By Barbara Beltrami
If you’re one of those lucky people for whom Valentine’s Day means three dozen long-stemmed red roses delivered at work, dinner at a high-end restaurant with candlelight, Champagne and violinists and a gift in a very tiny box, don’t read any further. For the rest of us, there are any number of things I could write about for Valentine’s Day, but given that it’s tomorrow, I suspect that a few recipes for a sinfully scrumptious sexy dinner for two would be most welcome. So let’s first chill a bottle of Champagne; then start with some oysters (you know what they say about them!) on the half shell with a raspberry vinegar mignonette; next we’ll do a pasta with lots of juicy chunks of lobster; and then finally individual chocolate soufflés. Set a little table by the fireplace, light some candles and voila! What a romantic evening it’s going to be!
Raspberry Vinegar Mignonette
YIELD: Makes about ⅓-½ cup.
¼ cup white or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
½ tablespoon coarsely ground fresh pepper
Pinch of salt
In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Cover and let sit 20 to 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Serve with fresh chilled oysters on the half shell and French bread with unsalted butter.
Cappellini with Lobster and Shitake Mushrooms
YIELD: Makes 2 servings.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, chopped
6 oz. shitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons cream
½ pound cappellini
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Cooked meat from one 1½-pound lobster, cut into bite-size pieces
Heat a large deep skillet over medium heat; add oil, shallot, garlic and mushrooms and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes; do not let garlic burn. Remove mushrooms and set aside to keep warm; add salt and pepper, tomato puree and cream, stir to combine thoroughly, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil; add cappellini and cook 1 minute less than recommended time on package. Reserving half a cup of cooking water, drain pasta and transfer to skillet with sauce in it; toss to combine; add pasta water as needed if sauce seems too thick; toss again. Stir in basil, parsley, lobster and mushrooms; simmer until everything is heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with a chilled chardonnay.
Mini Chocolate Soufflés
YIELD: Makes 2 servings.
1½ teaspoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour
¼ cup + 1 teaspoon cold milk
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar
3 teaspoons sugar
Preheat oven to 375 F; line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush bottoms and sides of two 5-ounce ramekins with melted butter; coat bottoms and sides with sugar; pour off excess. Place chocolate pieces in double boiler over hot but not boiling or even simmering water over low heat. In a small-medium skillet over medium heat melt tablespoon butter and whisk in flour until mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and whisk in milk until mixture is smooth, thick and creamy, about 3 minutes.
Remove skillet from heat and transfer mixture to bowl with melted chocolate. Add salt and egg yolk and mix thoroughly; leave bowl over hot but not boiling or even simmering water while you beat egg whites. Place egg whites and cream of tartar in mixing bowl and whisk until mixture begins to thicken but doesn’t form peaks. Whisk in 1 teaspoon sugar, then remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, one at a time, every 15 seconds; continue whisking until mixture forms soft peaks, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Gently fold half the egg whites into chocolate mixture to combine thoroughly, about 1 or 2 minutes; repeat with remaining egg whites until they are no longer visible. Divide mixture between two ramekins and place them on baking sheet. Bake until they are puffy on top and have risen above rims of ramekins, about 12 to 15 minutes. Serve hot with a dollop of whipped cream and a glass of liqueur.