FLUX's Guide to a Perfect Valentine's Day Meal

– Madeline Dickerson

I’m sure all of you lovebirds are aware, but Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. A lot of you will go out on the town for fancy, overly priced meals, but braving what restaurant industry people call “amateur night” has never been my style. I’d much rather cuddle up with my Valentine for a movie night and delicious homemade meal complete with cocktail and dessert. So why not save some dough and do just that this holiday? I can almost promise it will be more impressive than spending two minutes calling for reservations. To make the process as easy as possible, I’ve put together a Valentine’s Day meal plan that just about anyone can prepare. Most of the prep can be done earlier in the day or even the day before, so you can spend the night focusing on your Valentine and not slaving away in the kitchen.

The meal plan starts off with a rasmopolitan, a beautiful red cocktail. The drink uses black raspberry liquor called Chambord, which is pretty pricey – around $43. But I can guarantee it is worth every cent. And while I know it’s hard for college students to dish out this much money for a bottle of liquor, I always think of it as an investment into a gift that just keeps on giving. The bottle will last for a long time if used sparingly and it is extremely delicious.

After a nice cocktail, impress you loved one with a gourmet entrée of roasted asparagus, thyme bread, and goat-cheese ravioli with parsley sauce. The ravioli is super easy to make, using wonton wrappers instead of making your own noodles, and can be prepared up to a day in advance.

And finally, dessert. This decadent chocolate truffle tart requires no baking and like the ravioli, can be made days in advance.

So, here’s the timeline of events to follow when preparing this one of a kind Valentine’s Day meal:

Step one:  Make the Dessert

Adapted from “Truffle Tarts with Raspberries” recipe by Tyler Florence

Tip: Finish the dessert early in the day, and then you’ll be able to focus on dinner later.

Ingredients: Makes 6 tarts (Share with friends!)

–       ½ cup heavy cream

–       8 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate (Don’t be afraid to splurge. I bought an $8 bar of Scharffen Berger and it definitely made a difference)

–       1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

–       ½ cups fine chocolate wafer crumbs (either grind some chocolate wafer cookies in a Cuisinart/blender or put them in a resalable bay and smash with a rolling pin till fine)

–       6 tablespoons melted butter

–       Fresh raspberries

1) Bring cream just to a simmer over low heat in a saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate in a bowl and let stand 10 minutes to melt chocolate. Add the vanilla and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool for 1 hour at room temperature.

2) While chocolate is cooling, make the tart crusts. With a fork, mix the wafer crumbs with the melted butter. Spray the cups of a 6-muffin tin with vegetable spray. Line the cups with strips of parchment or waxed paper, cut so that they are as wide as the diameter of each cup and long enough to overhang the sides (you’ll need the overhang to remove the tarts later). Press the crumbs into the bottom and the sides of the muffin cup, building up the sides about 1-½ inches. Place a raspberry in the center of each cup.

Unfilled tart crusts

3) Once the chocolate filling has sat for an hour, beat it at medium speed until it is thick and light colored. Use a spoon or pastry bag to fill the cups with the truffle mixture. Smooth the tops and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours or until ready to serve. Top with more raspberries before serving.

Step 2: Prepare Ravioli

Adapted from “Goat-Cheese ‘Ravioli’ with Parsley Sauce” recipe by Martha Stewart

Tip: Like the dessert, make these early. They can sit covered in the fridge for a day or frozen for a month. Also, the original recipe calls for wonton wrappers which can be found in the refrigerated section by tofu or the freezer section but if you can only find eggroll wrappers that’s fine, just cut them down to size like I did.

Ingredients: Serves 2

–   3 oz fresh goat cheese

–   ¼ cup part-skim ricotta cheese

–   1 small garlic clove minced or crushed in a garlic press

–    pinch of ground nutmeg

–   Coarse salt and ground pepper

–   12 wonton wrappers (3 ½ inch) or egg roll wrappers cut down to size

1)   In a small bowl, mash together the goat cheese, ricotta, garlic, and nutmeg together until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Goat-cheese ravioli filling

2)   Arrange six wrappers on a work surface at a time. Spoon 1 level tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper (don’t overfill). Dip your fingertip in a small bowl of water and wet the edges of the wrapper. Fold a corner of each wrapper to form a triangle and press edges to seal. Flatten the area around the filling to eliminate air pockets. Repeat with remaining wrappers. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if you plan on cooking them later.

Step 3: Cocktail Time

Before you get down and dirty preparing dinner, make your sweetie and yourself, a Rasmopolitan. Then they can sip on it while watching in awe as you pull together dinner.

Adapted from “Rasmopolitan” recipe by Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

–   2 oz (2 tablespoons) citrus-flavored Vodka

–   2 oz (2 tablespoons) raspberry-flavored Vodka

–   1 oz (1 tablespoons) Chambord

–   2 tablespoon freshly squeezed limejuice

–   2 tablespoons simple syrup (bring equal parts water and sugar to a boil and then cool – or if you have agave nectar laying around like I did you can use that, just use a little bit less since it’s sweeter than simple syrup)

–   4 oz  (4 tablespoons) cranberry juice

– Raspberries for garnish

1)   Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add all of the ingredients except the raspberries. Shake or stir and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with raspberries and serve.

Step 4: Preparing Dinner

It’s dinner time which means time to cook the pasta and make the sauce, roast the asparagus, and brown the thyme bread.

All of the ingredients you need to create an amazing dinner for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day

Ingredients:

–   About a half pound of asparagus

–   Olive oil

–   A loaf of French bread (I bought a demi-baguette, perfect for two people)

–   Softened butter

–   2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

For the pasta parsley sauce:

–   2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

–   2 tablespoons olive oil

–   1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

–   1 teaspoon water

–   Salt and pepper

1)   Put a pot of salted water on medium high and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use about half a pound or however much you think will be a solid side dish for you and your sweetie. The trick my mom always taught me for trimming asparagus is to grab them towards the cut end and snap them. Wherever they snap is where they are the freshest. Repeat for each asparagus and then put in one layer on one half of a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper.

2)   Slice the bread loaf in half lengthwise. Spread evenly with softened butter and put on the other half of the baking sheet with the asparagus. Put in the oven and set a timer for ten minutes.

3)   Meanwhile, make the parsley sauce: In a small bowl, stir together parsley, olive oil, Parmesan and water; season with salt and pepper.

4)   By now your water should be boiling. Turn it down to a gentle simmer and toss in the raviolis one at a time. Stir very gently so they don’t stick. Cook for 5-7 minutes.

5)   While the ravioli is cooking check on your asparagus and bread. If the asparagus is tender and slightly brown take them out, if not leave them in while you broil the bread. Turn the oven on broil but watch the bread like a hawk so nothing burns. As soon as it’s a nice golden brown, remove (along with asparagus) and sprinkle bread with the thyme leaves.

6)   When the ravioli is finished carefully remove with a slotted spoon and let excess water drain before putting them on two dinner plates. Drizzle the parsley sauce over the pasta. Divide the asparagus and bread between the two plates. Serve and enjoy. And don’t forget to pull out the dessert after dinner to put the final cherry on top of a perfect Valentine’s Day meal.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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