In the kitchen at Roche Harbor, there has always been a connection with love and food but there has also been an obsession for the food of love. As a young cook, I was always amused by my first chef, Sally McArthur. When she was creating a new dish that sparked her fancy, she would declare, “Now that’s sexy.” How can food be sexy, some may ask?
The dating ritual of having a romantic dinner together on a first date may be more chemical than we might think. Falling in love produces a chemical that makes our bodies feel excited and that same aphrodisiac is created when we eat certain foods. Food such as dark chocolate, apples, almonds, and avocados contain a chemical that creates an excitement. Some foods may make us think loving thoughts like bananas, asparagus, and avocados that contain high levels of vitamin B. Spices, including cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, increase circulation and give us a rush. And then, there is always that good bottle of wine, which may provide a little relaxation and enhance the flavors of the dinner. With Valentine’s Day soon approaching, skip making a reservation at your favorite restaurant and surprise your special someone with a romantic meal prepared by you at home.
Preparing a romantic meal can be easier than you think. I remember my first romantic dinner when I was still in high school. My girlfriend, with the help of her mother, prepared a simple three-course dinner with a salad, entrée and dessert that I have never forgotten. The lights were low, and a single candle lit the decorative table, there was light jazz in the background or was it Journey; anyway, the evening was perfect and more memorable than a meal at the finest of restaurants. What I remember most about her menu was that it was mostly prepared in advance, which allowed her to focus her attention at the table and not in the kitchen.
I have prepared recipes for a three-course dinner that can be customized to your liking and allows you to personalize each dish, if you choose. These courses can also be shared on a single platter. Have fun with it and remember that you don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day to create your romantic memory.
Hand Salad of Romaine Hearts and Caesar Dressing
Directions: In a food processor, add two of the anchovy fillets, garlic and salt. Pulse until a paste forms. This can be done by hand using the side of a knife on cutting board or a mortar and pestle.
Add the egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, white pepper and Tabasco to the food processor and blend until it is light yellow. While the food processor is on, slowly drizzle small amounts of the olive oil into the egg mixture until it begins to thicken and turn glossy. Add a teaspoon of water and continue blending until the dressing is light and creamy. Add the Parmesan cheese and blend. Taste and add salt if needed. Remove from processor and store in refrigerated until needed. Using the food processor or mortar and pestle, combine one anchovy, chopped parsley and olive oil into a colorful oil.
Cut the root end of the romaine, remove all the large exterior leaves and discard. Search through the remaining leaves and choose leaves that no longer than 5 inches in length and 2 inches in width. Choose the best leaves as you will only need 7-8 leaves for the salad. Wash leaves in cold water and dry with a paper towel. Wrap leaves gently in food wrap and refrigerate until needed.
When ready to serve, paint the lower white half of each leaf, leaving 2 to 3 inches of the green leaf tip dry. Arrange the painted leaves on a chilled platter, then sprinkle each leaf with Asiago cheese, followed by bacon and tomato slices. Drizzle parsley-anchovy oil over the leaves and serve immediately.
Dungeness Crab Prawn Ravioli with Lemon Cream Sauce
Directions: In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add butter. When butter is melted, add spinach. Season with salt and pepper, then turn until spinach is wilted. Hold warm until use.
Heat butter and olive oil in sauce pan until butter is melted. Add minced garlic and simmer on low heat for 5 to 8 minutes or until garlic softens. Do not allow garlic to brown, this will make the sauce bitter.
Add cream, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Let sauce simmer for 20 minutes, let cream reduce by a volume of 25%. Stir sauce often during this process. Remove from heat, then stir to recombine butter and cream (this step helps prevent the butter from separating). Hold warm until needed.
In a large pan with salted water, add pasta and cook until al dente. Rinse with cold water and cut into six 4” x 4” pieces. In a large sauce pan over medium high heat, add olive oil. Season shrimp and salmon with salt and pepper. Add seafood to pan and cook until shrimp and salmon are cooked through. Deglaze pan with wine.
To build each ravioli stack, ladle 1 ounce of cream sauce in the center of each plate followed by a warm sheet of pasta. Divide the wilted spinach in half and arrange on top of the first sheets of pasta. Drizzle 1 ounce of cream sauce over the spinach. Place the second warm sheet of pasta over the spinach, followed by the cooked shrimp and salmon, then drizzle another ounce of cream sauce over seafood. Top with third warm sheet of pasta, followed by ¼ cup of cream sauce over each ravioli stack. Garnish with crab, Parmesan cheese, and basil. Serve immediately.
Bedside Ice Cream Sundae
Kahlúa Whip Creams
Directions: Using a stand mixer with a wire whip attachment, place whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla, and Kahlúa and Crème de Cacao in mixing bowl. Whip the cream mixture on medium speed until the cream thickens and forms peaks when lifted with a spoon. Set aside in refrigerator until needed.
Place a 24-oz. ceramic bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to chill. When the bowl is ice cold, ribbon 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup around the entire inside the bowl. Place two 4-oz scoops of espresso ice cream and two 4-oz scoops of your favorite ice cream flavor in bottom of bowl followed by chocolate shavings. Top the ice cream with the Kahlúa whip cream.
Sprinkle bite-sized pieces of your favorite sweet snacks over the sundae, then ribbon the sundae with a combination of caramel and chocolate syrup. Garnish the sundae with two biscotti cookies and serve with two spoons.