If you follow my Entertaining with Style Series, then you know I am not very handy in the kitchen. As I said in my opening for the Valentine’s Day Dinner, I am hosting with my beau, Anthony. He and I worked together developing a menu that is romantic, and of course, choosing as many dishes that we could prep in advance. That is always the hardest part of entertaining, is timing your food to be ready for each course. You want to be able to sit with our guests and enjoy your hard work too, without having to be in the kitchen prepping the next course.
MENU & SERVING DISHES:
We had several options that worked together, but narrowed it down to this menu:
For salad, we are serving an avocado & grape salad. I chose this salad because of the grapes. I love the idea of incorporating my plum, purple, grey and blush pink color theme from my Valentine’s Dinner Decor Article, into the food and serving pieces. We also chose dishes with an avocado green color. I love that shade of green with our table scape colors.
For appetizers, we are serving salmon rillette, scallops, and toast with ricotta, honey & pistachios (working in that avocado green color again). I am using a variety of grey platters, as well as, my go to appetizer plates from CB2. I have these in white and black. They are perfect for so many parties and gatherings.
This are also good choices, because the salmon, & pea puree can be made in advance and refrigerated. So when its time to serve the appetizers, you only have to toast your bread, cook your scallops, and the rest is ready to plate quickly.
For starters, we are serving baby artichoke pasta. This is one of Anthony’s grandmother’s family recipes. In his family, it was reserved for special occasions. The sweet, nutty flavor of the baby artichokes combined with the richness of cream and Parmesan, easily makes this one of the best pasta dishes you will ever eat! I wanted to bring the blush pink tone into the serving pieces. I found this perfect pink bowl from crate and barrel.
For the main course, short ribs with a potato puree. I am serving this on our main black dinner dish. This is a great choice for the main because it has to braise for 2 1/2 hours. You can put this in the oven, and work on plating all your other items while it cooks.
For dessert, what is more romantic than a soufflé. Just the way even the word soufflé rolls of the tongue. I love it. This will be served in a simple clear ramekin. This dessert is beautiful all on it’s own, no need for fancy dishes.
Here are the ingredients, recipes and photos for our romantic Valentine’s Dinner dishes.
GRAPE & CHERRY TOMATO SALAD with Avocado Vinaigrette
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1/2 cup of EVOO
1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch of frisee, coarsely chopped
1 whole butter lettuce head, coarsely chopped
1 half of a large avocado
1/2 cup of halved grape tomatoes
1/2 cup of halved red seedless grapes
1/4 cup of slivered almonds
For the vinaigrette, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk aggressively until well blended. Salt to taste. Reserve in a jar.
In a large salad bowl, add 4 tablespoons of the dressing and mix in the avocado to create a thick consistency. The consistency will be to your preference, so if you prefer the dressing to be thinner, add a little more of the dressing. Add tomatoes and grapes and let sit in the mixture for 15 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss. Serve and enjoy. The reserve vinaigrette can last up to a week in the fridge.
TOAST with RICOTTA, HONEY & PISTACHIOS
1 baguette of good quality, sliced 1/3 inch thick
12 ounces fresh ricotta
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
Olive oil and a brush
Preheat broiler (I use a Cuisinart toaster oven). Brush toast with a little olive oil. Toast bread until golden brown. Remove bread and spread some ricotta on each slice. Drizzle a little honey over each piece, then slightly zest the lemon over the tops. Finally, pour some pistachios on each piece. Serve.
1 lbs fresh high quality salmon, cut into small bite sized cubes
4 ounces of quality smoked salmon, roughly chopped (preferably not of the reddish variety or smoked with unusual flavors)
1 cup white wine (maybe more)
2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup good quality mayonnaise (or creme fraiche), plus more to taste
1 tbsp EVOO
2-3 tbsp chopped chives (depending on taste)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped (depending on taste)
1/4 cup microgreens (optional)
Salt and white pepper
In a skillet, bring wine to a boil and add the shallots to cook for about 2 or 3 minutes. Gently place the salmon in the skillet and poach about a minute and a half to 2 minutes per side. Don’t overcook. [*Note: this is where you may need more or less wine. The wine should come halfway up the salmon when cooking.] Remove salmon and drain on a cookie sheet or paper towels. Discard wine making sure to reserve the cooked shallots.
In a bowl, combine the cooked salmon and cooked shallots, along with the remaining ingredients including the rest of the uncooked shallots. Mix gently with a fork to combine ingredients being mindful not to over mix. The consistency should be fairly rough so that you can see and taste the salmon chunks. Serve on Belgian endives or toasted bread slices of your choice. Top with micro greens.
SCALLOPS with PEA PUREE
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
4 cups frozen peas
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, and a little extra for drizzling
1 1/2 – 1 3/4 pounds scallops
1 tablespoon chopped marjoram
White pepper to taste
Place scallops on paper towels and make sure they are as dry as possible. Set aside for about 15 minutes or until completely dry (if the scallops contain too much moisture, they wont sear beautifully).
Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pot. Add the shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Don’t burn! Add the peas and cover with just enough water to submerge peas. Bring to a boil and let the peas cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Drain and transfer to a food blender. Add the cheese, parsley, and garlic and pulse until it forms a coarse purée. While running the blender, add the remaining olive oil leaving a few tablespoons for searing the scallops, and the sherry vinegar. Purée until smooth and season with salt.
