Happy Valentines Day!!
We had very dear friends for dinner - the couple responsible for introducing my husband and myself. We were very excited for our evening and to cook something special.
I dotingly made the appetizers and salad, my husband grilled salmon and added broccolini and carrots and a leek gratin (that was eaten before I could snap a picture), and we finished off the meal with orange champagne cakes.
I decided to make "shots" out of the pear and gouda soup - a friend gave me a set of adorable tasting glasses for Christmas, and it gave me the idea to serve small sips of the silky, flavorful soup. The arugula salad was delicious, and I thought interesting in that the recipe didn't call for any cheese. I do think goat cheese would be a perfect compliment to the beets and ginger, and would definitely add it the next time I made this salad. However, our appetizers were cheese heavy, so I followed the recipe and omitted it this time.
PEAR AND GOUDA SOUP
2 pears, cored, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock (more if you like a thinner soup)
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
4 ounces of gouda cheese, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup white wine or apple juice
salt and white pepper to taste
Combine the pears, chicken stock, ginger and nutmeg in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over a high flame. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the pears are very tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a small saucepan melt the butter over a low flame. Add the flour, and stir until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk, bring to a simmer over a medium flame, stirring constantly.
Reduce heat to low, cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens, about 4 minutes.
Add the cheese to the milk mixture and stir until melted, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Use a blender, food processor or immersion blender to puree the pear and chicken stock mixture, until smooth. Combine with the cheese mixture in large saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until heated through.
Gradually stir in the wine, and cook until heated through. Do not boil.
Recipe adapted from The Morning News, March 2004
ENDIVE AND BLUE CHEESE SPIRALS WITH CREAMY WALNUT VINAIGRETTE
FOR THE SALAD:
3/4 cup blue cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 large belgian endive
FOR THE DRESSING:
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons walnut oil
1 small shallot, minced
Combine the blue cheese, butter and cream cheese in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Cut a 1/4 inch from the bottom of the endives and peel away the outer leaves. Spread each leaf with a 1/4 inch thick layer of blue cheese mixture and press the leaves back together around the core, to reconstruct the shape of the whole endive. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 1/2 hours.
To prepare the dressing, whisk the mustard with the vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add the walnut oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until thick and emulsified. Stir in the shallots. (If dressing is too thick, you may add up to a 1/4 cup of olive oil to reach your desired consistency).
Cut the endive into 1/2 inch thick slices, arrange on a plate and spoon the dressing over the top.
Recipe adapted from Sara Moulton
ARUGULA BEET SALAD WITH GINGER VINAIGRETTE
12 small red beets, rinsed, with stems trimmed
3 inch piece of peeled ginger root
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons mild olive oil
4 ounces of arugula leaves
Heat oven to 350F.
Wrap the beets in heavy-duty aluminum foil, creating a loose but tightly sealed packet. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the beets are tender.
Carefully open the packet and let the beets sit until cool enough to handle. Trim off the stem and root ends, and peel off the skins. Cut the beets in half.
Grate the ginger to yield about 2 teaspoons. Whisk together the grated ginger, vinegar, sugar and salt to taste in a small bowl. Slowly add the oil, whisking to combine. Taste and add salt, sugar or more ginger as needed.
Divide the arugula among individual plates. Scatter the beets over the arugula. Drizzle the vinaigrette over each portion, serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from The Morning News, October 2008
ORANGE CHAMPAGNE CAKES
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup orange juice
1 to 1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds
1/2 to 1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
1 1/2 cups champagne
1/4 cup sugar
Heat oven to 325F.
Grease and flour muffin pans.
In a bowl, combine yellow cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 2 cups of sugar, beat until well combined. Add eggs, beat until combined. Beat in orange juice, then cornmeal mixture until just combined. Fold in ground almonds and orange peel.
Spoon batter into pans. Bake for for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine champagne and the 1/4 cup sugar. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 1 cup.
Remove cakes from pans. Transfer cakes to a large platter, placing cakes bottom up. Prick all over with wooden toothpick. Carefully spoon or brush champagne syrup over cakes. Immediately cover cakes with plastic wrap, cool completely. Serve cakes at room temperature - I whisked a little grand marnier into mascarpone and spooned it alongside the cakes - whipped cream would be good too.
Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, January 2003