Cook up some love on Valentine’s Day

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2011

Most women want to go out to eat on Valentine’s Day. But in the past years, it has become a hassle, since the restaurants generally are filled. This year Valentine’s is on a Monday, so I guess the weekend before will be the busy one. Since it is on a Monday, I thought a little menu with a simple soup (albeit a valentine red one!), a beef and wine pie (it’s still cold outside and some comfort food is in order) and of course, little chocolate molten cakes would be in order. That is what I am serving. I will eat out another day!

From Bon Appétite, February 2005:

Roasted Beet Soup with Crème Fraîche

2 first-course servings

½ pound red beets (about 3 medium)

1 ½ teaspoons butter

1 leek (white and pale green parts only), chopped

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, chopped

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 cups water

1 small bay leaf

1 fresh thyme sprig

1 fresh parsley sprig

¼ cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap beets in foil and roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Cut ¼ of one beet in ¼-inch cubes, reserve for garnish. Cut remaining beets into ½-inch pieces.

Melt butter with oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leek, onion and celery and cook until beginning to brown, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes.

Stir in ginger, allspice, white pepper, and ½ -inch beet pieces. Cook until vegetables begin to stick to bottom of pot, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Add 2 cups water, bay leaf, thyme sprig, and parsley sprig. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove bay leaf, thyme sprig, and parsley sprig. Cool soup slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender with cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Can be made one day ahead. Cool slightly and refrigerate.

Gently rewarm soup (do not boil). Divide between two bowls. Garnish each with 1 tablespoon of crème fraîche or sour cream. To dress up the soup, spoon the tablespoons of sour cream or crème fraîche into a corner of a resealable plastic bag. Cut off the corner and pipe a heart shape atop each bowl of soup. This is tricky for me.

This next recipe is from my Scottish cookbook called, Scottish Cookery, which I purchased last summer in Scotland.

Beef and Wine Pie

Serves 4

1 ½ pound stewing beef, cubed (pasteurized beef if possible)

4 tablespoons seasoned plain flour

2 tablespoons sunflower oil (can use canola)

2 onions, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme

½ pint red wine

¼ pint beef stock

1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon butter

8 oz. button mushrooms

8 oz. ready-made flaky pastry, chilled (puff pastry can be used)

beaten egg or milk, to glaze

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the beef cubes in the seasoned flour.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan. Fry the beef in batches for about five minutes until golden brown.

Return all of the beef to the pan and add the onions, garlic and thyme. Fry for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the beef begins to stick, add a little water.

Add the red wine and stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, tomato ketchup and bay leaves. Cover and simmer on a very low heat for about an hour until the beef is tender.

Heat the butter and gently sauté the mushrooms until golden brown. Add to the stew. Simmer uncovered for a further 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Spoon the beef into a 2-pint pie dish and reserve.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface. Cut out the lid to ¼-inch wider than the dish. Brush the rim with the beaten egg and lay the pastry lid on top. Press to seal, then knock the edges with the back of a knife.

If you have some left over pastry, roll into sticks, sprinkle with paprika and Parmesan cheese; bake and serve with the soup.

Cut a slit in the lid and brush with the beaten egg or milk to glaze. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

What would Valentine’s Day be without some chocolate? This is one of my favorite chocolate desserts.

This recipe is from Saveur magazine, Jan./ Feb. 2011.

Molten Chocolate Cakes

Serves 6

2 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 tbsp. dark rum

3 tbsp. heavy cream

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

¼ cup flour, plus more for dusting

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate

½ cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¼ tsp. kosher salt

3 eggs

Confectioners’ sugar

Place semi sweet chocolate and rum in a small bowl; set aside. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer; pour over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Slowly stir until smooth, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled. Divide chocolate mixture into 6 portions. Shape each portion into a ball; refrigerate until chilled.

Heat oven to 425°F. Grease bottom and sides of six 6-oz. ramekins with butter and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside on a baking dish. Heat butter and bittersweet chocolate in a small saucepan over medium heat until just melted; remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes. In a large bowl, beat together sugar, vanilla, salt, and eggs with a hand mixer on medium-high speed until thick and pale, for three to four minutes. Beat in melted chocolate mixture; add flour and mix until smooth. Divide half the batter between prepared ramekins and place a chilled ball in center of each; top with remaining batter and smooth tops. Bake until just set, 15 minutes. Let cool two to three minutes.

To serve, run a paring knife around edge of ramekins and invert cakes onto six serving plates. Dust with confectioners’ and serve immediately.

Happy Valentine’s!