Friday, January 22, 2010

Cook up some romance for Valentine’s Day

Love is in the food 
If you are one of those sensational food lovers whose soul is fed every time you feed others, you’re not alone. And if you’re anything like me, you can’t help but prepare and serve your favorite foods with all of the love you feel for your guests and loved ones. We foodies create celebrations with which to share our undying love for food. Planning formal dinner parties, elegant cocktail parties, just a good ol’ fashioned sit down in front of the television or a romantic dinner for two is an opportunity to show everyone invited how much we care. And on Valentine’s Day, the occasion is no exception.

It’s all in the thought
Planning the perfect (and perfectly romantic) meal for two means knowing your partner. Valentine’s Day is the quintessential opportunity in which to stop and give a good long think at how well you know your loved one(s). What is really going to rev his engine? Make her purr? Make you both pop your cork? Knowing your partner and what foods they like is the most delicious way to get the best results for the night. Does he like hot and spicy or sweet and alluring? What about her? Do you think she’s into those raw oysters or would she prefer a sticky cinnamon bun? Here is a link that provides a nice list of foods, herbs, spices and beverages commonly known for their aphrodisiac effects.

Remember, it isn’t all about how much money you spend or the bling in the pretty gift box. When it’s about true love, it’s about the thought. Planning a delicious meal and sharing it is going to go far in your loved one’s eyes, heart and long into the night.

Pimp your space
It is important to remember that being with your loved one while sharing the same space in a space that’s made for the two of you is the most alluring, exciting and intimate place to be for Valentine’s Day. If you think that space isn’t grand enough, I guarantee that by pimping it out with the aromas of your favourite foods, a few more pillows and blankets, flowers, relaxing music and a special bottle of wine is going to do the trick. Whatever you do, be sure not to stress yourself by going overboard. Creating the perfect atmosphere means you’re both relaxed and feel great!

Plan it and they will come
Are you feeling down about not having a special someone with which to celebrate the romantic Valentine’s Day? Do you honestly think you’re alone? If so, you couldn’t be more wrong. Chances are you have several, if not many friends who are in the same boat. Why not plan a get together for all of you? For several years three of my girlfriends and I got together for Valentine’s Day and had the best evening. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t all have to be about the romance. The day should be spent with whomever you love. 

A great menu for romance or just kicks and giggles with the girls
The following menu is perfect for a night with your special someone or an evening with the girls (or guys). It’s simple and inexpensive yet elegant and showy.


Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage Sauce

Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Orange

Asparagus Salad

1 butternut squash (about 1 ½ pounds)
2 eggs beaten
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups flour

The day before you plan to make the gnocchi, bake the squash, scoop out the pulp and place it in a fine sieve over a bowl to catch the liquid. Cover and allow to drain overnight in the refrigerator.

Puree the squash and transfer to a bowl. Add the eggs and salt and mix well. Add the flour and blend thoroughly. The dough will be soft and sticky.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Scoop the dough with a teaspoon and use a finger to slide it into the water. Cook the gnocchi in small batches of no more than a dozen. Once they rise to the surface of the water, continue poaching them for 2 minutes. Remove the gnocchi from the water and drain. Repeat until all of the dough has been used.

Sage Sauce
1/2 pound butter
One dozen fresh sage leaves
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup grated Parmigiano
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the butter in a skillet with the fresh sage leaves. Stir over low heat until butter is melted. Add the cream and cooked gnocchi and cook over moderate heat, turning gently until the gnocchi are coated with the sauce and heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer the gnocchi to serving plates and serve immediately. If serving as an appetizer, serve 6-8 gnocchi per person (depending on size).

Roast Chicken with Rosemary & Orange
2 whole 2-pound chickens
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
8 small fresh rosemary sprigs
8 tablespoons  Gran Gala
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons chicken stock

Split the chickens into halves. Cut out the back bones and remove the breastbones and ribs with your fingers and a paring knive. Blend the salt and pepper and season the chickens inside and out. Preheat oven to 500°. Slide the rosemary sprigs under the skin so that they are evenly distributed. If necessary, use a very sharp knife to assist in this procedure. Place the birds skin side down in a hot, dry 14” ovenproof skillet and brown five minutes. Turn the chickens and brown another five minutes then add the olive oil to the pan. Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and roast the chickens 30 minutes turning them occasionally. Remove from the oven, drain off all fat and add the remaining ingredients. Place over high flame and cook two minutes basting the entire time and occasionally turning. Transfer the chickens to a large serving platter and spoon the pan sauce over them. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Asparagus Salad

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and peeled
½ sea salt
2 hard boiled eggs
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Steam the asparagus in lightly salted water just until tender. Drain immediately and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Pat the asparagus dry and cut into ½” pieces. Separate the egg whites and yolks and coarsely chop each. In a separate bowl, blend the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Toss all ingredients together.

A beautiful and tasteful espresso mousse would go perfectly as a dessert.

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