An Italian Supper of Romance

Back in January, I shared with you a wonderful menu for Valentine’s Day that was all about the romance of surf and turf. What is it about a beefy steak and a sweet, succulent lobster tail that just naturally belong together? If your budget is like mine these days, why spend a small fortune to have someone cook something that you can do at home, for a lot less money and a lot more personal style. (And by style I mean you can come to the table in your PJs if you are so incline).

Then I got to thinking. While some of us love the combination of steak and lobster, not everyone does. No, really. There are people out there that don’t eat red meat or things that once swam in the ocean. To each their own. For my vegetarian friends, sorry, but I’m just not into creating truly vegetarian menus. I do create meatless dishes for my Catholic Fridays, but often those include seafood of some sort. And those that don’t swim do contain some form of animal product such as cheese or butter or eggs or – well, you get the picture.

For those who do not want a steak and lobster Valentine’s Supper, may I suggest my Chicken Piccata? I’ve shared the recipe with you before, so be sure to follow the link. I’ve coupled this awesome Lemon-Wine chicken with asparagus, another dish from the past. But don’t worry, I’ve come up with some new offerings to tantalize the taste buds. I’ve got a real “strawberry fields forever” thing going on. Since neither the salad nor dessert take a whole basket of strawberries, I’ve brought the two together for one special evening. No sense in wasting fresh, sweet strawberries, right?

So take a gander at this Romantic Menu and please let me know your thoughts. I love hearing from you.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Supper of Romance
The Appetizer
Baked Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli

The Main Entrée
Chicken Piccata
Roasted Asparagus with Tomatoes and Feta
Angel Hair Pasta with Garlic-Parmesan Butter

The Salad
Spinach Salad with Candied Walnuts and Strawberries

The Dessert
Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Ganache and Berries

The Recipes:

Baked Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli
Lemon Aioli
1 cup of good quality mayo
Meyer Lemon Juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Lemon, sliced for garnish

In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise with a little lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Cover and keep chilled until ready to serve with the crab cakes.

Slice a lemon into thin slices or wedges for a garnish. Set aside until ready to serve.

Crab Cakes
1/2 lb. of cooked jumbo lump crab
1/4 cup Celery,
1 or 2 Shallots
1/4 cup Red Bell Pepper
2 tablespoons fresh Parsley
1 tablespoon of fresh Basil
3 tablespoons Mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup of Panko Breadcrumbs
1/2 Lemon zested
Creole Seasoning to taste

Spray a small baking sheet or pie tin with olive oil spray. Do not use parchment or foil. Set aside until ready to use.

Gently flake crab meat, removing any shells. Set aside. Chop celery, shallots and red pepper. Set aside. Chop the parsley and basil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard . Zest the lemon directly into the mixture. Season with Creole seasoning.

Fold in the celery, shallots, red pepper,  parsley and basil and panko breadcrumbs. Gently fold in the lump crab meat until everything is evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Place mixture into refrigerator for 20 minutes, setting a timer to remind you to remove after the chill time. This allows the panko to set up and hold everything together.

Meanwhile, set the oven to heat to 500 degrees.

Using a 3-inch ring mold filled almost to the top, form and pack down the crab cakes directly on the prepared pan.

Place them into the very hot oven for 8 minutes. Do not touch or flip cakes during this time. After the 8 minutes of baking time, remove cakes from the oven. Allow cakes to rest on the hot pan for one more minute before removing.

Using a fish spatula carefully lift the crab cake gently off the pan. When plating the cakes, flip them over so that the deeper golden side is now facing up.

Garnish with aioli and some parsley if desired for color. Arrange lemon slices or wedges on the serving platter in an attractive way. Serve and enjoy.

Chicken Piccata
6 boneless, skinless THIN-cut chicken breasts
3 tablespoons Capers, drained and rinsed
1 large Red Onion, sliced into rings
1 large lemon, cut into 6 thin slices
6 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
4 Eggs
2 cups Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons Olive Oil, divided in batches
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 cup White Wine
2-1/2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
1/2 cup Butter

Tip: It’s best to use THIN sliced chicken breasts; that way you are good to go and there won’t be the need to take your frustrations out on the chicken.  However; if using plump boneless breasts, you’ll need to get them thin – no more than 1/4″ inch thick.  This can be accomplished one of three ways – get your butcher to do it.  Take the chicken home; freeze it until firm, then slice it yourself (much like a butterfly cut only all the way through. Three breast cut in half will give you the six you need).  OR you can beat the heck out of the poor breasts.  To do this, place the breasts; one at a time; between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound with the flat end of a meat mallet.  Just be careful that the flesh doesn’t tear.

Drain and rise capers well. Set aside. Peel onion, cut into rings and set aside. Cut lemon into 6 slices, set aside.

