Valentine’s Day Dinner

Reservations are scarce, restaurants are crowded, and the weather can be frightful this time of year — so why brave the Valentine’s Day scramble for a restaurant reservation when you can go to the best restaurant of all: The one in your kitchen. You don’t need to make a reservation, you get to call the shots on the lighting, the music — and most importantly — the menu.

 

 

 

The secret to this menu is fresh, top-quality ingredients simply and deliciously. All you will need to do is a quick shop and do it early in the day if you can, then get out some candles and cue your favorite music for an intimate meal you can have ready in under an hour.

Plus, the act of preparing a meal for, or maybe even with, someone can be a romantic gesture. So, yes, a Valentine’s Day date night at home can be special, memorable, romantic — and delicious. Here’s our ultimate Valentine’s Day dinner menu that feels just as special as a table at a fine dining restaurant, minus the whole going-out hassle and it will leave you plenty of time for relaxed, indulgent dining.

 

 

THE MENU

 

Oysters

Oysters

Start with an appetizer of sweet, briny, velvety oysters: They are  the classic aphrodisiac for lovers and a great at-home treat. You can shuck them yourself — just watch this how-to video.

Serving them can be as simple as placing some lemon wedges and a small bowl of cocktail sauce on the side, or try an easy topping like chimichurri, a fresh, herbal sauce that is an unexpectedly delicious topping for oysters; try this recipe for a simple mild chimichurri sauce with chopped bacon and finely diced jalapeño, a pleasure for bacon lovers.

Oysters can also be served with sriracha and lime, a modern riff on the spicy-tangy combo. Also, a  Classic mignonette sauce, a sophisticated pairing of red-wine vinegar and shallots that’s so easy to make. They will be absolutely delicious.

 

 

Surf & turf: Ribeye Steak and Lobster Tails
Few dishes say “special occasion” like surf and turf, a white tablecloth classic. Pair a beautifully marbled, ribeye with creamy, rich lobster tail.

There’s nothing quite like sharing tender, succulent lobster with someone you love. Wild-caught lobster tails are a fantastic way to indulge,How to Cook: Steamed Lobster Tails with minimal prep and mess (no bibs required!). Steamed lobster is a classic and tops for enjoying the pure taste of the luscious tail meat. Or you can roast the tails with a flavorful herb topping; this easy recipe shows you how.

You will want one or two tails per person, and have extra lemon slices and melted butter on the side, plus some flaky seas salt and cracked pepper — simplicity rules.

 

 

Twice-baked New Potatoes
Baking these creamy, fluffy potatoes twice — once to cook the potato, and again to crisp up the topping — gives a special occasion­–worthy upgrade to an otherwise everyday side dish. The technique results in a much more striking visual presentation than standard mashed potato fare, without being too labor-intensive or tedious. Add an extra-special touch of decadence by topping with chives and caviar.

 

 

Lemony Asparagus Spears
With their juicy stalks and slightly crispy ends, oven-roasted asparagus make a perfect counterpart to a fancy entrée like steak and lobster. Plus, it’s delicious enough to stand on its own without taking over the plate. Steam the spears or blanch them in lightly salted water, and they’ll be ready in minutes; cook them just until they turn bright green and the stalks just turn tender. Drizzle them with a little fresh lemon juice for a subtle pop of acidity and sprinkle of salt and pepper that takes this takes this side dish to the next level. For the roasted version on this dish click on the link here.

Simple roasted asparagus recipe (the perfect spring side dish!) - cookieandkate.com

                   Photo Credit: Cookie+Kate

 

 

Chocolate-covered Strawberries
Chocolate Covered StrawberriesEvery romantic dinner should end things on a sweet note. Chocolate-covered strawberries are an all-time classic romantic dessert, and for good reason: The juicy, sweet-tart berries pair perfectly with the creaminess of milk chocolate or the bittersweet flavor of dark chocolate. For and easy chocolate-covered strawberry recipe click on the link here.

