Friday, February 03, 2012

Start thinking about St. Valentine's Day....

Instead of going out to eat (ahem, it's already too late for reservations at most places) you should make your sweetie a home-cooked meal.  I'll be tossing out menu and recipe ideas here and there before the holiday so you can start planning.

How about linguine with lemon-garlic shrimp, broccoli rabe with balsamic vinegar, and ganache-frosted brownies.  Easy enough for a novice in the kitchen but high on the impressive scale.  Don't forget some flowers!  (Please, unless they love red roses, why don't you think outside the box?  Irises, tulips, peonies, something a little different!  Just not yellow roses, unless you really are "just friends.")

Linguine with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp-- serves 2-3

Kosher salt
1/2 lb. dried thin linguine (try whole wheat!)
1 lemon
1 lb. extra-large (26 to 30 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined
black pepper
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced (1 Tbsp.)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (optional, if you're cutting weight, but adds a nice creaminess)
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced chives
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the linguine in the boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve about 3/4 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, finely zest/grate the whole lemon (a microplane zester works best for getting the yellow part without the bitter white pith) and squeeze 2 Tbs. of juice. Toss the shrimp with 1 tsp. of the zest and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper.  Save the rest of the zest.

In a 12-inch skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until the foam subsides. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic just begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add the shrimp and cook until just opaque, about 3 minutes, then remove shrimp to a plate. Add the wine and lemon juice, bring to a boil, and cook until slightly reduced, 1 minute.

Add the drained pasta, mascarpone, and 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Toss well, adding more cooking water as needed, until the pasta is coated and the sauce looks creamy. Remove from the heat. Toss in the shrimp and the remaining lemon zest and the chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Broccoli Rabe with Balsamic Vinegar-- serves 3-4

1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
1 large bunch broccoli rabe (1 lb.), thick stems trimmed, leaves and florets rinsed well
4 medium cloves garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely chopped (Even if you think you don’t like anchovies, don’t leave them out—their flavor blends into the background and gives the dish a savory edge that is absolutely delicious.)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
black pepper
In a small saucepan, boil the vinegar over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Have a large bowl of ice water ready.  Blanch the broccoli rabe in the boiling water for 3 minutes (the water needn’t return to a boil). Drain it and transfer to the ice water to cool. Drain well and gently squeeze the broccoli rabe to remove excess water.

Heat the garlic and oil in a large skillet over medium heat until the garlic begins to turn golden, 2 minutes; remove and discard the garlic. Add the anchovies, mashing them with the back of a wooden spoon until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the broccoli rabe and cook, stirring often, until tender and heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Drizzle with the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter and serve.

You can reduce the vinegar and blanch the broccoli rabe up to 6 hours ahead. Leave the vinegar at room temperature and refrigerate the broccoli rabe, returning it to room temperature before finishing the dish.

Ganache-frosted Brownies

Buy a box mix and bake a pan of brownies a day in advance.  Trust me, the frosting makes the most mundane brownies over-the-moon good.  Or do chocolate cupcakes, like I did in the picture above, or a cake.

9 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, chopped (note: the higher quality the chocolate, the nicer the ganache, so use Callebaut, Ghirardelli, Valrhona, or Scharffen Berger, if you can, but even chocolate chips in the grocery store will work.)

1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum or cognac (optional- can also use vanilla extract)
Place the chocolate into a medium bowl (the bowl for a stand mixer is ideal). Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. 
When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rum/vanilla. Allow the ganache to cool in the fridge until it's thick, then whip with a hand mixer or stand mixer until light and fluffy.  Spread over your brownies and enjoy.

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