Have you made plans for Valentine’s Day yet? This year instead of eating out, I’m going to send my kids out and my husband and I are staying in. I’m thinking of making a simple romantic dinner for two, finishing with cream anmitsu, a light Japanese-inspired dessert that makes a lasting impression.

Chocolate is often associated with the holiday, but I want to make a dessert this year that’s not laden with guilt and won’t keep me awake on a school night. Cream anmitsu is a chilled fruit dessert that is extremely easy to make and will keep you out of your kitchen on Valentine’s Day. It consists of small cubes of fresh fruits, agar jelly (a translucent jelly made from sea weed with the consistency of gelatin) and sweet adzuki beans. Before serving, I drizzle a light simple syrup on top of the fruit and dollop with a small scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. I enjoy green tea or coconut ice cream with my anmitsu, but vanilla or a fruit sorbet is a lovely compliment. Save time and make this dessert a day in advance and plate it right before serving so you can spend more time with the one you love.

Adzuki Beans, Fruit Jelly & Ice Cream (Cream Anmitsu), Japan

This beautiful year-round dessert is a great way to show off the season’s fresh fruits. To save time, make the fruit jelly several days in advance and top with your favorite ice cream right before you serve.

Makes 4 servings


1 can whole adzuki beans in syrup, rinsed
1/2 cup diced mangoes, ½ inch dice
1/4 cup diced lychees, fresh or canned, ½ inch dice
1/4 cup diced strawberries, ½ inch dice
1/4 cup diced kiwis, ½ inch dice
1 pint green tea or vanilla ice cream

Fruit jelly

4 tablespoons agar agar powder
1 cup hot water
3 cups apple, orange or cranberry juice


1/3 cup water
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


To make the fruit jelly, put the agar agar powder into a small sauce pan with the hot water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then simmer for 3 minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and whisk the fruit juice into the hot agar agar. Quickly pour into a 9 x13 inch dish or sheet pan and chill until set, at least 4 hours or overnight. Cut the jelly into ½ inch cubes and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the syrup, combine the water, sugar and lemon juice in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Once the sugar dissolves and the syrup thickens, remove from heat and let cool. Pour the syrup into a small pitcher and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To assemble, divide equal portions of jelly, diced fruit and adzuki beans among 4 bowls. Spoon a small scoop of ice cream on top and drizzle with the sugar syrup. Serve immediately.