add a melon ball to front center of slice. Skewer smaller pineapple shapes through side, like a lollipop (with no melon ball). Place large and small pineapple slices around arrangement, poking skewers through kale into lettuce. Poke some fruit skewers down closer to the lettuce head than others. Use immediately as a table or buffet centerpiece, or refrigerate several hours until needed. For dessert, let guests help themselves to fruits in centerpiece.

Makes 1 fruit bouquet.

NOTE: Bouquet can also be assembled in a small, seedless, horizontally cut watermelon half (about 7 inches in diameter when cut open; watermelon will weigh about 6 to 6 1/2 pounds whole) covered with 3 or 4 kale leaves. No lettuce is needed. Simply stick skewers of fruits in kale and melon, arranging as desired.

Assemble bouquet (in basket or watermelon half) same day using. Bouquet can be made several hours in advance of using but must be kept refrigerated. Fruits can be prepared (cut up or chocolate dipped) a day in advance and refrigerated, covered.

The Daily News created this rendition of the Berry Chocolate Bouquet.

WATERMELON FRUIT SALAD-FLORAL CENTERPIECE

(on the cover)

1 small seedless watermelon (about 6 to 6 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise

A small square clear glass vase to fit inside of scooped-out watermelon half

Oasis floral foam (a size piece to fit snugly into vase)

1 1/2 to 2 dozen rust/gold miniature calla lilies

Food-safe cellophane to wrap vase and raffia to tie it

2 large containers or more prepared fruit salad (cut-up assorted fruits) OR buy cut-up fruits separately (pineapple chunks, melon, mango, berries, etc.) in containers (rinse if necessary) and mix them yourself at home

Scoop flesh out of both watermelon halves, leaving thick rind. Select a small square vase that will fit into center of one watermelon half with 1 1/2 to 2 inches all around it so there is room for fruit salad.

Submerge and soak floral foam in water 10 minutes. Place floral foam in vase. Arrange lilies with medium stems in floral foam in vase (see photo on cover). Wrap entire vase with cellophane, letting it extend partway up flower stems. Tie with raffia. Lily arrangement can be made several hours ahead of time.

To assemble centerpiece, which is best done just before serving, set vase of lilies in one watermelon half, then arrange fruit salad all around. Fill other watermelon half with assorted fruits and place near watermelon floral arrangement. Add water to lilies in vase.

Makes 1 arrangement plus extra fruit watermelon bowl

NOTE: If you're having a larger party, use a regular-size watermelon, halved -- so it will hold more assorted fruits. To keep watermelon halves from rolling around, slice a little piece off the bottom of each watermelon half and place on a small dish. Or don't cut and place watermelon halves on a bracelet of ivy or other device to keep from rolling around.

A MEDLEY OF GREENS

Oasis floral foam (a size piece to fit snugly into vase)

1 (8- or 9-inch) rectangular clear glass vase, about 5 to 6 inches tall

2 to 3 dozen red rhubarb stalks

Floral picks, floral wire and floral tape

2 heads broccoflower

1 or 2 bunches Treviso (OR radicchio)

1 or 2 bunches red chard

1 or 2 bunches collard greens

1 or 2 bunches mustard greens

1 or 2 bunches parsley

Soak floral foam in a large amount of water 10 minutes. Using a glue gun, stand up rhubarb stalks and secure all around outside of vase. Place soaked floral foam snugly in glass vase.

Insert 2 floral picks in bottom of each broccoflower stalk. Wrap stems of other greens, each separately, together with floral wire and floral tape (so greens won't flop open) and use floral picks if necessary. Arrange broccoflower and all other greens attractively in floral foam (see photo on previous page) to make a beautiful centerpiece. Add water to vase.

Makes 1 arrangement

NOTE: This arrangement is best made the day you plan to use it. It is like a salad and will not keep a long time. Store in the fridge if you make it several hours in advance.

GREEN ON GREEN ARTICHOKES GALORE

Oasis floral foam (a size piece to fit snugly into vase)

4 or 5 large flat green vegetable leaves like collard greens

A clear glass 5-inch diameter vase, about 5 inches tall

4 or 5 large artichokes with stems (from Gelson's)

5 or 6 green anthurium (from Hawaii)

Horsetail green, raffia or ribbon

Soak floral foam in a large amount of water 10 minutes. Place collard greens flat against outside of vase and secure with a rubber band or two. Snugly fit floral foam into vase. Arrange artichokes in vase, poking in stems. Arrange anthurium around and in center between artichokes. Tie greens on outside of vase around center with horsetail green, raffia or ribbon; remove rubber band by cutting away. Add water to vase.

Makes 1 arrangement

NOTE: This arrangement will last a week or more.

FLOWERS IN WATERMELON HALF

1 small watermelon, halved lengthwise, flesh left intact

Assorted-colored flowers -- dark orange and rose dahlias, lime green cymbidium orchids, rust/gold calla lilies and shocking pink tulips (stems should be fairly short so arrangement has a short, tight look)

No floral foam is needed for this arrangement, as the flowers are arranged directly in the watermelon half.

Cut a small amount off bottom of watermelon half so it will not roll around. Place watermelon on small plate or dish. Arrange flowers in a tight, low arrangement as desired in watermelon half. This arrangement can be made a day in advance, if desired. Keep cool.

Makes 1 arrangement

STEP BY STEP

1) To make the Medley of Greens arrangement designed by Mark Held, wrap stems of greens such as parsley with floral wire and floral tape (along with picks, if necessary) so they won't flop open when placed in wet floral foam in a glass vase.

2) Insert two floral picks in bottom of each broccoflower stalk for easy in poking into floral foam.

3) Place an assortment of greens such as red chard, Treviso, mustard greens, etc. in attractive arrangement in glass vase that has outside ringed with rhubarb stalks.

CAPTION(S):

9 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) Be fruitful

Photographed at Mark's Garden, Sherman Oaks

(2 -- color) A Green on Green artichoke arrangement is easy to make with artichokes from the market and green anthurium from a floral shop.

(3 -- color) A Medley of Greens goes together fast - and is a great table centerpiece.

Photographed at Mark's Garden

(4 -- color) Berry Chocolate Bouquet

Photographed at Edible Arrangements, Northridge.

(5 -- color) Mark Held, owner of Mark's Garden in Sherman Oaks, puts the finishing touches on the Watermelon Fruit Salad-Floral Centerpiece, also pictured on the cover.

(6 -- 8 -- color) no caption (Steps to making the Medley of Greens arrangement)

(9 -- color) no caption (FLOWERS IN WATERMELON HALF)

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer

Box:

STEP BY STEP (see text)
COPYRIGHT 2006 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Aug 8, 2006
Words:2538
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