Of course many writers are turning to Valentine's Day as inspiration for articles of all kinds about now. However, this year I noticed the link that has been forged between February, the color red and heart health. I like this idea and so, turning to the color red plus food, here are some ideas for this month and this holiday.
When I think of red in food I think of Italian marinara sauce, or barbecue. Those were the first things that came to mind. There are strawberries and raspberries, plus Red Velvet Cake (possibly made into adorable cupcakes) and my own hot-pink Prickly Vinaigrette salad dressing, that is if you live in Tucson and can get Prickly Pear Syrup (Cheri's is the easiest to find down here).
But let's start slow; one of the nicest things you can do for anyone is make them breakfast. As I was looking through cooking recipes and photos I came across breakfast waffles topped with gorgeous sliced strawberries. These aren't intended to be Strawberry Shortcake, though, so we're going to keep our heads while we make them up.
The first thing you need is waffles. If you opt to make them, one thing that is really nice is a waffle iron that will make them in heart-shaped pieces. I used to have one and I literally used it to death--until its little light wouldn't go on any more.
To make waffles there are dry mixes and you can even take a quick shortcut to frozen waffles. I would usually not go there, but actually I see some very healthful frozen waffles at Sprouts in Tucson, and they come in many varieties including gluten free. So nowadays we can serve frozen waffles with a clear conscience.
Once you have your waffles waiting, make a strawberry sauce for them by buying sweetened sliced strawberries and draining the juice temporarily into a mixing bowl. Knowing as we do that you thicken 1 cup of liquid with 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch, all you have to do is measure the juice and add cornstarch in the proper proportions. You can even add some plain water to achieve 1 cup exactly and then thicken.
There are other red fruits out there, and one that will work with waffles is cherries, which you can buy canned and unthickened as pie filling (sour red cherries are best) and proceed as with fresh fruit. Or you can buy fresh dark cherries (you may have to pit them) and create a syrup with a combination of half water and half sugar and go from there.
You can also make a creamy sauce using strawberry or cherry yogurt, stirring the sliced fruit in, to go on top of the waffles. But before you top them, take a moment either to toast them or, in the case of making them yourself, break the waffle template into serving pieces. Sprinkle the waffles with powdered sugar and top as you have planned.
The best coffee you can get together goes with this waffle breakfast, and if you are serving only two people, a French press coffee pot lends quite an atmosphere if you fill it in the kitchen and then depress the plunger at table. It's as impressive as making a tableside salad. Have your cream and sugar already on the table and don't forget to make it pretty--there are quite a few Valentine-oriented special tableware pieces out there right now.
FOR MORE INFO: Flash! Last week I cautioned my readers that it appeared I wasn't going to receive my Duke's Mayonnaise from the Mill River Store. However, I was wrong and today it arrived in fine condition. It is now resting comfortably in my kitchen cabinet. I don't know what took them so long, but I withdraw my criticism and encourage you to visit their website and order. It also won't hurt if you aren't in a big hurry.