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Recipe for Romance

A Valentine Dinner for Two

1402_Cookin_1Choose a night this month, have the kids pack a picnic dinner to enjoy on the family room floor (baby carrots and chicken nuggets, anyone?) And the stage is set for a romantic dinner for two. While sharing the meal together would be a lovely gift idea, cooking it as a team might be just as romantic.

Simple Salad for Two
Whisk together 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tsp lemon juice, 3 Tbsp olive oil, and ¹/8 tsp pepper in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in ¼ cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives. Trim 1 medium fennel bulb and remove tough outer layer. Save the fennel fronds for garnish. Halve bulb lengthwise, then thinly slice lengthwise. Add fennel, ½ head of radicchio torn into small pieces, 6 to 8 mandarin orange segments (from a can, drained) and ¼ cup basil leaves to vinaigrette in bowl. Gently toss until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Divide into 2 bowls and garnish with the fennel fronds.

Champagne Asparagus Risotto
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place 4 slices of prosciutto on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Reserve for garnish. In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Cut asparagus on the bias into 1-in pieces and blanch in the chicken stock for 2 minutes. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon. Set aside and keep the chicken stock at a low simmer. In another medium saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp of unsalted butter. Add 1 finely chopped shallot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add ¾ cup Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter. Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly, for about 3 more minutes. Add ¾ cup champagne and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add ½ cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next until the rice is tender but Still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in the asparagus, 1 Tbsp butter, ¼ cup grated Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Garnish with crispy prosciutto.

Rack of Lamb with Roasted Potatoes with Warm Vinaigrette
Preheat oven to 375°F. Roast ½ pound fingerling potatoes, tossed in olive oil, for about 20 minutes. Cool and remove skins. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup olive oil with 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary. Pour half of the oil over the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and place back on sheet pan. Rub one 8-bone rack of lamb with the remaining olive oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper. In a heated sauté pan or on a hot grill, sear the lamb on all sides. Place the potatoes and lamb in the preheated oven (on separate pans). Combine 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar and 1 Tbsp minced shallots in a small bowl. When internal temperature of the lamb is 120°F, remove the lamb and let it cool for about 5 to 7 minutes. After 7 minutes take out potatoes. Pour the juices from the lamb into the bowl containing the shallots and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. While constantly whisking, slowly pour in ¼ cup of olive oil. Use vegetables of your choice and place next to potatoes. Slice lamb into 4 equal-sized pieces. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

Chocolate Fondue
Place 16 oz dark or semisweet chocolate, ½ pint whipping cream, ½ cup caramel topping and 3 Tbsp of your favorite liqueur (Chambord or Cointreau are good) in a fondue pot or small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is melted and smooth. Do not allow to bubble. Prepare an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods such as strawberries, bananas, apples, cherries, kiwi, pound cake, or marshmallows. Use fondue forks or wooden skewers to dip. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Christine Wansleben, chef and owner of Mise En Place Cooking School, lives in the West End, where she cooks up a storm with her husband and their twins.
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