The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 13, 2004


Carolyn's Cuisine
Honoring your loved ones on Valentines Day

These days, catalogs, TV commercials and web sites alike all seem to be urging us to shop for Valentine's Day as if it's Christmas all over again. I have a better suggestion for honoring your special Valentine (or even your entire family of Valentines): forego the shopping, stay home and make a romantic dinner. I've chosen some of my favorite recipes for special and delicious dishes that won't keep you in the kitchen for hours (after all, it's not Thanksgiving again, either!). How about making a curried cranberry soup that is not only tasty but has a decided Valentine look to it? I have shared this recipe with Mosquito readers before, but it bears repeating. If you do not like the mildly spicy taste of curry powder, just leave it out.

Curried Cranberry Soup

6 c. chicken or vegetable broth
3 c. cranberries (a 12-ounce bag)
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
1/3 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1 T. curry powder

8-10 servings

1 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
3 c. light cream or half and half
1/4 c. port wine or sherry
juice of 1/2 lemon (3 T.)

1. Bring broth, cranberries, onion and sugar to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.

2. Mix cornstarch and seasonings with a little bit of the cream to make a paste. Slowly add the rest of the cream. Add this mixture to the cranberry broth. Simmer gently, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and stir in wine and lemon juice. Cool. Puree in blender or processor.

4. When ready to serve, reheat but do not boil.

Steak Diane is an extravagant dish that will say "I love you" to your carnivorous (or carbo-shy) sweetheart. Since this dish is often found on a French menu, I have always assumed that its namesake was Diane de Poitiers, the legendary mistress of the Chateau de Chenonceau in the heart of the Loire Valley.

Steak Diane for two
1/2 c. beef broth
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. tomato paste
2 center cut beef tenderloin filets or another cut of your choice (cut about 1 inch thick)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly-ground pepper
1 t. butter
1 t. olive oil
1 T. finely minced shallots
2 T. cognac or another brandy
1/3 c. heavy cream
1. Whisk together broth, Worcestershire, mustard and tomato paste. (Use the kind of tomato paste that comes in a tube if you can.) Set aside.

2. Heat butter and oil in a medium frypan for two to three minutes.

3. Sprinkle both sides of filets with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high under pan. Cook steak for 1 1/2 minutes per side. Put steaks on a cookie sheet. You can do this ahead.

4. Add shallots to same pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add cognac, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan. Increase heat and cook till cognac is almost evaporated. Stir in the beef broth mixture and bring to a boil. Let simmer 1 minute. Stir in cream, turn up heat and cook for 2 minutes more. Right before serving, preheat oven to 350°. Bake the steaks for about 10 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer stuck into the center of the steak registers the doneness that you like. (115° for rare; 125° for medium- rare.) Don't overcook!

5. Put steak on individual plates with warm sauce drizzled over each.

My artichoke dish would make a good vegetarian entrée or a side dish to serve with the steak, and it's fun to serve "hearts" as part of a Valentine's menu. I assure you that if you are an artichoke fan, you will like this recipe at other times of year too!

Valentine Artichoke Hearts

1 can (14 oz.) whole artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
4 green onions (scallions), minced
1/4 lb. (1 c.) sliced fresh mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. cherry or grape tomatoes
2 T. butter
1/2 c. dry bread crumbs

Serves 3-4

1/2 t. salt freshly-ground pepper to taste
1/2 t. oregano
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1/2 c. sour cream a little bit of additional bread crumbs and grated cheese

1. Arrange artichoke hearts and tomatoes in a single layer in a shallow greased baking dish.

2. Saute scallions, mushroom and garlic in butter till soft, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Add crumbs, seasonings,and cheese. Crumble over artichokes and tomatoes.

3. Beat eggswith sour cream. Spread over vegetables. Sprinkle additional crumbs and cheese over top. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20 minutes.

Of course, no food group is associated with Valentine's Day quite so much as chocolate, so it only makes sense to end with a chocolate dessert. Here is an extravagantly rich and delicious one that is wonderfully easy as well.This recipe certainly fills the bill of giving you more quality time to spend with your Valentine — it takes only about five minutes to prepare!

Chocolate Pot de Crème

6 oz. good-quality bittersweet chocolate, broken into squares
2 T. sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. whole milk or light cream

  Serves 2-4, depending!


1. Put chocolate, sugar, egg and vanilla into blender or food processor.

2. Bring milk or cream to a simmer.

3. Pulse chocolate mixture till chocolate is chopped. Gradually, with motor running, pour in hot milk or cream till mixture is smooth.

4. Pour liquid into very small cups or dishes (such as 6-ounce ramekins). Chill.

5. Garnish with lightly-sweetened whipped cream and a few fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries.

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito