From Sage Leaves to Cream Puffs: A Valentine's Day Meal

Valentine's MealAs we've said before, Valentine's Day isn't just for the paired-off. We're all about converting this pseudo-holiday into a fun opportunity to celebrate friends, family, and all loved ones. And a great meal is one way to do it.

One of our favorite pastimes is to host a Valentine’s Day lunch with friends—a way for both singles and takens to get together, since dinner plans might be out. But the menu we’ve prepared can just as easily work for a romantic V-Day dinner. And the best part is, the costs come out to just $15 per person.

As far as we’re concerned, "sexy foods" (yes, we just wrote "sexy foods") are foods that make you feel incredible when you're eating them, and don't have to involve weird aphrodisiacs like oysters or rhino horns. We’re more into those rich, creamy, but relatively healthy foods that taste so good they make us remember that we're really lucky to have so much love (and profiteroles) in our lives.

The Menu:

Fried Sage Leaves
Crisp Orange Avocado Salad
New Zealand Lamb Chops
Roasted Asparagus
Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta
Fresh Mango Slices
Profiteroles & Cream

Want the full experience? View our slide show.

Fried Sage Leaves

Lightly salt a tablespoon of flour and dust that mixture on just-washed sage leaves. Pour a small amount of olive oil into a frying pan and pop the leaves in once it’s hot. These are best consumed right out of the pan, along with a glass of crisp bubbly.

Crisp Orange Avocado Salad

Fat is fabulous, but like a wine that lacks acidity, fatty food would get boring really quick without balance. Citrus like oranges and mangos provide the balance, making great palate cleansers. Slice up an avocado and an orange, and place them on a bed of arugula. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and oil, and you’re done.

New Zealand Lamb Chops

To master lamb “lollipops,” look for the smaller chops from Australia and New Zealand. These usually come frozen, so plan your shopping in advance.

¼ Rack of New Zealand lamb (4 bones, with the meat and fat removed from the rib bones)
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
1 Tbsp bread crumbs (optional)

Let the lamb sit out of the fridge for half an hour. Preheat oven to 400 F. Dry rack of lamb with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to an oven-safe frying pan over medium-high heat. Add lamb to frying pan, fat side down. Cook until browning begins, about 5 minutes. Turn over and let bone side begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Return to fat side down.

Place frying pan in the oven. Roast lamb for about 8 minutes for rare (110 F) or 12 minutes for medium rare (120 F). Remove lamb from pan and place on clean cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes.* Slice into 4 chops, using bones as a guide for your knife.

*If you’d like to have a Dijon crust: After lamb has rested for 5 minutes, smear mustard on fat side of lamb and top with bread crumbs. Return to oven for 3 or 4 minutes. Slice as above.

Roast Asparagus

½ pound asparagus
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ Tbsp lemon juice, optional

Trim the ends off the asparagus or peel the rough outer skin if the spears are very thick. Place spears on a baking sheet and toss with oil, salt & pepper—and lemon juice, if desired. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on size of spears and al dente preference.)

Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta

A technical reason why some foods feel more luxuriant than others is that we’re drawn to the ones that coat our palates—usually that entails a measure of fat (think cheeses, avocado, chocolate, etc.). We’re big fans of polenta, a creamy corn staple from Italy. You can flavor it with nearly anything including butter, herbs, nuts, fruits, and cheese. To make your polenta rich and creamy for the occasion, try adding goat cheese to the mix.

3/4 cup polenta
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups water
1 Tbsp butter
2 oz goat cheese

Combine the polenta, salt, and water in a 2.5 to 3 quart microwave-safe bowl and stir together. Cover the bowl with a plate, and place in the microwave. Microwave on high for 6 minutes. Carefully remove from microwave and stir well. Continue cooking for about 6 more minutes, until grains are tender. Add butter and goat cheese. Combine well and serve hot.

Mango Slices

The mango provides a nice acidity to counterbalance the heavier creamy foods like polenta. Slice up a couple mangos and serve as a palate cleanser leading into dessert.

Profiteroles & Cream

Makes 18
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup water
Pinch of salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, and salt, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms and pulls away from the pan. This should take about 2 minutes.

Let dough cool for 3 to 4 minutes and add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter will come apart after each egg is added, but will recombine as you beat it.

Drop Tbsp-sized mounds an inch apart on the cookie sheets. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool, cut in half, fill with whipped cream or ice cream, and top with or dip into chocolate ganache.

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