Food for Thought

After a perfect meal we are more susceptible to the ecstasy of love than at any other time.
-Dr. Hans Balzi

The act of cooking has many possible faces. On one hand it's simply about nourishing the body; on the other, it can be a kind of magic. Food cooked with care and love is not just about fuel for the body, but a ribbon of sensual pleasure that weaves its way through out daily lives.

Valentine's Day is the perfect occasion to influence that special someone by conjuring up passion in the kitchen.

Start with an appetizer and finish off with a seductive chocolate dessert.

Berry Baked Brie

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/3 c. some type of berry preserves
  • 8 oz. round brie cheese
  • 1/4 c. chopped hazelnuts or pecans
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • Assorted crackers, pear slices and/or apple slices

Directions:

Heat oven to 400ºF. Unfold puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll gently to seal any cracks in pastry. Spoon preserves onto center of pastry. Place cheese on top of preserves. Sprinkle evenly with nuts. Fold pastry up over the cheese to cover. Trim excess pastry and press to seal seams. Reserve pastry scraps.

Whisk egg and water in small bowl. Brush seams with egg mixture. Place seam-side down on baking sheet. Cut pastry scraps into decorative shapes and arrange on top, if desired. Brush with egg mixture.

Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 20 minutes before cutting. Serve with crackers and sliced fruit.

Stuffed Manicotti

Ingredients:

  • 8 manicotti shells
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 c. ricotta cheese1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp. snipped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Roasted Garlic and Mushroom Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, for topping

Cook manicotti as directed on package. Rinse with cold water, then drain well.

To make filling, mix together the eggs, mozzarella cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, parsley and pepper.

Stuff about 3 tablespoons of the filling into each cooked shell. Arrange filled manicotti in a 12x7x2 inch baking dish. Pour sauce over the top. Sprinkle with Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Roasted Garlic and Mushroom Sauce

Although the amount of garlic may seem excessive, the flavor of this sauce is surprisingly subtle. Roasting the garlic mellows its flavor, which is nicely complemented by the mushrooms.

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole garlic bulbs
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. shopped shallots
  • 4 c. sliced mushrooms
  • 1 c. chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 c. light cream
  • 2/3 c. grated Gruyere cheese
  • Salt to taste

To roast garlic:

Cut the top off the whole bulb of garlic. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in a 425° F. preheated oven for 40 - 45 minutes. Remove and let cool.

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the shallots and mushrooms and saute until butter has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock, thyme, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid has reduce by half.

With your fingers, squeeze the garlic from each clove into a small bowl. Mash, then whip with a fork. Add to the sauce. Simmer for about 1 minute. Remove the bay leave. Add the cram and cheese. simmer, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Season with salt.

VOILA! A quick and easy sauce for any pasta. In our case, we are going to serve it over stuffed manicotti.

Bailey's Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 c. Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 4 tbsp. brewed espresso or coffee
  • Sugar syrup:

  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 4 tbsp. water
  • 1/2 c. egg whites (about 4 eggs)
  • 1 qt. heavy cream
  • 3/4 c. sugar

Directions:

Melt chocolate, Irish cream and espresso over low heat.

In separate pan, simmer sugar and water until temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 224 to 230°F., soft ball stage. (Remove from heat at 224°F; mixture will begin to caramelize at 232°F.).

Whip egg whites until stiff and glossy. Add sugar syrup to whites and continue to whip about 8 minutes until eggs have increased in volume and mixture has cooled; fold into chocolate mixture.

Whip heavy cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Mix with chocolate mixture/eggs/sugar syrup mixture.

Pour mousse into molds or serving dish. Allow to set in fridge. Garnish with chocolate shavings and fresh seasonal berries.



The secret of passionate foods is not only in the ingredients or in spells or rituals, but lies in the simple enjoyment that comes from preparing and eating food with zest and fervor. Inhaling the scent of herbs crushed in your hands, watching chocolate melt into a seductive puddle or letting the juice from a bite of fruit run down your chin, your appetite for passion will be kindled.

"Show me another pleasure like dinner which comes every day and lasts an hour." - Talleyrand

For more recipes for Valentines Day, click here.

Next week get ideas to use those delicious apples that are abundant in your local grocery.

If you like this newsletter share it with your friends. Forward this issue and give the gift of recipes.