February 6, 2013 10:20:03 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
The approach of Valentine's Day always causes me to remember a long-ago February and a card table my mother set up by the picture window in our living room. She put it there so my younger sister and I could enjoy a rare Columbus snowfall as we addressed our little Valentines. I'm pretty sure there was hot chocolate involved.
Most of our heart-shaped greetings would go to our elementary classmates, dropped into the oversized hand-crafted envelopes we made at school. But others were destined for furtive delivery. Early in the evening of each Feb. 14, we'd leave our Valentine happies on the doorsteps of good neighbors and friends, ring the door bell and run hide, giggling all the while. It was delightful, and I thank my mother for immersing us in that tradition as children.
Later, of course, Valentine's Day was all about boys, hearts, flowers and, eventually, romantic dinners. And it seems that, no matter what our age, hearts, flowers and romantic dinners still do the trick.
If you choose to celebrate this year by making a stand-out dinner for a special someone, look through today's recipes for suggestions to impress. Keep in mind though that it's best to test any involved recipes beforehand. Valentine's Day is not the time to try that roast rack of lamb for the first time. Choose your menu well and invest in prep ahead of time. Few things ruin the mood like a frantic, stress-ridden cook.
Whether you're courting a new love, or have shared 50 Valentine's Days together, your dinner deserves a setting. An invitation left on a dashboard, in a briefcase or on a pillow is a nice start. A table adorned with crystal, cloth napkins and flowers show that your Valentine rates an effort. Floating candles add a nice touch, and don't forget the background music (which does not include television or cell phones). Frankly, sitting by a campfire eating off tin plates can be romantic, too. The point is to make time to cultivate romance; Cupid can always use an ally.
MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKES WITH CHERRIES
Makes 2 servings
1 16-ounce bag frozen pitted dark sweet cherries, halved, thawed, undrained
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup kirsch (clear cherry brandy) or regular brandy
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
(Source: Lane Crowther, bonappetit.com)
BEEF TENDERLOIN STEAKS WITH MUSTARD-COGNAC SAUCE
6 (7- to 8-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks (each about 1 1/2 inches thick)
Coarse kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, divided
4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup Cognac or brandy
2 tablespoons tawny Port
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
(Source: Alfred Portale, bonappetit.com)
TOMATO JEWELS APPETIZER
4 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package puff pastry sheets (1 sheet), thawed
24 cherry tomatoes
Note: Save time by substituting about 3/4 cup garlic and herb spreadable cheese, softened, for the goat cheese, parsley and chives.
ALMOND HEART NAPOLEANS
Makes 24 servings
1 package (17.3 oz.) frozen puff pastry sheets
1-1/4 cups cold half-and-half
2 tablespoons almond-flavored liqueur or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 package (4-serving size) JELL-O French Vanilla or Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
2 teaspoon hot water
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 square Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.