Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pre-Valentine's Dinner

Happy Valentine's Day! On Sunday I made a special dinner for Ryan and thought I would share some of the delicious recipes I found.

Crackers topped with feta, sun dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and basil
Balsamic Glazed Steak
Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Asparagus
Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes

First, we were both hungry by the time I started cooking...so I got my creative juices flowing and made up these appetizers!

You will need:
Bite-size crackers (I used wheat thins and rosemary pepper crackers)
Feta or goat cheese
1-2 sun dried tomatoes
High quality balsamic vinegar (the syrupy stuff)
Dried or fresh basil

Form a ball from about 1/2 tsp cheese and press onto cracker. Repeat until you have as many crackers as you want. Cut tomato into very small pieces and place carefully on top of cheese. Put one drip of vinegar on each cracker. Sprinkle basil over. (I made this with Feta and dried basil, but I think it would be a lot more tasty with goat cheese and fresh basil, personally.) The thick, high quality vinegar is key to this combination. I received my bottle from my dad, to whom I am very grateful!

While I was making these, I had a balsamic reduction on the stove for the marinade. For the recipe, click here.

I didn't use the exact cut of meat the recipe called for. It still tasted delicious, but it could have been a little more tender. I think I left it on there a minute or two too long. Ah well. I am learning. Meat has long been a mystery for me.

During this time, I had the sweet potatoes in the oven. I had made Hasselback Potatoes one summer long ago when I was making dinners themed on various countries' typical meals. So when I saw this recipe with sweet potatoes (whose qualities far exceed those of regular old potatoes, in my opinion), I knew I had to try it.

My favorite part of this recipe was the Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette. Click here for the directions for slicing and cooking the potatoes, and here is my version of the vinaigrette:

Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, mustard, and thyme together. Stream in olive oil while whisking. Salt to taste. Divide among potatoes. (This made enough for both of our potatoes with some leftover to dress a few salads.)

Here are the tubers, right out of the oven. Ryan called these "armadillo potatoes," and rightfully so.

Next on the menu was Balsamic Roasted Asparagus. I guess I had a bit of a balsamic theme going that night, but it resulted in a collection of dishes that suited each other.

Recipe adapted from Heather Cristo.
1 lb asparagus, with bottoms trimmed
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Because this recipe has so few ingredients, try to use the best that you can. This is why I went for the nicer salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400. Place washed and trimmed asparagus in a 9x13 baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and grind over pepper. Toss to coat.

Cook for about 8 minutes, until browned on the outside. Grate over parmesan. (Or shave if you have the tool to do this and it is good quality parmesan)

I used some of the reserved marinade (removed BEFORE marinating the meat in it!) to drizzle over it as well.

The Molten Chocolate Cakes turned out very well, but I was not completely happy with them. I will not post the recipe until I've had a chance to make them again and improve upon them. However, while preparing the little ramekins with butter and cocoa, I discovered a unique sifter that was the perfect size. My tea infuser. Tea Infuser -1.5-Inch Mesh Ball Spoon

The little cakes didn't rise as much as they should have, but then again the recipe was supposed to be made in two 6 oz ramekins and I divided it into four 4 oz ramekins. But Ryan was happy, and that was all that mattered!

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