There's nothing more romantic than staying home for a special Valentine's Day dinner - especially if the kids aren't around. I developed this menu specifically for the non-cooking partner in the relationship. This is a surefire way to wow your sweetheart. The recipes are easy, as is the shopping. Plus, some of the ingredients (truffles, chocolate, chilies) have an aphrodisiac quality guaranteed to help you feel the love.
CROSTINI OF FIG AND TRUFFLED CHEESE
Few things are sexierthan truffled cheese - it has a huge hit of flavour and an appealingmuskiness. Look for a cheese that contains truffles rather than just truffle oil flavouring. I often make a little salad of mixed greens, dressed with a touch of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, to go with this as a plated first course. Otherwise, you can nibble on the crostini with a pre-dinner drink.
2 teaspoons butter, softened
4 thin slices baguette, toasted
2 tablespoons fig chutney
1/2 cup grated truffled cheese
Lightly butter baguette slices. Divide chutney between toasts and top with grated cheese. Makes 4 crostini.
Mushrooms, garlic and chilies are all known for their libido-lifting qualities. This is a simple oven-roasted steak, sliced and sauced. Along with the confit of potatoes, serve with sautéed rapini.
1 pound (500 grams) New York sirloin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon sambal ulek or other hot chili sauce
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil for searing steak
1 1/2 cups halved and seeded cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
2 slivered King mushrooms (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup chicken or beef stock
Place sirloin in a dish and season with salt and pepper.
Combine olive oil, garlic, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, sambal ulek and rosemary. Spread over both sides of steak and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature. Preheat oven to 450 F.
Heat oil in an oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add steak and sear for 2 minutes a side, then place skillet in oven and roast for 8 to 12 minutes or until medium rare. Remove from oven, transfer steak to a cutting board, reserving skillet, and let the meat rest while making sauce.
Add tomatoes, onions and garlic to same skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until mushrooms have softened. Add stock and any juice from meat to vegetables and bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice steak and divide between two plates. Pile sauce on top. Serves 2.
Peel the potatoes with a peeler so that they are slightly elongated, not round. They should be of an even size and similar shape. In classic French cooking, they are traditionallycarved into a barrel or olive shape. You can include tiny yellow beets and baby turnips in the mixture if you wish.
1 pound (500 grams) small red potatoes or fingerlings, peeled
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat oil and butter in a heavy skillet large enough to accommodate potatoes in one layer over medium heat. When sizzling, add potatoes and turn gently until well coated.
Reduce heat to low, cover skillet and cook potatoes gently for 25 to 35 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Shake pan occasionally as they cook to ensure even colouring. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2.
MAKE-AHEAD CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉS WITH ORANGE CREAM
These are similar to warm chocolate cake, but you can refrigerate them overnight before popping them into the oven, which takes some stress out of preparing the whole menu at once. They are large enough to share; save one for breakfast.
3 ounces (90 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus two tablespoons
2 egg whites
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
Butter and sugar two 4.5-inch ceramic ramekins.
Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Cool slightly and stir in egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar.
Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until the mixture holds slightly drooping peaks. Fold flour into chocolate mixture and then egg whites. Divide batter between ramekins and refrigerate until needed.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Bake cakes for 20 to 22 minutes or until tops of cakes have risen and cracked but are still slightly liquid in the middle. Remove from oven and either serve hot as is or run the point of a knife around the edge to help release soufflés. Invert ramekins onto serving plates and leave for 5 minutes or until cakes release.
Combine whipping cream, sugar and grated orange rind in a mixing bowl and whisk or beat just until slightly thickened. Serve with soufflés. Serves 2.
Beppi's wine picks for this Valentine's Day menu:
Well, there's no sexier wine in my book than good red Burgundy. The perfume of a fine Volnay in particular can act as an aphrodisiac - but maybe I'm being too personal.
To best honour the food itself, my preference would veer toward a Barolo or Valpolicella ripasso. These full-bodied Italian red wines, especially the latter, would harmonize with the truffled cheese and stand up nicely to the spice in the beef, too.
For the soufflé, consider a delicately effervescent, lightly sweet wine called moscato d'Asti from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy (it comes in a regular bottle with a cylindrical cork and is not to be confused with the inferior Asti sparkling wine that comes in a champagne-style bottle sealed with a mushroom-shaped cork).
- Beppi Crosariol