By CHEF JOHN NIDUA
Is it just us or does February 14 seems to creep up on us every single year? Without time to plan sometimes, who are we kidding, most of the time we’re left scrambling to make a dinner reservation.
Who needs reservations? Instead of going out bearing long lines, crowded venues, and sometimes cold food with the masses on Valentines day enjoy a restaurant quality food, in the comfort of your own home. You will not be missing out on anything, Do It Yourself, and try your hands with these romantic dinner ideas.
Start off with a fresh and healthy Heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad.
Heirloom tomato salad with mozzarella and avocado
•2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
•1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
•1 teaspoon salt
•1/2 teaspoon sugar
•1/2 teaspoon black pepper
•1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oilWhisk together vinegar, mustard, salt, sugar, and pepper in a large bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until dressing is emulsified. Add tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.
• Salad, without vinaigrette, can be assembled 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature. Salad can be dressed 1 hour ahead and kept at room temperature, covered.
•Vinaigrette keeps, covered and chilled, 1 week.
•4 lb mixed heirloom tomatoes, quartered if small or cut into 1/4-inch-wide wedges, or sliced if larger
•1 lb cherry tomatoes
•1 lb very small mozzarella balls (1/4 inch; sometimes called perlini) or 1 lb lightly salted mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
•1 1/2 cups loosely packed small basil leaves or torn large leaves
Whip up a prime cut tomahawk Berkshire pork from your favourite neighbourhood butcher and smother it with onion gravy.
GRILLED/BAKED TOMAHAWK BERKSHIRE PORK
. 10 ounces tomahawk Berkshire pork ( can get a custom cut from your butcher )
• 3 white onions thinly sliced
• 2 cups water
• 5 TB butter divided
• 1/4 cup all purpose flour
• 3 TB Worcestershire sauce
• 1 TB all purpose seasoning blend
• 1/2 tsp black pepper
• 1/2 tsp salt
1 .Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sprinkle the pork chops on both sides with sea salt and black pepper. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat.
3. Brown the pork chops on each side. Cook each side for about 2-3 minutes, turn, and cook on the other side. Work in batches, and do not crowd the pan. Add 2 more tablespoons of the butter as needed to keep the pan greased.
4. Place the browned chops in a single layer in the bottom of the baking dish. Set aside.
5. In the same skillet you browned the pork chops in, add the remaining butter and the onions. Reduce heat to medium-low to medium. Stir and cook the onions until they are golden and tender, about 10 minutes.
6. Stir in the flour until well combined. Add your chicken stock. Stir and cook for 2 minutes until the flour is well incorporated.
7. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Like gravy.
8.Pour the onion gravy over the pork chops. Cover the pan with foil, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. (Cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your pork chops.)
Indulge in a creamy seafood Rissoto, that would cost an arm and a leg at a restaurant.
Seafood Risotto (Risotto ai Fruitti di Mare)
•2 1/2 cups fish or vegetable stock
•1/3 cup olive oil
•3 tablespoons unsalted butter
•1 small onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
•1 1/3 cups Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice
•1/2 cup dry white wine
•8 small clams, such as Manila
•8 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
•4 ounces squid, cleaned and cut into thin rings
•4 medium sea scallops, lobster tails
•1/2 cup peeled, crushed, and seeded plum tomatoes
•1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
•1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
•1 tablespoon brandy
•1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
•1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, optional
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper
. In a small saucepan, warm the fish or vegetable stock. Keep warm.
2. In a large saucepan over moderately low heat, warm the olive oil. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the onion, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender (there should be no color), about 5 minutes. Add the rice and toast lightly for 1 minute without letting the rice or onion take on any color.
3. Add the wine and cook until almost completely absorbed. Add most of the stock (it should come about 1/2 inch above the rice) and bring to a simmer. Cook the risotto, stirring occasionally, until the rice has absorbed some of the liquid, about 8 minutes.
4. Add the clams, mussels, squid, scallops, and tomatoes, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the seafood is cooked and the rice is al dente, about 6 minutes more. As the rice continues to absorb the liquid, add more as needed.
5. Remove the risotto from the heat and add the parsley, garlic, brandy, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, if using, and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir well to release the starches and make the risotto creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
So go ahead, spurge on a bottle of Barolo that would cost triple it’s price at a restaurant. Enjoy these romantic dinner ideas in the comfort of your own dining room. Make sure you save room for dessert 😉