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 directly on Ash Wednesday – a day for many to abstain from eating meat. You might want to celebrate the day of romance on the weekend instead with a lovely dinner together and enjoy the company of the one you love. We have selected recipes for a delicious five course dinner – six if you make both desserts!
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!
Italian-Style Oyster Rockefeller
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1 shallot chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 bunch chopped spinach
- 1 oz Sambuca
- salt and pepper to taste
- dash red pepper sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano
- 1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
- 1 dozen oysters with oyster juice
- rock salt, if using the half shell
- lemon wedges
- crumbled bacon for topping (optional)
Have the fishmonger open the oyster shells for you when purchased. Melt butter in a skillet. Sauté the garlic for 2 minutes to infuse the butter. Place the bread crumbs and half the Parmigiano cheese in a mixing bowl and half the garlic butter; set aside. Add the remaining butter to the skillet with the chopped shallot and celery. Cook until the shallot and celery are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and continue to cook another 3 minutes. Deglaze pan with Sambuca. Season with salt and pepper and add a dash of red pepper sauce. Allow the mixture to cook down for a few minutes. Finish off the bread crumbs by mixing in olive oil, Parmigiano and parsley, season with salt and pepper. Coat the oyster half shell with oil. Place one oyster with some of its juice in each shell. Cover each oyster with the spinach mixture. Spoon the bread crumb mixture over the spinach. Sprinkle a baking pan amply with the rock salt. Arrange the oysters in the salt to steady them. Bake in a preheated 450° F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden. Serve with lemon wedges and red pepper sauce.
Heart Shaped Caprese Salad
For a romantic touch, take this refreshing salad and cut the mozzarella into heart shaped pieces
- fresh mozzarella
- fresh basil
- heart-shaped cookie cutter
- extra virgin olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- sea salt
- 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.
Hearts of Palm Salad
- 2 bunches arugula, washed and dried
- 2 small ripe tomatoes
- 2 stalks hearts of palm
- 1 medium avocado
- juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 oz Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved
- pine nuts
Tear arugula into small pieces and set aside. Cut tomatoes into ½ inch cubes and then cut hearts of palm into ½ inch rounds, cut crosswise. Cut the avocado into ¼ wedges, drizzle and with the juice of ½ lemon. On two salad plates, arrange the arugula, top with tomatoes, followed by a layer of hearts of palm. Top the salad with avocado wedges and drizzle with oil and add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the shaved Parmigiano and some pine nuts. Enjoy!
Blushing Angel Hair Pasta
- 12 oz angel hair pasta
- 28-ounce can imported Italian peeled tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, minced
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- ½ cup artichoke hearts, chopped
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 2 oz 100-proof vodka
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 6 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano finely-grated
- tablespoon sea salt
Drain and reserve the juice from the tomatoes. Place the drained tomatoes in a colander and crush into pulpy pieces. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium flame. Add the onion, basil, oregano, pepper flakes and salt; sauté until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, vodka and sun dried tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 3 minutes. Slowly stir in the cream and add the artichoke hearts. Heat until it reaches a gentle simmer and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Stir in the Parmigiano and simmer for another minute. Cover and turn the heat off. Cook the angel hair pasta; drain. Add the sauce to the the pasta and toss until well-coated. Serve immediately.
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 Parfait 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
- mint leaves
- 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.
Italian Red Velvet Cake
- 1 stick butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cup flour
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup coconut
- 1 cup oil or ½ cup shortening
- 5 eggs, separated
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- ½ stick butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 8 oz Mascarpone
- ½ cup chopped pecans
For the cake – Blend the butter and oil with the sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Sift flour and baking soda and then alternately add it with the milk to the egg yolk mixture. Fold in coconut and nuts. Very gently fold in the stiff egg whites and place the mixture in 3 greased and floured pans. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Let cool for 20 – 30 minutes; remove from the cake pans.
For the frosting – Blend the butter, powdered sugar and mascarpone until smooth; then add the nuts.
To assemble – Gently spread a layer of frosting on top of a layer of the cake and place another layer on top. Repeat the frosting for each layer and then finish the frosting for the sides of the cake.