February 12, 2014 9:52:11 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Cupid's holiday is all about sweethearts, but that doesn't mean the whole focus has to be exclusively "sweet." Luscious Valentine chocolates have their place, but we can show we care by taking a walk on the savory side, too. OK, so maybe hard-boiled eggs aren't necessarily "savory," but you get the idea.
Usually at this time of year, we're scouting for decadent dessert ideas to wow the family or significant other with. This February, we veered off in search of other ways to say, "Yes, I know it's Valentine's Day and look what I did for you."
Among the top picks are a sophisticated little shrimp salad, some "heartfelt" roasted potatoes, heart-shaped tortilla chips and yep, hard-boiled eggs. Who knew? None of these is difficult; it's all really just a matter of prep or presentation. (And a cook armed with two or three sizes of heart-shaped cookie cutters can go wild.)
Any Valentine meal would be off on the right note with the twin hearts apricot glazed shrimp salad that uses peppadews for a burst of color and taste. Peppadews are a sweet, slightly spicy pepper from South Africa. They can usually be found in jars in the pickle and olive section of the supermarket. (In a pinch, small cherry tomatoes might be substituted.) Feta cheese and a hint of brandy help imbue this starter with flavor.
When it comes to side dishes, a few minutes with one of those cookie cutters can turn everyday roasted potatoes into a bowl full of compliments. It's recommended you par-cook the potatoes by boiling them in water for a couple of minutes: While the peeled, sliced, cut up potatoes simmer in the water, starch and sugar is drawn to the surface of the potatoes. In the oven, the starch and sugar will create a nice crisp shell, says hanielas.com.
You can omit caraway seed from the potatoes recipe and use rosemary or other herbs you may prefer. You can also add garlic; just be sure to add it no more than one minute before you plan to take the potatoes out of the oven. Otherwise, garlic can burn and become bitter.
I think this is one of the more fun ideas out there. It comes from annathered.com. Let's all try it and see if it works. It's a technique for molding hard-boiled eggs into heart-shapes. We need just-boiled eggs, a (paper type) milk or juice carton, chopsticks and rubber bands.
Cut the carton into approximately 3-by-8-inch lengths and fold in half. Boil the eggs. While an egg is still warm, peel it and put it on the folded milk carton. (If cooled, the egg is more likely to break from the pressure.) Place a chopstick down the center of the egg and apply rubber bands on both ends of the carton, securing the chopstick. Leave everything in place for about 10 minutes. When the chopstick comes off and the egg is sliced in half, we should have a romantic "heart" to show for our effort.
'Be mine' tortilla chips
Turn a package of soft yellow tortillas into "homemade" chips. It's so simple, says makethebestofeverything.com. All you need are tortillas, salt and olive (or canola) oil. Take one of those heart-shaped cookie cutters to the tortillas. Then, brush the hearts lightly with olive oil and salt. Bake them at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, checking them frequently. Serve them with your favorite salsa or dip.
Armed with your cookies cutters, you could also whip up Valentine bruschetta with tomato, basil and goat cheese. Or create heart-shaped beets for salads, or pepperonis for pizza, or toasted grilled cheese sandwiches. The list goes on.
A survey by the National Retail Federation in early January revealed the exorbitant truth -- that Americans are expected to spend close to $17.3 billion dollars celebrating Valentine's Day. Why not spend a little imagination instead?
TWIN HEARTS APRICOT GLAZED SHRIMP AND PEPPADEW SALAD
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Makes two servings
3 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoons water
6 dried apricot halves
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese (or mild blue cheese)
1/2 teaspoon cream or milk (plus additional as needed)
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
4 medium peppadews
8 peeled and cooked jumbo shrimp (see Note)
4 thin wood or metal skewers
1 tablespoon apricot (or peach) preserves
2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon light olive oil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Mash the feta, milk and tarragon together until almost smooth, adding a few more drops of milk if needed. Fill the peppadews with the feta mixture.
Note: Pair up shrimp that are approximately equal in size. If they don't have enough of a natural curve to form a proper heart shape, adjust the curve as they are skewered.
ROASTED HEART POTATOES
Makes about 4 servings
6 large potatoes(about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)
BRUSCHETTA HEARTS WITH TOMATO, BASIL AND GOAT CHEESE
Makes 4 servings
8 slices of whole wheat bread
2 ounces goat cheese, softened
2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.