 

 

Don’t Forget the Bubbly
For the requisite champagne, fill your flutes with Jacques Bardelot Brut, a crisp, dry French  Champagne with clean and balanced flavors that will complement, rather than overpower, the meal. Not a fan of bubbly? Consider the wine pairing or H&G Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon with the ribeye.

Another suggestion is a sparkling wine: Toad Hollow Risque French Sparkling Wine,  which is a fruity sparkling wine with a natural delicate sweetness.

And in serving champagne or wine at at home with your special dinner has another benefit to staying in: no corkage fee!


Tiramisù with Strawberry Sauce

699.jpg
Photo Credit: NickStellino.com, 2017

Recipe adapted from:

Nick Stellino
Cooking With Friends, 2011

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients
For the Tiramisù:
2½ cups strong coffee, cooled
½ cup Kahlúa coffee liqueur
2 packages ladyfingers cookies
9 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1¾ cups sugar, divided
1½ pounds mascarpone cheese
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup sweet cocoa powder

For the Strawberry Sauce:
(Yields 1 Cup)
One 10-ounce package whole frozen strawberries, partially thawed
2 tablespoons crème de cassis liqueur
¼ cup sugar

Directions:
Mix the cold coffee and the liqueur in a large bowl. In batches, dip the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture. You want them to be moist on the outside but still crunchy on the inside.

Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar until the mixture is thick enough to form a long ribbon when you lift the beater out.  Note: If you are concerned about using raw eggs, once you have beaten the egg yolks, cook them in a double boiler, whisking constantly until they become as thick as a custard cream. Be careful not to overcook them, or they will become scrambled eggs. After cooking the yolks, proceed with the recipe.

Add the mascarpone and beat for 2 to 3 more minutes. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites, adding the remaining sugar a bit at a time, until they form stiff peaks and have a glossy sheen, about 4 minutes.

Gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture until the mixture is all the same color. Add the vanilla and chopped semisweet chocolate, and gently fold them into the mixture.

In a 9 x 17-inch glass baking dish, assemble the dessert. Layer the bottom of the dish with the soaked cookies. Top with a layer of the mascarpone-chocolate mixture. Repeat the procedure to make 1 more layer.

Using a flour sifter, cover the top of the tiramisù with a thin layer of sweet cocoa powder.

Place the tiramisù in the refrigerator and let it rest for at least 5 hours; it’s even better if refrigerated overnight.

To make the strawberry sauce, place the frozen strawberries in a food processor. Add the cassis and sugar. Pulse until pureed. Taste and adjust for sweetness of needeed. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth-like strainer to remove the seeds and pour into a small serving container until the tiramisù is ready to serve.


Strawberry Vanilla Jam

strawberry-jam.jpg
Photo Credit:  www.Napidoktor.hu,  2015.

Making your own jam is a great way to use your slow cooker in the summer. It’s also a delicious way to use up overripe fruit.

Makes About Four 8-pints

Ingredients:
2 pounds of strawberries
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups sugar

Directions:
Wash the strawberries and drain in a colander. Remove the stems from the strawberries and cut in half. With a small, sharp knife, halve the vanilla bean lengthwise. Add strawberries and vanilla halves to a slow cooker along with the lemon juice and sugar. Stir well, cover, and cook on low for 2 hours.

Uncover the slow cooker and stir the jam. Continue cooking, uncovered, on low for an additional 2–3 hours or until the jam has thickened, stirring occasionally. Don’t worry if it is a little runny; it will get thicker as it cools. If you want a smoother consistency, use a potato masher to break up the fruit.

Discard the vanilla bean and ladle the jam into four  1-cup plastic or glass containers with tight-fitting lids. Allow to cool, uncovered, then cover and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Jam will last 3 weeks in the refrigerator and up to 1 year in the freezer.

Cook’s Notes:
Try swirling a spoonful of jam with plain Greek yogurt for breakfast or dessert.

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