Monday, February 7, 2011

Studio 5: Romantic Italian dinner for Two

There is nothing quite so romantic as anything Italian. Proscuitto, olives, pasta, seafood, chocolate and something fried...foods to win (or keep) a man's heart and his taste buds!

Put on some music, dim the lights and create this three-course meal that's rich in flavor but light enough that it won't induce a post-dinner food coma.  Preparation is the key to a smooth flowing dinner with lots of time to focus on your loved one. Then again, cooking together is a lot of fun!

Appetizer: Proscuitto and goat cheese Bruschetta
{quick, easy and a perfect crunchy, savory start to your meal}
*Makes 6 slices

1 Thin baguette, sliced into 3/4" slices
1/4 Cup goat cheese
2 Tbsp olive oil + more
1 Tbsp good italian olives, chopped
3 slices of Proscuitto, cut in half
1 medium ripe tomato
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Fresh Basil

Directions: Toast baguette in 375 oven for approx. 7 minutes or until the top and bottom are toasted, but the inside is still soft (turn once).

Mix goat cheese, 2 Tbsp olive oil and chopped olives into a spread. Add salt & pepper to taste. Be careful with salt, as cheese is already a little salted. Spread generously on each slice of bread.

Slice tomato in half and then into thin slices. Roll Basil into a tube and slice through very thinly (chiffonade: ribbon pieces).

Place half slice of Proscuitto on bread and then top with Tomato slice and Basil. Arrange 3 on a place for individual appetizer.

Prep: Have your bread sliced and covered in advance. Make the goat cheese spread in advance and keep refrigerated.

Main course: Seafood Capellini

{Perfectly cooked and succulent morsels of seafood top a tender pasta, not to mention the heart shaped skewered shrimp on top}
* serves two


12 oz. of capellini (angel hair pasta or any other kind of pasta you prefer)
Olive oil
butter
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
a few sprigs of fresh Thyme
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken broth)
2 medium ripe tomato
3 Tbsp. flour
1 small can of diced italian tomatoes
1/2 cup whipping cream
8 large shrimp
10 clams (manilla or little neck or anything small)
8 sea scallops
Fresh basil
1 Lemon
Kosher Salt & Freshly ground pepper
Emeril's Essense (seasoning mix)


Directions: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn off heat and let sit until ready to use.

Chop garlic, onion and tomato and set aside (mise en place).

Clean (with a brush or cloth) the outside of clams to remove any remaining sand. Discard any that are open, chipped or broken. Note: Clams in their shells are alive when you bring them home, so keep the package open in the fridge, where they can breathe.

Lay shrimp and scallops on plate and pat lightly with paper towel to dry surface. Thread one shrimp on each of four skewers. Season shrimp and scallops on both sides.

Heat up skillet for sauce and grill for seafood (if you don't have a grill, use another skillet)

Start sauce by heating up 2 Tbsp of olive oil in skillet. Add onions and saute on med. heat for 5 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add garlic and thyme and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add chopped fresh tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Add flour, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add wine and then the canned tomatoes. Bring back to simmer and add clams. Cover pan and let cook for 5 minutes or until clams have all opened. Remove clams to bowl. Add cream to pan and let simmer for another 5 minutes. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the sauce. Salt & Pepper to taste, and I do mean, TASTE! Go easy on the salt, as both wine and chicken broth are salty. Add more lemon if necessary.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta and your seafood. Turn heat back on the water, it will come back to a boil very quickly. Salt the water heavily (it should taste like salt-water)

Heat grill to med-high. It's very important that your pan is sizzling hot. Brush with a little butter. Lay scallops (they take a little longer to cook than shrimp) on grill and cook until opaque and browned on both sides, turning once. After a minute, add your shrimp.

Add pasta to water (it will ony take 3-4 minutes, but taste to make sure.)
Cook for another 3-4 minutes max. Overcooked seafood is chewy and dry. Do not overcrowd or too much moisture will be released and they will not brown.

Drain pasta (save some of the water), but do not rinse. Place in bowl and add sauce to pasta until it's coated lightly. Dish portion of pasta into bowl, add a little more sauce on top if desired. Nestle clams, scallops and shrimps on top of the pasta. Cross over two of the skewers so they look like a heart. Sprinkle the top with Basil. Grate a bit of lemon peel on top as well.
Slice a small piece of lemon and place in the bowl.

Dessert: Crostoli & hot Cinnamon Ganache dipping sauce

{hot, sweet and crunchy and surprisingly light...serve with coffee or hot chocolate}
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 stick of soft butter
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3 Tbsp. orange juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. Fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of a lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
Finely grated zest of an orange (about 2 Tbsp)
2 1/2 cups flour + more for rolling
vegetable oil for frying
powdered sugar for sprinkling

Directions: Blend butter, salt & sugar in food processor until uniform. Add milk, egg, yolk, citrus juices and zest. Process until smooth. Scrape down the sides and add flour. Process in pulses until the dough comes together. Scrape down sides and repeat until you have a nice ball of dough.

Knead dough on a floured surface for a few minutes, until the ball is soft and smooth and not sticky. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 40 minutes. You can make this the day ahead is you want, but bring it back to almost room temperature before you roll.Cut dough in half and work with one piece at a time. Flatten the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a square as thinly as you can. Using a fluted cutter, cut strips about 3/4" wide and 5" long. Tie each piece into a simple overhand knot. Lay each piece on a floured cookie sheet. When finished you can lightly cover the top with plastic wrap and keep cook until ready to cook.

Heat at least 2" of oil in pan to 350 F. You could keep oil warm while you're eating dinner and then quickly bring it back up to temperature afterwards.

Using long-handled tongs, quickly drop a few crostoli in oil (don't overcrowd as it will drop the temperature of the oil too quickly). Turn them a few times for even browning. They are done with they are a dark gold color. It takes only a few minutes. Transfer to paper-towel covered plate. Arrange on a dish and sprinkle with powdered sugar. (option: mix cinnamon in sugar)

Cinnamon Chocolate Dipping Ganache
Heat 1/2 whipping cream in a small pan. Wisk in 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (or less if desired). Add 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate. The better the chocolate you use, the better it will taste. You can use chocolate chips. Mix until combined. This only takes a minute, so have the pan of cream on the stove and quickly heat it up and make ganache while the crostoli are cooking. Pour into a small dish and serve with powdered crostoli and some fresh berries.
Option: You can make this without the cinnamon, or add other spices (chili) or extracts (rum).

Love Potion #9
{if you don't drink wine, create your own love potion. Here are a couple of ideas}

Faux Champagne
4 cups chilled club soda
4 cups chilled ginger ale
3 cups chilled white grape juice
Mix and pour chilled into champagne flutes.

Option: To make faux pink champagne, just add 1/4 cup grenadine syrup to the recipe.

Latin Love
3 oz. Cream of Coconut
1 banana
6 oz. of pineapple juice
3 oz. raspberry syrup
3 oz. grenadine
1 cup crushed ice
flaked coconut for garnish

Blend on high until smooth then serve in two glasses with flaked coconut as garnish.

1 comments:

kwgirl said...

I wish you could have spent more time on the dessert and sparklie drink...
it looked so pretty and I'm sure tasted as good as it looked! Thanks for sharing all the details on your blog:)

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