Published Thursday, February 07, 2013

Choreographing a Valentine's Day dinner

By DANA JACOBI

American Institute for Cancer Research

Romance is leisurely and unpredictable. Cooking requires coordination and precise timing. So blend the two with this simple yet elegant meal to enjoy Valentine’s Day dinner with your sweetie.

The three-course menu starts with a festive green salad tossed with rosy Blackberry Vinaigrette. Baked glazed salmon with green beans and a wild rice blend make the main course. Fresh strawberries and sorbet fashion a heart-warming sundae for dessert.

The day before Valentine’s Day, get organized, shop and do a little preparation. To sail through it all, follow my step-by-step way from start to finish.

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Wednesday

Make your shopping list and buy ingredients

Make Blackberry Vinaigrette

Slice shallots and goat cheese (or chop walnuts), trim green beans, cover and refrigerate

Put rice in cooking pot

Set table

Thursday

Starting 75 minutes before dinnertime:

Turn on oven

Add water and cook rice

Hull and slice strawberries and refrigerate

Make glaze, coat and put salmon in oven

Steam beans in covered skillet, and then plunge into cold water.

Using the same skillet, sauté shallots and set them aside on a plate. Put dried green beans in the buttery pan and set aside.

Assemble salads and put on the table.

Fluff rice with a fork and set aside, covered.

Add sugar to the berries and set aside.

Remove fish from oven and cover loosely with foil

Enjoy the salad.

Warm beans. Divide them between 2 dinner plates and top with some shallots. Toss remain ing shallots with rice and spoon some onto each plate. Add the salmon.

Serve the main course.

Assemble Strawberry Sundaes.

Turn out the kitchen light. Enjoy dessert. Snuggle up.

Here are the menu’s complete recipes:

Green Beans and Rice with Shallots

1/2 cup brown basmati-wild rice blend

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1/2 lb. fresh green beans

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3/4 cup water

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1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

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1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots

Cook rice blend according to package directions, about 30 minutes. Let rice sit, covered, for 10 minutes.

In covered skillet, cook green beans in water, for 4 minutes. Drain beans in colander under cold running water. When cooled, dry and set beans aside.

In same skillet, melt butter. Add shallots and sauté until soft, 5 minutes. Stir all but 1 tablespoon of the shallots into the rice with fork. Set the rest aside. Do not wash pan. Just before serving, add beans to pan and cook until warmed, stirring occasionally. Divide beans between 2 plates, garnish with reserved shallots and add 3/4 cup cooked rice.

Salmon with Honey Mustard Glaze

2 tsp. dry mustard powder

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1 Tbsp. wildflower honey

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2 (5-6 oz.) salmon filets, preferably wild

Heat oven to 300° F. In small bowl, whisk together mustard powder and honey. Place salmon on baking sheet. Brush tops of pieces liberally with honey glaze. Bake until salmon is almost opaque in center, 20-25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Fresh Strawberry Sundae

12-15 strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced

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1/2 tsp. firmly packed brown sugar

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2 small scoops of any fruit sorbet

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2 cigar-shaped rolled cookies, optional

In bowl, use fork to toss sliced berries with sugar. Set aside for 20 to 60 minutes. To serve, divide fruit and any juices between 2 glass dessert dishes. Top with sorbet. Insert cookie into berries at one side of dishes, if using.

Baby Greens with Blackberry Vinaigrette

Dressing:

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blackberries (defrost if frozen)

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2 tsp. coarsely chopped shallots

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2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

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4 tsp. fresh lemon juice

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2 tsp. agave syrup

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2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

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1/2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

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Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Salad:

4 cups lightly packed mesclun salad mix

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2 slices (3/4-in.) reduced-fat fresh goat cheese or 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

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6-8 whole blackberries, for garnish

Place all dressing ingredients in bullet-style blender or mini food processor and whirl until dressing is creamy and smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let dressing stand in refrigerator for up to 24 hours before using. Makes 1/2 cup dressing.

Divide greens between 2 salad plates. If using cheese, set a slice in center on top of greens, then drizzle 2 tablespoons of Blackberry Vinaigrette over salad before serving. Or, drizzle on dressing, then sprinkle walnuts on top. Garnish with 3 or 4 whole blackberries. Reserve remaining dressing for another use. It keeps covered in refrigerator for 3 days.

Makes 2 servings.

Per serving (with goat cheese): 150 calories, 11 g total fat (4 g saturated fat), 9 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 99 mg sodium.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

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