Back to the Kitchen: Recipes for a Romantic Valentine's Day

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Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon – The Dalai Lama on the new millennium.

It always seems such a shame to me to take the celebration of intimate love and friendships to an over crowded, over priced restaurant. Much more cozy is a relaxed quite romantic dinner at home. Even if your sweetheart is your child, dog or cat invite some friends celebrate Cupid’s bow with big love and little bites. Spanish Tapas, Italian Alfresco and the most perfect food of love —chocolate —inspire this menu. Serve lots of different and simple dishes to experience many different tastes. Play with Spanish cheeses like Sheep’s milk-Manchego, Zamorano and Idiazabal. Why not try some Cava from Spain or  Prosecco from Italy? Both are nice light and crisp sparkling wines. Have fun and be creative and embrace the passion in every area of your life.

Cooking with love.

Spanish Olives

24 large unpitted Spanish olives

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed

1 sprig thyme, chopped

1 sprig rosemary, chopped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl. Cover and marinate in refrigerator at least 8 hours. Serve at room temperature. Garnish with rosemary sprigs

Roasted Garlic

6 whole heads garlic

1/2-cup olive oil

Salt/ freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350.Trim the points of the heads of garlic exposing the tops of the cloves. Place the heads together in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the garlic for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 250 and roast 1 hour more. Serve the garlic with crusty bread and assorted cheeses. One of life’s most simple pleasures!

Roasted Red Peppers

12 large red bell peppers

1/4-cup olive oil

6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Turn all gas burners on high. Place peppers directly on flame watching very carefully, Turn until the entire pepper is a burnt  bluish, black color. Place in plastic bag for 15 minutes. Meanwhile whisk together oil, garlic, basil and balsamic vinegar. Under cold water rub the skin off and slice into strips. Loosely layer in a bowl drizzling with oil mixture. Serve with crusty bread, in salads or you can make a soup.

Bread with Tomato, Garlic and Smoked Ham

4 cloves of garlic

3 ripe tomatoes

12 Slices of smoked ham

12 slices crusty bread

Olive oil

Pan-fry the slices of bread. While they are still hot, rub them with the clove of garlic until they absorb the flavor. Add a pinch of salt, olive oil and finally top with the tomato and slice of ham.

Tuscan Bread Salad

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced, divided

4 slices (1/2-inch-thick) Italian bread, about 4 inches in diameter

1 head romaine lettuce

1 cup Black Ripe Pitted Olives, drained

1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced

1 cup white beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2-teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons sliced fresh basil leaves

Fresh grated Parmesan

Combine 1-tablespoon olive oil and 1 clove garlic; brush over both sides of bread slices. Grill bread 2 to 3 minutes per side in ridged grill pan or broil 1 to 2 minutes per side until lightly toasted. Reserve outer leaves of lettuce. Tear or chop enough inner leaves to measure 6 cups. In large bowl, combine torn lettuce, olives, tomato and beans. Cut grilled bread into cubes; add to lettuce mixture. Combine remaining 3 tablespoons oil, remaining garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper; mix well. Add to lettuce mixture; toss well. Arrange outer leaves of lettuce on 4 serving plates; top with salad. Sprinkle basil and Parmesan over salads.

Spanish Garlic Shrimp

1 lb shrimp, 25 count to a pound, peeled and deveined

6 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 oz of cognac

¼ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Juice and zest of 1 Lemon

In a sauté pan or heavy frying pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for about one minute or until they begin to brown. Add the shrimp, lemon juice, zest, cognac and paprika. Stir well, then sauté, stirring briskly until the shrimp turn pink and curl – about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer shrimp with oil and sauce to a warm plate or serve right from the pan. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with fresh bread.

Roasted Clams with Garlic Butter

6 lbs. clams in shell

3/4 lb. butter

8 cloves garlic, sliced

Melt butter and add garlic. Stir and keep warm over low heat. 

Wash clams thoroughly in running water. Arrange clams on baking sheet and bake at 450° F. for 15 minutes till they open. 

Serve the clams warm with the garlic butter.

Chocolate Truffles

12 ounces semi- sweet chocolate (chips or a bar broken into small pieces)

1 stick butter

1/2-cup ground chocolate

In a double broiler, melt the chocolate over simmering water, stirring constantly. (If you don’t have a double broiler you can use a smaller pan for the chocolate and a larger one to simmer the water. Just be careful especially with the kids, as it is slightly awkward.) Remove from heat. Add butter stirring until melted. Chill until firm enough to form into small round pieces. Roll in ground chocolate. Chill overnight in refrigerator. Makes about 40.

Green Tea and Chocolate Truffles

Around mid-day I usually have a cup of green tea. It was one time when I was eating a piece of chocolate that I thought how amazing the two would be together. The subtle essence and healing power of green tea make these really special.

2/3-cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened

2 teaspoons loose Green Tea leaves

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup cocoa powder

In a medium saucepan bring cream and butter to a boil and stir in tealeaves. Remove from heat and let steep 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely grind chocolate in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Pour cream through a fine-mesh sieve onto chocolate, pressing on and discarding tealeaves, then whisk until smooth. Chill mixture covered, until firm, overnight. Drop mixture by rounded teaspoons onto prepared baking sheet. . Refrigerate until firm, about three hours.

Place cocoa powder in a bowl. Roll truffles in mixture. Cover with plastic; chill until ready to serve.

Very Romantic Chocolate Fondue

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. Whisk in:

2 teaspoons vanilla, or a splash of brandy or orange liqueur.

Pour into a fondue pot and serve with shortbread, pound cake and any fruit you like.

Shortbread Hearts

2 sticks butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

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 melt 1 bar of German baking chocolate in a double broiler and dip half of a heart in chocolate. It depends on your platter. If you are doing truffles this might be too much chocolate…well, I don’t know…is there such a thing as too much chocolate? After all it is one of the most infamous aphrodisiacs!!!!

Fortune Cookies

This is a great kid or “grown up” project. One year I made very naughty fortunes and included them on a dessert platter with the above truffles and had a very happy Valentines Day. The next day not wanting all the sweets around for me to eat I offered some to my gardeners. When I realized what I had done I grabbed back all the fortune cookies, but my friends still tease me about how great my yard looked for weeks after! So make them with cute kid messages for their favorite teacher and friends or make seductive quotes for that romantic one in your life, but make sure they don’t get mixed up and be sure to be careful of who gets the leftovers!!!! Cut 20 1/2 inch by 3-inch papers and write messages with non-toxic ink. Because you have to work fast do only one per sheet, per oven rack at a time.

4 large egg whites

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

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.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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