If I were trapped on a desert island, forced to cook either savory or sweet (What? Your desert island doesn't have a working kitchen and a well-stocked pantry?), it would be savory all the way for me. Day in and day out (back on the mainland), I cook plenty of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners without baking a single dessert. Yes, I love a good pie and can bake a darn good cake -- but those are the exceptions.
As my luck would have it, the rest of my family would always choose sweet over savory. Each night, when everyone has left the table, someone will invariably pipe in with "Got anything sweet?" Or worse, just as the dishes are finished, someone will circle back looking for something to satisfy a sweet tooth.
My mom thinks dessert sends a signal to her brain that eating time is over. Unfortunately, that wiring was not passed down to me -- I like to linger over dinner! -- although it does seem to have landed with my sons.
As such, over the years I've amassed a bunch of ideas for sweet treats that can be made at a moment's notice from a few staples (think dark chocolate, dates, jam, lemon curd, biscotti, a bottle of Vin Santo). I pare down the desserts they love to a few simple ingredients that capture the vibe of "the real thing." Store-bought meringues dolloped with whipped cream become mini Pavlovas. A baguette stuffed with salted, melty chocolate is a road-company version of chocolate tart. Love a peanut-butter sundae? Scoop peanut butter on ice cream, and punch it up with salted nuts. Then swing by my desert island at 8 P.M. with two spoons.
See 9 Speedy Dessert Ideas from Lucinda.