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Food for Love: Valentine's Day Menu Part 1

Some people like to eat out on Valentine's Day.  Some people prefer to eat in, either because they're like me and they enjoy cooking, or they forgot to make a reservation.  Either way, a delicious, home cooked dinner on Valentine's Day can be just as meaningful and special as reservations at a fancy restaurant.  From now until V Day, I'll be posting my favorite special occasion dinner recipes for you to mix and match at your own romantic shindig.

Today's episode?  Appetizers!   Appetizers whet the appetite and stimulate gastric juices for the main course.  In America we tend to overdo it a bit on appetizer portion size, and end up too full before the entree arrives.  These appetizers are tasty, festive, and fun to share!

Crudite Rosso

Fresh, crisp red veggies and spicy hummus come together for a healthy antipasto, and the red color is sure to put you in the mood.  Play with the amount of spices depending on your palate.

  • 1 container store bought hummus

  • 1/2 - 1 tsp. smoked paprika

  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne

  • 1/2 - 1 tsp. cumin

  • sliced red bell pepper

  • cherry or grape tomatoes

  • sliced radishes

Mix the hummus and spices to taste.  Serve with the fresh veggies.

Insalata d'Endive

Endive is a member of the chicory family.  I love them for salads because they make their own adorable, edible little salad bowl!  No forks necessary for this one!

  • 4 endive leaves

  • 1 cup arugula

  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or almonds

  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced

  • 1/2 cup fontina cheese, diced

  • 2 tsp. each fresh rosemary and parsley

  • red wine or balsamic vinaigrette

Combine the arugula, nuts, peppers, cheese and herbs.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon about 1/4 cup of the mixture into the endive leaves.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve.

Zuppa di Minestrone

Soup is delicious, nourishing and keeps you skinny!  This minestrone is a warm red color and dressed up with a splash of wine - positive to get your evening off to a good start.  When cooking with wine, make sure it's something you'd actually drink and not the cooking wines you find in the grocery store (they're nasty and full of salt).

  • 1 carrot, diced

  • 1 small sweet onion (like Vidalia or Maya sweet), diced

  • 2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained

  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes

  • 1 15 ounce can kidney or cannellini beans

  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley

  • 2 tbsp. fresh thyme

  • 1 bay leaf

  • salt and pepper

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

  • 1/2 cup red wine - I like to use Marsala or Chianti

  • 1/4 lb. cooked pasta - go for shapes or tubes here, like rotini, fusili or farfalle

In a large pot, saute the carrot and onion in the extra virgin olive oil.  Add a pinch of salt to help draw out the moisture of the veggies.  Cook over medium heat until tender and onions are translucent, 8 - 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook abother 2 - 3 minutes.  Add the wine and allow it to deglaze the pan, about 2 - 3 minutes.  Then add the tomatoes, beans and herbs.  Don't worry about the bay leaf, you'll fish it out later.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the stock.  Cover and allow to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Fish out the bay leaf, add salt and pepper to taste.  Put a scoop of pasta into each bowl and ladle the soup on top.  Garnish with a little fresh parsley and serve.

Part 2 will look at at some of the entrees you may want to consider serving.  Buon appetito!


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