BY GWEN KENNEALLY
“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
I know a lot of people want to be wined and dined on Valentine’s Day, however, I am not one of them. Aside from the fact that many restaurants are over-crowded and over-priced, I believe that cooking for that special someone is one of the most sensual and giving things that one can do.
A special cozy, intimate dinner at home can be ever so romantic. Start off by sending a hand-written invitation (even if you are living together!) And remember, the dinner does not have to be on February 14 If that falls on a weekday, or that evening isn’t convenient, it is better to do it on a night where you are not rushed. Even if you cook most meals, make this one special by doing several courses. They can be simple, but it makes for an evening full of anticipation. Also, add the little details that you might forget during more hectic times — garnish the plates, light candles, get fresh flowers.
For dessert, I love to add a little something chocolate as well as fruit and homemade cookies. Include some foods that are referenced as so- called “aphrodisiacs.” I’m not talking about love potions — I’m talking about normal foods that give way to a sensual atmosphere. I really believe that romance evolves from the intimacy that happens when you take the time to make another feel so special and loved. Make the time extra special for both of you. Perhaps wear something your partner finds attractive, arrange a sleepover for the kids so you can have some privacy, or just for fun, add some ingredients to the menu that are said to ignite the passions in all of us.
Basil, cloves, fennel, ginger, jasmine, iris, mustard, oregano, chili, horseradish, rosemary, thyme and wasabi are said to have very loving effects. Clams, oysters, caviar and other seafood are great dinner ideas for your special night. To arouse feelings using fruit, try the following: strawberries, bananas, dates, apricots, peaches, and pears. Asparagus and tomatoes are said to stir up lust in men and woman. The heat of garlic supposedly fires the flames of passion. And don’t forget champagne, a special cocktail, a nice bottle of wine, or even a non-alcoholic sparkling drink.
So if you are feeling up for romance, try this menu — or mix and match it with some of your own. This menu is designed for two, but you can double or triple if you are using them for a family love day!
Prep notes: Remember to arrange time to take care of yourself so that feel just a little pampered. If you do become a little pressed for time remember that you can always draw a warm bubbly bath with a glass of champagne for your mate. He (or she) will be nice and relaxed when you are ready for the first course.
Ready the goat cheese bruschetta on a platter and set it out when your valentine arrives. The dressing for the salad can be prepped the day before. Place the salad in a bowl in the fridge and toss just before serving. Have the pasta sauce on the stove and the water in the saucepan. Start the pasta water while eating the first course. Put the pasta in and simmer the sauce while you are eating the salads. The garlic mashed potatoes can be made ahead and warmed while you are making the steaks. Have the water ready for the haricots verts and trim them ahead. Put them on when you start the steaks. You can start the fondue after you have eaten. You will probably need a little romantic canoodling between dinner and dessert anyway.
THE ROMANTIC FIVE-COURSE DINNER MENU FOR TWO
Bruschetta with Goat Cheese
Salad of Mixed Greens, Scallions, Red Peppers in a Wasabi Ginger Vinaigrette
Asparagus and Gorgonzola Cream Pasta
Filet Mignon with Mustard-Thyme Sauce
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Haricots Verts (fancy name for French green beans!)
Homemade fortune cookies
THE ROMANTIC RECIPES
Goat Cheese Bruschetta
10 one-inch inch thick baguette slices, cut on the diagonal
Olive oil for brushing
1-basket cherry tomatoes chopped and seeded (I prefer the mixture of red, orange and yellow pear tomatoes if you can find them.)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1/4 cup red onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
1-tablespoon olive oil
1-tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons basil, cut lengthwise
4 ounces goat cheese
Basil leaf for garnish
Heat cast iron stove top cast iron grill. (You will need it later for the steaks.) Brush the grill with olive oil and arrange the baguettes. Cook for about one minute and then flip and cook the other side. Remove from grill and arrange on a serving plate garnished with lots of basil leaves. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. Stir in tomatoes, olives and basil. Spread goat cheese over one side of each baguette. Mound tomatoes mixture equally on top over the cheese. Serve immediately.
Mixed Greens with Wasabi Vinaigrette
In a small bowl whisk together:
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4cup soy sauce
1/4cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoons wasabi paste
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
In a slow steady stream add:
1/4-cup sesame oil
1/4-cup canola oil
4 cups mixed greens
1 carrot shredded
In a small bowl lightly toss the dressing with the mix greens. Divide onto two plates and sprinkle shredded carrots over the top.
Farfalle with Asparagus and Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into one-inch pieces
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2-cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Blanch asparagus in a large pot of boiling salted water about 2 minutes. Rinse with cold water (to keep the pretty green color.) In a small saucepan cook garlic, Gorgonzola and heavy cream until cheese melts and mixture is rich and creamy. (About 5 minutes) Mean while cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until tender, but firm. Drain well and return to pot. Add Gorgonzola sauce to pasta and toss to coat. Mix in asparagus. Split onto two plates and serve with generous amount of Parmesan cheese.
2 6 oz Filet Mignon, trimmed
Salt and pepper
On medium-high heat a cast iron stove top grill (or a heavy skillet). Sprinkle steaks generously with salt and pepper. Grill steaks about 5 minutes per side to desired doneness.
Mustard Thyme Sauce
1/4-cup sour cream
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
Thyme sprigs for garnish
In a small saucepan, bring white wine and mustard to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in sour cream, garlic and thyme. Pour generously over the steaks and green beans.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté and cook until garlic is soft and golden. Set aside. Peel the potatoes and cut into one-inch pieces. Place pieces in a saucepan and cover with cold water seasoned with salt. Place over medium heat and cook until fork tender. Drain in a colander, reserving 1/2-cup water. Transfer potatoes and water to a medium bowl. Using a large fork mash the potatoes and water until smooth. Mix in the garlic and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. .
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
In a medium bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Mix the flour and salt by hand to the butter mixture until well mixed. Divide the mixture in half and wrap in plastic and chill for one hour. Roll each half on a floured board to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2 to 3 inch heart cookie cutter cut out cookies. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350 oven for about 12 minutes until pale golden. Cool on cookie rack.
You can make the fortunes by cutting 5 inch by 1/2-inch pieces of paper. You can hand write any sort of romantic or naughty messages as you like. Just make sure that the kids don’t get a hold of the leftovers!
4 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
6-tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400 and spray baking sheets liberally with bakers joy. In a medium bowl beat egg whites and sugar until just foamy. Add whipping cream, butter and almond extract and beat for 1 minute longer. Add flour and salt and beat until smooth. Pour 2 tablespoons batter on prepared baking sheet and with the back of a spoon spread evenly into a 3-inch diameter. Bake cookie in the middle of the oven until golden around the edge, but pale in center about 8 minutes. Working quickly, remove the cookie with a spatula and place onto a flat surface. Put a prepared fortune in the middle of the cookie and fold cookie in half. Bend pointed ends of cookie toward each other and hook them onto the rim of a bowl to cool completely. Makes about 20 cookies.
Combine in a medium, heavy saucepan:
1-cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Stirring constantly bring to a rolling boil.
Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Let stand for one minute, then whisk until smooth.
2 teaspoons vanilla, or a splash of brandy or orange liqueur.
Pour into a fondue pot and serve with shortbread hearts, fortune cookies and any fruit you like.
Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. Check out her website and blog www.Backtothekitchen.net