Pink and Red Valentine”s Day Dinner

2013-03-08

It would either be a tacky, nasty mushy mess where all the courses looked the same or it would be beautifully vibrant and appetizing  What first springs to mind when you think of 4 courses of pink and red food? Probably tomato soup, seafood in a disgusting cocktail sauce, spaghetti bolognaise and strawberry ice cream.  Well that’s what sprang to my mind – red splatter everywhere and not very exciting. My Valentine and I were up to the challenge of making a meal with predominantly red and pink ingredients and making it appealing and romantic with not a tomato or a piece of red meat in sight (not that that would have been a bad thing, just too predictable).  It was also an opportunity to showcase my long time signature cocktail, the Darcellator. We did not pair the wine.  I drank sparkling pink throughout and he drank the red.

 

Food

Her Roasted Beet and Carrot Soup

Her Moroccan Shrimp with Plum Salsa and Pomegranate Sauce

His Red Snapper & Wild Rice Stuffed Red Peppers accompanied by Blood Orange and Fennel Salad

His Cherries & Berries Jubilee

Drinks

To Start: Darcellator

For Her: De Chanceny Cremant De Loire Rose Brut

For Him: Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2010

The Darcellator (Martini)

Cocktail

I’m not sure when I invented this but it was certainly during the decade I lived in England as Diet Bitter Lemon was always a key ingredient. A 39p bottle at Tesco now costs me over $5 at specialty shops in Canada for this ingredient, so I typically use tonic water with generous squirts of lemon juice instead.  There are many variations on this drink since a Darcellator is comprised of anything Darcie has in her fridge and bar. Substitute the pineapple juice for orange or papaya. Substitute the gin for vodka (better yet, use both). Alize didn’t exist when I first started making them so you can just use more gin or vodka.  But always keep the cranberry juice and maraschino cherry. That way, it’s always pink and red.

 

Roasted Beet & Carrot Soup

Soup

 

I wish I liked beets. As Tom Robbins said in one of my favourite books, Jitterbug Perfume, “The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.”  I love beets because they were my Gramma’s favourite vegetable. I was enamoured with the way they made Mrs. Howell on Gilligan’s Island run around like a headless chicken when she ate genetically modified beets.  Unfortunately, I hate the way beets taste.  This recipe used just enough for that sweet, rustic, roasted flavour to come through but had enough other ingredients to make it creamy, tangy and delicious. Here are 2 pieces of advice if you make this soup: Puree to a smoother consistency if you want the sour cream hearts to be heart-shaped and secure the lid on your food processor to avoid that “open-heart-surgery-just-performed-here” look in your kitchen.

 

Moroccan Shrimp with Plum Salsa and Pomegranate Sauce

Appetiser

 

This was the dish of “Lurve”. This cornucopia of flavours was the hands down favourite of the night. The shrimp is very heavily spiced but not too hot.  The salsa had a refreshing kick and the pomegranate seeds gave it a unique texture.  The sauce gave it an unnerving, intense quality that you can only understand if you smell boiling pomegranate juice.  It buoyed up the dish but intimidated me with its odour while it was cooking. Nevertheless, this is a dish worth making again and again.

 

Red Snapper & Wild Rice Stuffed Red Peppers accompanied by Blood Orange and Fennel Salad

Main

 

He’s given one dish to prepare, he prepares three. It’s wonderful to have someone in my life that always delivers more than is required. What can I say? I’m a lucky girl! The fish can be substituted with any firm-flesh fillet. (I know, red-snapper is not “ocean wise” but it did fit the theme). Its preparation is light enough to keep the figure-conscious-comfort-food-craving types tricked into thinking they’ve had something battered but keep the guilt at bay. He used Miss Vickie’s Lime and Pepper crisps to coat it – a definite boon. The salad was, well, not something write home about.  Perhaps because the flavours weren’t given enough time to fuse? Or maybe because the anise flavour overpowered? Or maybe because the stuffed pepper outshone everything else on the plate?  The pepper was simple to make, full of cheesy flavour and absolutely gorgeous.

 

Cherries & Berries Jubilee

Dessert

This embellished classic was simple yet impressive to prepare and more suited to Valentine’s Day than a basic bowl of strawberry-topped ice cream for sure. Make sure you have some long matches and feel free to use liquor such as rum if you don’t have any brandy. A great way to finish off a romantic meal on a cold February night.

 

Conclusion

This colour-themed meal was loads of fun to plan and prepare. Despite feeling confined in the beginning, it became obvious that Mother Nature loves red and pink. There were so many foods to choose from that didn’t get used.  How many can you think of? Just be careful that you don’t take your pink and red theme to a whole new level by burning yourself during prep. Yes, I did it again.  I’m trying to consider it a “labour of love”.

