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Here's a news flash that should delight desperate cooks. Fondue is back. And with Valentine's Day coming up, it's not a moment too soon.

Everybody loves to dip, and that's what fondue is all about. At a New Year's party in New York hosted by some of the trendiest people I know - my brother-in-law (an actor) and my sister-in-law (a choreographer) - guests of all ages just couldn't get enough.

"Oh yes, fondue is very hot in the city right now," my sister-in-law reported. "I got my pot as a birthday gift."

If you don't have a fondue pot, fear not. An ordinary microwave takes the place of the pot in today's recipe for a very quick and easy Valentine's Day dessert. Just heat some chocolate, cut a bit of frozen pound cake into squares, and arrange some fruit.

That's all. What you end up with is a delightful dessert that's rich with chocolate, but because of the fruit, it's not overly filling.

Flexible Fruit Fondue is built around an ordinary can of chocolate frosting from the supermarket. Or if you prefer to be really trendy, use a jar of hazelnut-chocolate spread, sold under the brand name Nutella. This rich, yummy spread was originally developed by a European pastry chef when cocoa was in short supply because of war rationing. You could also substitute one of the chocolate-peanut butter spreads that have recently appeared in supermarkets.

With such an impressive dessert spread, you'll hardly mind if Wednesday night forces you to squeeze Valentine's dinner in between rush-hour traffic and helping your kids with homework.


2 slices, 3/4 -inch each, frozen pound cake (about 2 1/2 ounces total), see note

12 whole strawberries

12 fresh pineapple chunks (about 1 cup)

1 tart, firm red apple, such as Fuji or Gala

1/2 cup milk chocolate frosting, or other chocolate spread, see note

toothpicks, wooden skewers, or fondue forks, for serving

Cut 2 slices of cake, each 3/4 -inch thick. Cut each slice into 8 chunks. Place the cake pieces on a decorative serving platter. Rinse and drain the strawberries and arrange them on the platter. Drain the pineapple chunks and place them on the platter. Cut the apple (not peeled) into quarters. Core and cut each section into 4 slices. Place them on the platter. Set aside.

Place about 1/2 cup frosting in a decorative, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, covered with a paper towel, at high, stirring and testing at 15-second intervals, until very warm but not hot, about 45 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes.

Allow each person to spear cake and fruit with toothpicks (or wooden skewers or fondue forks) and dip into the chocolate, fondue-style. Alternatively, spoon some chocolate sauce onto individual plates and dip. Serves 4.

Cook's note: Instead of chocolate frosting, a chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella) or a chocolate-peanut butter spread may be used.

Send us desperate tales of woe or everyday success stories and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016; or e-mail:

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