A romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day doesn’t always mean going out to your favorite restaurant. You can avoid the rush and if you’ve failed to make reservations, avoid the wait! This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Thursday and you might want to celebrate the day of romance on the weekend instead with a lovely dinner together at home.
For a wine, you may want to choose one from Tuscany – “Super Tuscans” are an excellent choice, but for a truly exceptional wine for this special occasion, try a Brunello. Situated just below the area of Chianti lies the Brunello di Montalcino Wine Region, home to some of the most collectible and popular wines in all of Italy. With one of the warmest and driest climates in Tuscany, grapes from Montalcino produce complex and delicious wines of intense color and body, yet it has a lighter note than Chianti, perfect for a romantic dinner for two!
Heart Shaped Caprese Salad
For a romantic touch, take this refreshing salad and cut the mozzarella into heart shaped pieces
heart-shaped cookie cutter
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Slice the mozzarella into ¼” thick slices and cut with heart shaped cookie cutter to form a heart. Slice the tomatoes into ¼” thick pieces. Layer the mozzarella, tomato and basil on a platter. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Romantic Penne with Vodka Sauce
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
coarse salt and pepper
1 lb pasta penne rigate
½ cup heavy cream
20 fresh basil leaves, torn
Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic and shallots. Gently sauté shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan and cook to reduce by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes. Heat until sauce is bubbling and reduce flame to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente. Stir the cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves and serve in warmed bowls.
Veal Chops with Wine Reduction
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 thyme sprigs
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
2 12-ounce, bone-in veal rib chops
1 cups good red wine
1 large shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cups beef stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large shallow dish, combine half of the olive oil with the thyme sprigs and garlic. Add the veal chops and coat until covered; refrigerate overnight. In a medium saucepan, combine the wine with half of the shallots and boil until the wine has reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 15 minutes.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the remaining shallot and cook over a medium-high flame, stirring until golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour. Slowly whisk in the stock until the mixture is smooth, then bring to a boil, whisking until thickened. Whisk in the wine reduction and simmer over a low flame, whisking frequently for 30 minutes. Strain the sauce into the medium saucepan. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil until shimmering. Remove the veal chops from the marinade; discard the thyme and scrape off the garlic. Season the chops with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook over high flame until richly browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chops for about 10 minutes, turning once halfway through. The veal should be just pink in the center. Transfer the chops to plates and spoon the sauce on top.
Valentine Dessert for Two
In matters of love and dessert, the Italian tradition is to temper the sweetness to provide a layered experience that can be savored.
2 to 3 chocolate biscotti, crumbled
½ lb Mascarpone
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
8 oz fresh raspberries (set aside 4 raspberries )
juice of ½ lemon
4 tbsp of brandy
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
chocolate shaving or curls
Place raspberries into a small bowl, add the brown sugar and juice of ½ lemon, along with 1 tablespoon of brandy. Mix together and lightly crush. Set aside. In another bowl, add the mascarpone, 3 tablespoons of brandy and the powdered sugar. Gently whisk together. Beat the heavy cream to a soft peek and fold into the mascarpone mixture. In two eight-ounce dessert glasses, place half of the crumbled chocolate biscotti into each glass as the bottom layer, then half of the raspberry mixture on top of that. Finally, add half of the mascarpone mixture into each glass. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Top with chocolate curls, fresh whole raspberries and mint leaf.