Whisk Dijon mustard and eggs in a glass pie pan. Place bread crumbs in another pie pan.  Set pans aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. While pan heats, dip chicken into mustard mixture. Allow any excess to drip back into the pie pan. Then roll breast into bread crumbs. Add chicken to skillet and cook for 3 minutes per side or until browned and cooked through. You will want to cook the chicken in two batches to avoid over-crowding of the pan.

Remove the chicken to a baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken and Piccata sauce. Keep warm in a 300-degree oven. Add remaining olive oil to skillet. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts – dip; bread and brown. Place in oven to keep warm.

To the now empty skillet; add chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, capers, butter, salt, pepper and red onions to skillet. Bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until onions are tender.

Remove chicken from oven and pour sauce over the breasts. Arrange lemon slices on top of chicken. Cover chicken with foil, return to the oven until ready to serve. It’s best to allow chicken to sit in liquid for at least 15 minutes to soak in flavors before serving. 

Roasted Asparagus with Bursting Tomatoes and Feta
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful Small Tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup crumbled feta

Snap woody ends from each asparagus spear. Set aside.

Heat broiler to high.

Cover a baking sheet with foil. Spread trimmed asparagus evenly on the sheet pan. Drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.

Place baking sheet under the broiler about 4 inches from heat and broil for 3 minutes. Remove pan and give it a quick shake to rotate the asparagus. Add small tomatoes and sprinkle everything with fresh thyme leaves. Place under the broiler until tomatoes beginning to blister, about 3 minutes longer.

Arrange asparagus and tomatoes on a serving platter. Sprinkle with feta and enjoy.

Angel Hair Pasta with Garlic-Parmesan Butter
1/2 lb Angel Hair Pasta
4-5 Garlic Cloves, minced
4 Tablespoons Butter, melted
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
Chopped Parsley, for garnish

Fill large pasta pot with salted water. Heat on high to rapid boil, lower temperature to a rolling boil and maintain until ready to use.

Heat a small sauté pan over low heat. Add minced garlic and butter. Sauté until butter melts and garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Keep warm over very low heat until ready to use.

Place pasta into boiling water. Cook for about 5 minutes or until al dente. Drain pasta well, return to pan.

Pour garlic butter over hot pasta. Toss to coat well. Transfer to serving bowl. Add Parmesan cheese, toss to blend. Sprinkle with parsley for added color and serve.

Spinach Salad with Candied Walnuts and Strawberries
Candied Walnuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Walnuts

Melt butter with brown sugar in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add walnuts, stir to coat.

Empty walnuts on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet. Separate into individual nuts and let cool.

Spinach Salad
4 cups fresh Spinach
10 Strawberries

Remove stems from the spinach. Roughly chop leaves and place in a large shallow bowl.

Wash and hull strawberries. Slice in half or quarters lengthwise depending upon size of berries.

Toss strawberries with the spinach and set aside.

Honey Dressing
3 tablespoons Honey
2 tablespoons Spicy Brown Mustard
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 cup Crumbled Feta (about 1 oz), optional

In a small bowl whisk together the honey, mustard, vinegar, and salt.

Drizzle 3/4 of the dressing over the salad and sprinkle the walnuts on top. Serve sprinkled with cheese (if using) and with the remaining dressing on the side.

Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate Torte
8 large Eggs
1 cup Butter
3 cups 70% Dark Chocolate
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or a 9-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Set aside until ready to use.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the eggs on high-speed until fluffy and light yellow in color, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium microwave safe bowl, melt the butter in 15 second intervals until just melted.

While the butter is melting and the eggs are fluffing, chop the chocolate. Once the chocolate is chopped, add to the bowl with melted butter. Return to microwave for 1 minute to microwave on high. Remove from microwave and stir until chocolate has melted completely and incorporated with butter.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the whipped eggs. Stir well to combine completely.

Stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, checking after 25 minutes to avoid over baking.

Remove Torte from the oven and cool in the pan on a baking rack for a few minutes. Run a knife around the edge and remove from pan once cool enough to handle. Leave on the rack, with a baking pan beneath. Spread ganache over the torte. Garnish as desired. Chill until about 20 minutes before serving to allow everything to set up nicely.

Chocolate Ganache
1  cup  70% Dark Chocolate
1/4  cup Heavy Cream

While the Torte is baking, make the chocolate ganache. Chop the chocolate. In a heat-proof bowl or top of double boiler, add the dark chocolate over simmering water.

When the chocolate has begun to melt, add the cream and mix well until smooth and silky.

Allow ganache to cool to the touch before pouring over the Torte.

Strawberry as desired
Mint Leaves

To serve, garnish Torte as desired with sliced strawberries and mint leaves.

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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