 

Recipes

 

Darcellator Martini (2 drinks)

 

2 oz gin

2 oz Alize Red Passion (Cognac fruit liqueur)

2 oz cranberry juice

1 oz pineapple juice

2 oz bitter lemon (or tonic water with lemon juice)

2 maraschino cherries

4 raspberries

 

Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour all ingredients into a shaker except bitter lemon.  Shake well, distribute into 2 chilled glasses.  Top with bitter lemon. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and raspberry skewer and a lemon peel curl.

 

Roasted Beet & Carrot Soup

 

 

1 tbsp canola or olive oil

1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 celery stalks, chopped (use the leaves, too)
1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
½ litre beef or chicken stock
2 beets, roasted and peeled
2 tbsp. red wine or balsamic vinegar

¼ tsp chilli flakes

1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh dill sprigs

Sour cream, for serving

 

In a large pot, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, celery and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes, until everything is soft and starting to turn golden.

Add the stock and 1-2 cups of water. Grate the beets using the coarse side of a box grater and add that too. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and the broth has thickened slightly. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste and if you like, puree with a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot, or transfer in batches to a blender to whiz until smooth. Serve hot, garnished with sour cream. To make hearts, drop spoonfuls on the surface and pull the tip of a bamboo skewer through to make a heart (or hearts).

 

Blackened Moroccan Shrimp with Plum Salsa and Pomegranate Sauce

 Ingredients

Shrimp

8-10 Shrimp

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

2 tsp butter

Salsa

Seeds of 1 pomegranate

1 plum finely chopped

2 chopped green onions

2 tbsp fresh cilantro

1 tbsp minced jalapeno pepper

1/8 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. lemon juice

 

Sauce

½ quart Pomegranate juice

¼ cup sugar

1/8 cup lemon juice

 

Directions

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a pot and heat on high until sugar dissolves. Boil until liquid reduces to half cup (30 mins)

Mix all salsa ingredients together and refrigerate

In a skillet, heat butter.  Add shrimp and cook until they become opaque (2 mins per side)

Divide shrimp between 2 plates, spoon salsa on top and drizzle with sauce.

 

Red Snapper with Blood Orange and Fennel Salad

Ingredients

Blood Orange and Fennel Salad

1 blood orange, segmented

1  tbsp. orange juice

1 /4 c white wine

1 tsp butter

1/3 Leek

1/3 cup fennel with stalks, sliced thin

1/4 teaspoon olive oil

pinch salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

Fish

2  tablespoons  butter

2 fillets red snapper, 6-8oz each

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons flour

1 egg

1 /2 c potato chips, crushed fine (we used lime and pepper flavour)

Directions

Slice Leek finely, and sauté in butter until soft

Peel and section orange.

Thinly slice fennel bulb; and reserve about 1 teaspoon of the fronds. Discard stalks.

Place orange sections, fennel fronds, sliced fennel and leeks in a medium bowl. Combine with orange juice, olive oil, salt, and fresh ground black pepper, tossing well to coat. Let sit in refrigerator for 30 mins.

Debone and pat dry fish fillets. Dredge in flour, dip in egg (beaten) and then potato chip for outer crust.  Heat a large pan and melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle fish evenly with salt and pepper. Cook 3-5 minutes on each side. When you are cooking the fish on the second side. Fish will flake easily when done.

Remove from heat and plate. Top with salad.

 

Wild Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

Ingredients

1 large red bell pepper

1/4 cup uncooked wild rice

1/8 cup finely chopped onion

1/8 cup finely chopped mushrooms

1/8 cup finely chopped carrots

1 tablespoon butter

4 ounces shredded mild Cheddar cheese

salt and pepper

Preparation

Cut peppers lengthwise into halves and remove seeds and membranes. Cook rice according to package directions. In a skillet, cook onions, mushrooms and carrots in butter. Remove, add cheese and stir in rice; season with salt and pepper to taste. Fill pepper halves. Put on a rack in skillet  and cook at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Cherries & Berries Jubilee

 

Ingredients 

1/4 cup white sugar

1 tbps cornstarch

1/8 cup water

1/8 cup orange juice

1/2 lbs frozen pitted sweet cherries, blackberries, strawberries

1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1/8 cup brandy

1 cup vanilla ice cream

Directions

Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a wide saucepan. Stir in the water and orange juice; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking until thickened. Stir in the fruit and orange zest, return to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. While the fruit is cooking, spoon the ice cream into serving bowls.

Remove the fruit from the heat. Pour in the brandy, and ignite with a long lighter. Gently shake the pan until the blue flame has extinguished itself. Spoon the fruit over the bowls of ice cream.

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