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Nothing Spells Romance More Than A Homecooked Valentine’s Day Dinner

Picture the scene. A cozy table set for two. Warm lighting, fresh flowers. You’re in the kitchen, searing the steak, the wine is chilling, and the salad is tossed and ready. The doorbell rings, your sweetheart arrives. Yes, Valentine’s evening has begun. To cook dinner for two on Valentine’s Day makes it a special occasion neither of you will forget. But how to do it without being too clichéd (everyone else has done it) or overwhelmed (I’m no cook!)? To create a D.I.Y. romantic dinner that even the ordinary, kitchen-phobic home cook can handle without too many mistakes, we decided to turn to Chef Celine de los Angeles-Escaler of Stockton Place to create a lovely French bistro menu inspired by her honeymoon in Paris. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be a great dinner. If the soufflé won’t rise, just dress it up with strawberries from the salad you were cutting up earlier, or scoop some ice cream on top of it. Relax and be good company.

 

Mixed Greens with Glazed Pecans, Strawberries, Crumbled Goat Cheese and Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette 

 

Serves 2 to 4

  • 1/2 cup pecan halves 
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup    
  • pinch of salt   
  • 8 cups mesclun greens           
  • 6 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
  • 12 strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced   

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.       

2. In a small bowl, toss pecans with maple syrup and salt until evenly coated. Spread pecans in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets. Roast in the preheated oven until the syrup bubbles vigorously, about 5 minutes. Immediately scrape the pecans onto the other prepared baking sheet and spread into a single layer. Let cool.           

3. Place the greens in a large salad bowl. Whisk vinaigrette (recipe below) again, then add to the greens little by little until salad is adequately dressed.    

4. Add goat cheese, strawberries, and glazed pecans and toss once more. Serve immediately. 

           

VINAIGRETTE:

  • 1 small garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt           
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper  
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup          
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard    
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar         
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil   

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

           

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Glazed Chestnuts

Serves 2 to 4

  • 1 kilo butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided     
  • salt and pepper, to taste         
  • 12 whole chestnuts, peeled    
  • 1 tablespoon butter    
  • 1 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream, plus 4 teaspoons reserved for garnish        
  • minced chives, for garnish    

1. Combine squash, 4 cups of stock, salt and pepper in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium low and cook, covered, until squash is very tender, around 15 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the chunks.

2. Put peeled chestnuts in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of stock, butter, salt and pepper over medium heat, covered, until the liquid is just about gone, about 10 minutes.  

3. Add remaining 1/4 cup of stock and cook until chestnuts are glazed and tender, about 20 minutes total. Turn off the heat.   

4. Carefully purée cooked squash in a blender with enough stock to allow blender to run. Mixture should be very smooth.

5. Combine puréed squash with stock remaining in the saucepan and whisk until smooth or once desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in crème fraîche or sour cream and reheat.      

6. Put chestnuts in each of the bowls and cover with the squash soup. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream and minced chives.  

   

Pan-seared Steak with Red Wine and Garlic Sauce     

 

   

Serves 2

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 boneless rib-eye steaks, approximately 500 grams and 1-inch thick         
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil        
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided 
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced      
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons red wine, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon    
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley        

1. Sprinkle salt and pepper over rib-eye steaks.

2. Place canola oil and 2 1/2 tablespoons butter in a skillet on medium-high heat. When butter melts, turn heat to high and add steaks. Cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side for rare. (For medium, cook for 5 to 6 minutes each side, and for well done, cook for 7 to 8 minutes each side.) Turn off heat and transfer steaks to a warm platter or low oven.

3. Drain fat off the pan and return to stove over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of remaining butter to pan. When it melts, add garlic then turn the heat up slightly. When garlic starts to brown, about 5 minutes, add 2 cups of red wine and turn heat to high. Reduce to 2/3 of the amount until mixture becomes thick. Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter. When it melts, add parsley and remaining 2 tablespoons red wine.

4. Add cooked steaks plus any remaining steak juices to the red wine sauce. Turn steaks once or twice. Serve with buttered vegetables, brown rice, or your choice of sidings.           

           

Chocolate Soufflé

Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided, plus more to coat ramekins        
  • 1/4 cup whole milk    
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract   
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder  
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • butter, for coating ramekins  
  • 2 tablespoons egg whites       
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting       

1. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, milk, and vanilla extract in a saucepan and bring to a boil.         

2. Meanwhile, sift cocoa powder and cornstarch into a bowl. Gradually mix cocoa mixture into the hot milk mixture. Stirring constantly, cook until chocolate mixture is thick and returns to a boil. Strain through a sieve and into a bowl and place on top of an ice bath to cool.            

3. While chocolate mixture is cooling, preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 2 ramekins and dust with granulated sugar, tapping out any excess. Arrange on a baking sheet.

4. Place egg whites in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer, gradually adding remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Continue to whisk until soft peaks form.

5. Gently fold 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture until lightened, then fold in remaining egg whites. 

6. Divide batter among the ramekins. Tap ramekins to release air pockets. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven or until fluffy and risen. 

7. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately. You can also serve with a berry compote, fresh berries, or vanilla ice cream, combining as you wish.

 

 

A longer version of this article first appeared in FOOD Magazine, February 2014 issue

Recipes by Celine de los Angeles

Photography by Terry Uy

Styling by Angelo Comsti