Valentine's Day!

You know, I think the Valentine's gift I remember most, was one I got when I was about 15 from my then steady boyfriend. He gave me a bottle of Prince Matchabelli "something or other" and a silver filigree locket. When I was straightening out my jewelry box a couple of months ago, I found that filigree locket. It still had his picture in it . . . and it still did "something" to my heart.

Well, I didn't marry him, I married a wonderful man that I've been with for 23 years, 20 of them as his wife. And through it all, I have to say that whatever else I do for him, the kitchen is the place where he most appreciates my talents. (That's not to say that other rooms in the house are lacking. It just means that the shortest way to any man's heart is through his stomach!)

Just before I started to put down ideas for this article, I did a quick search through my favourite search engine -- http://www.dogpile.com -- to see what I could see. Boy oh boy did I get info! From a simple query -- valentine's recipes -- I got pages and pages of links. Now, some of them were just dreck, but the actual hits were very interesting.

For instance:
The Valentine's Day Collection at http://www.ok.bc.ca/TEN/valentine/valentine.html. Also check out The Valentine's Day Site at the miningco.com. They have all kinds of links for this most romantic commemorative day. Try Food as Foreplay, Love Bytes, Romantic Menus or Seductive Recipes from Bon Appetit.

By far my favourite was http://www.hallmark.com. Go to their Seasons and Reasons site and take the quiz or read up on some facts, find out how to impress your lover and lots more!

Just in case you don't feel like surfing the web for your Valentine's Day feast, here's what I'll be making for my sweetie -- as soon as I get rid of the kids. LOL

Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp with Four Chile Salsa

  • 12 raw extra jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 12 slices cured pancetta, the unrolled kind if possible
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp chili oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 medium ancho chiles
  • 2 large habanero chiles
  • 2 large cubanelle chiles
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp Tequila
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh jalapenos, stemmed and chopped
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup minced cilantro

Combine the 1/2 cup lime juice, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp cilantro and 1/2 tbsp oregano. Stir in shrimp and allow to marinate 1 hour. After marinating, drain the marinade and wrap the shrimp in the pancetta slice, securing with a toothpick. If you are using the rolled pancetta, fold the slices in half first. Broil until the shrimp just turn pink and serve with Four Chile Salsa for dipping.

To make the salsa: In a large cast iron skillet, place the ancho, habanero and cubanelle chiles. Toast until they are starting to soften but have not browned. This should take no more than 5 minutes. Remove them from the skillet and stem and seed them. Chop into medium sized pieces and set aside. Broil the tomatoes until charred and core and roughly chop them. In a blender or food processor, the tomatoes, peels and juices, the chiles and all other ingredients except the cilantro. Process until smooth. If it seems too thick, add some more lime juice. Refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Allow it to come to room temperature, stir in the cilantro, adjust seasoning and serve.

  • Yields: Appetizer for 2, 2 1/2 cups salsa
  • Preparation Time: Shrimp: 1/2 hour; salsa: only God knows for sure!

Tomato Bocconcini Salad

  • 2 of the most unblemished leaves of radicchio you can find, large enough to cover
  • the bottom of a salad plate (use 2 for each plate if necessary)
  • 3 small ripe tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
  • 5 fresh bocconcini, cut in quarters
  • 1 green Thai chile, cut into rings
  • handful of fresh basil, chiffonade (rolled up and cut into thin shreds)
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, leaves only
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (dark)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard

Combine oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard in a sealable container and shake to blend well. On two salad plates, arrange the radicchio leaves. Using the radicchio as a bowl, divide the tomato and bocconcini wedges between the two servings. Sprinkle with chile rings, basil shreds and oregano leaves. Drizzle generously with dressing (you'll probably have excess dressing) and serve with a nice crusty bread.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Steamed Mussels Roxie

This is a dish I put together and posted to my mailing list quite a while ago. Each time I make it, the recipe changes slightly!
  • 3 dozen mussels, scrubbed and bearded
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 slices ginger, minced
  • 4 - 6 jalapeno peppers, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • the following ingredients are all in 1/2 cup quantities and diced
  • red onion
  • leek
  • carrot
  • celery
  • zucchini
  • red pepper
  • tomato
  • parsley
  • basil

In a pot large enough to accommodate the mussels with room to open, melt butter over high heat, add onion, leek and shallot till translucent, then add garlic, hot peppers and ginger. Allow to cook till slightly wilted, then add, carrot, celery and red pepper. Cook 5 minutes more, then add tomato and zucchini. Continue cooking until tomato begins to break down, add parsley and basil, salt and pepper to taste, bay leaves and white wine. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add mussels and continue simmering until all the mussels have opened. This should take a few minutes.

Remove from pot and serve with crusty bread and a simple saffron risotto on the side. Hubby likes to spoon the pot vegetables and juices over his rice. Yummmmmm!

  • Yields: 2 very healthy portions
  • Preparation Time: Approx 45 minutes

Balsamic Berries

Well, since the other recipes were a little labour intensive, I thought we'd go for something really different for dessert, and easy too!
  • 1 pint strawberries (or more if you mind sharing), hulled and halved
  • 1 tbsp fine sugar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate at least an hour.

These are great by themselves, or with a Kirsch flavoured whipped cream, or with some creme fraiche spooned over them, or -- and this is my favourite way -- spooned over Haagen Daas Caramel Cone Explosion Ice Cream! Ooooo I can hardly wait!

  • Yields: 2 portions
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes
So, now you have all kinds of Valentine's info rambling around your brain. The menu is set. All that's missing is the special guest. I know who I'm inviting. Who's going to be your guest?

I wish you all the most romantic and fulfilling of Valentine's Days. May you each find the true meaning with your own very special someone.

TTFN and hugs!

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