Season the scallops with salt and white pepper. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, place the scallops in the pan and sear until golden brown, about 1 and a half minutes on each side. Don’t move the scallops once they are placed in the pan or they will break and not form a sear.
To serve, spread the pea purée on a plate and top with finished scallops. You can also drizzle with some high quality EVOO, sherry vinegar, and sea salt like I did. Enjoy!
Note: Cut the recipe in half if the portion is too large.
This pasta recipe is my grandmother’s recipe. It was reserved for special occasions. The sweet, nutty flavor of the baby artichokes combined with the richness of cream and Parmesan, easily makes this one of the best pasta dishes you will ever eat! Pairs very well with a quality Cabernet.
BABY ARTICHOKES PASTA
1 lb Rigatoni (Dececco brand preferred)
10 baby artichokes
2 beef bouillon cubes (knorr brand)
1/4 cup EVOO
1 cup Italian Parsley, finely chopped
4 basil leaves, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Prepare artichokes by removing touch outer leaves and trim stems. Use a good knife or peeler to remove outer green layer from stem. Cut the top of the heads to remove the tough end of the leaves. Chop the hearts coarsely and set aside.
Add EVOO into another large, deep skillet (big enough for 1 lb of pasta) and place over medium heat. Add artichokes, parsley, basil, and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes stirring frequently. Turn down the heat and continue to cook for an additional 25-30 minutes until translucent. Add 1 1/2 of the bouillon cubes into the pan and cook an additional 5 minutes until fully incorporated. Turn off the heat, add the cream and a good amount of freshly ground pepper. Stir and set aside. *Note: If you think the sauce needs a little more salt, add the remaining half of the bouillon cube. Before doing so, please keep in mind that you will be salting the pasta water as well as adding a good amount of cheese at the end.
Prepare a large pasta pot with water and set to a boil. Salt the water. Cook rigatoni until al dente and strain. Add cooked pasta to the cream mixture and mix well. Add cheese and continue to toss. Serve hot and enjoy. *Note: this dish must be served hot. Its not the same when left sitting.
1 bottle red wine
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 lbs short ribs
salt and pepper
Flour for dredging
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
6 sprigs of Italian parsley
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
4 tablespoons of tomato paste
4 cups of beef broth
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat some of the oil in a large, heavy (ovenproof) pot over medium heat. Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. Lightly dust the ribs all over with some of the flour. Making sure the oil in the pan is hot, place the ribs into the pot and sear about 3 or 4 minutes per side until very well browned. (DO NOT OVERCROWD! If you over crowd, you’ll create steam and the ribs will not brown nicely). Transfer ribs to a place in sections. Lower the heat and add all the vegetables and herbs and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and continue to cook for another minute.
Add the wine and cook off for about 5-7 minutes then add the broth. Slowly add ribs to the pot, cover and place in the oven to braise for 2 1/2 hours.
Carefully transfer the meat to a serving platter and keep warm. Strain the remaining liquid into a bowl to remove vegetables and herbs and pour the liquid back into the original cooking pot. Boil significantly to reduce. Taste for seasoning. If you prefer a thicker sauce, pour some of the remaining flour into the liquid while it boils and continue to beat mixture until thicker. Pour over ribs. Serve and enjoy!
3 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved
1 cup of whole milk
3/4 stick of butter
1 whole clove or garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper
Put the potatoes in a pot and barely cover with cold water. Add salt and garlic clove to the pot and bring to a boil, and simmer until very tender, about 25 minutes, depending on size.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan heat the milk, bringing it almost to a boil, turn off the heat, cover, and set aside. Another option would be to put the milk into a pyrex measuring cup and microwave until very hot and set aside.
When the potatoes are cooked, drain them reserving a cup of the potato water. Put them through a food mill over a large pot. Add garlic clove and beat in the butter a piece at a time. Mix in the hot milk, little by little, until completely absorbed. If the potatoes seem a bit dry, add a little of the reserved potato water until desired soft puree texture is met. Don’t add too much water or you’ll make it runny! Check for salt and pepper, and serve.
6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup of sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
2 tablespoons of flour
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
6 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Place chocolate and butter in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk 1/4 cup sugar, flour, and cocoa powder. In small saucepan, bring milk and vanilla to boil. Gradually whisk hot milk into the sugar mixture and mix well. Return everything back to the same saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat for about a minute until thick, stirring constantly. Pour mixture into the bowl with the chocolate and butter and stir until melted. Add egg yolks and whisk very well.
Butter 6 3/4-cup soufflé dishes and dust with sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites for about 30 seconds. Add 3 tablespoons sugar, scream of tartar, and salt and beat until soft peaks form. Fold 1/4 of whites into soufflé base until well combined. Gently fold in remaining whites just enough to blend. Pour the batter among prepared dishes. Place dishes on rimmed baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake soufflés until puffed above rim of dish and edges are set, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately with Star of Anise Crème Anglaise.
Star of Anise Creme Anglaise
4 whole star of anise
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
Place star of anise in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until brown, about 5 minutes. Add milk, cream, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and bring to boil. Whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in another bowl. Gradually whisk in hot milk mixture then return mixture to the original saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens. Don’t boil. Cover and chill until cold, about an hour. Strain into medium pitcher. Serve with chocolate souffle.
Is your mouth watering yet? I was able to taste everything when we made the dishes for the photoshoot, and I can promise you this menu is beyond delicious! It will be the perfect meal for a romantic dinner or a friends’ Valentine’s gathering.