Sunday, February 14, 2010

Inter Courses: A Special Valentine's Dinner

I received a cookbook from my friend Jessica at one of my bridal showers and it is titled "Inter Courses:  An Aphrodisiac Cookbook".  When unwrapping the book, I immediately felt my face turn red.  Jessica knows I like to cook and experiment in the kitchen and, title aside, this is a great cookbook full of unique, flavorful, and healthy recipes to be shared with your hubby (or wifey if you're a man-cook).  After the wedding, Matt and I went through the book marking recipes we wanted to try, but I never got around to making any of them for whatever reason.  When Valentine's Day rolled around I figured this would be a perfect time to create an extra special dinner. 

We usually don't go too crazy celebrating Valentine's Day, especially because our anniversary is the next month.  However, this being our first married Valentine's Day, it just felt extra special.  My Maverick did surprise me with my favorite flowers at work (which he usually does :), Godiva chocolate, and a pair of teal sweat pants from Gilly Hicks (warning: this is a sister company of Abercrombie and Fitch, so the picture on their website is a lot like those adds).  I redeemed myself after the "sugar-free heart-shaped peep incident of 2009" and got Matt some full-of-sugar heart-shaped peeps, along with a stainless steel water bottle he's been wanting. 

(My camera is not too conducive to great food photography :)

Artichoke and Scallop Kebabs
The cookbook warns that this recipe contains "multiple aphrodisiac ingredients".  Chiles and peppers are supposed to get the "blood rushing, the heart pumping, the face flushing, and the pores sweating - all reactions strangely familiar to what one can experience with anything from a good-night kiss to ..."
Artichokes:  "Tough green leaves, each armed with its own thorn, stand on guard.  They rally their strength to make one tightly woven bud, protecting the exquisite beauty found inside their walls".  I am not going to quote the rest of the description of the artichoke, nor the description for scallops...not only do they make me blush, but I'd also like to keep this blog G-rated :)
  • 1 lg tomato, minced
  • 1 sm onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 sm jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 med-size zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 (9 oz) jar quartered artichoke hearts, drained, oil reserved
  • 2 oz fresh sea scallops or shrimp, rinsed (Me thinks the author of this cookbook may have been a little high with aphrodsia...2 oz is probably only 2 scallops, so I got 8 scallops, 5 for Matt and 3 for me. Which was 0.85 pounds.)
  • 2 tsp lime juice
Place tomato, onion, garlic, jalapeno, juice of 1/2 lime, cilantro, sugar, salt, and pepper.  Mix well and let flavors meld at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. If using wooden skewers, pre-soak in water for about 15 minutes. 

Alternate the zucchini, artichoke, and scallops on the skewers.  Brush with reserved oil and 2 tsp lime juice.  Grill over hot coals for 6-8 minutes (I used our gas grill), turning occasionally, or until scallops are opaque.  Serve with salsa.

Strawberry Pasta
"Not your traditional red sauce", and actually it turns out pink.
No need for me to quote the cookbook on this fruit.  We all know the romantic quality linked to strawberries, especially when dipped in chocolate. This dish sounded so odd at first, but I just had to try it out.  Not knowing what to expect, I have to tell you "try it!!". 
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 lb spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Mint sprigs for garnish
Puree strawberries in a blender.  Strain to remove seeds (not completely necessary, I skipped this and the seeds were not even noticeable). Cook spaghetti using the package directions; drain and toss with the cheese. 

Heat the butter and cream in a small saucepan.  Move the pasta to a serving bowl, cover with strawberries, and then the butter sauce.  Toss well.  Serve with additional cheese and garnish with mint.

Chocolate-stuffed Crescent Rolls
There is a scientific explanation as to why we go gaga for chocolate..."Besides the jolt of caffeine served up in a piece of chocolate, this savory candy also contains PEA, or phenylethylaine, the very same molecule that courses through the veins of one who is in love. Conbine our internal stores of this natural amphetamine with chocolate, and one only heightens that giddy sensation known as love." 
  • 2 ounces bittersweat chocolate
  • 1 (4-count) package crescent rolls (I could only find 8-count, and took that as a sign I was supposed to double the recipe...worth doubling in our opinion)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
Cut chocolate into 4 pieces about 3 inches long.  Unfold the crescent roll dough.  Place 1 piece of chocolate at the wide end of each piece of dough and roll up.  Place on lightly greased baking sheet.

Mix egg yolk, milk, and sugar in a small bowl.  Brush on the rolls, then bake according to package directions.  Cool for 15 minutes before serving (you will burn your mouth if you don't practice patience and wait, and this may ruin your romantic evening).

Happy Valentine's Day!

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