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San Valentino

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As promised for those of you that are true romantics at heart, I am including here a menu and recipes for a romantic Saint Valentine’s Day dinner to have with that special someone. This is from my upcoming book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking-Holidays & Special Occasions (to be published late 2008) hope you enjoy..more to come this week..

Romantic Dinner Menu for Two

Copyright 2008- Maria Liberati, art of living, PrimaMedia,Inc.

THE BASIC ART OF ITALIAN COOKING, Holidays & Special Occasions

Cocktail : Tintoretto

½ cup Prosecco Spumante (or a Spumante)

¼ cup pomegranate juice

Divide Spumante-evenly- among 2 champagne glasses. Top each glass with pomegranate juice -evenly divided among two glasses. Don’t stir- two colors of each liquid will provide two different colors or layers.

Antipasto: Bruschetta Gratinate

¼ pound of reduced fat fontina or Swiss or baby Swiss cheese

3 leaves of fresh arugula

1 large or 2 small very ripe tomatoes

4 slices of crusty Italian bread (can be day old)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tsp of Sapori D’Italia herbs- Tuscan Picnic blend (by Maria Liberati’s The Basic Art of Italian Cooking)

Cut fontina or Swiss cheese into small slices or small cubes. Wash and dry tomatoes, cut into small cubes and eliminate seeds. Wash and dry arugula and chop finely. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread slices on cookie sheet, drizzle with 1 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle spice blend on top. Place in oven till slices begin to get crusty and turn golden- for about 1 minute.

Remove from oven. Layer remaining ingredients in this way: First place cheese cubes or slices, then chopped arugula, then tomatoes. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and remaining ½ tsp of spice blend. Place under broiler of oven till cheese begins to bubble. Broiler times vary- should be 1-4 minutes depending on broiler.

First Course: Linguine alle Vongole

(Clams with linguine)

1/3 box  or 1/3 pound of linguine.

2 tblsps of extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil

2 clove of garlic-whole

½ lb of fresh steamed clams

½ lemon (to squeeze over finished pasta)

Handful of fresh parsley

Fill pasta pot with water and small handful of kosher or gross salt. Place on medium heat.

Place olive oil in large sauté pan. Place in peeled, whole clove of garlic (if you leave garlic in whole pieces the garlic will give the clams a flavor but the flavor will not be an extremely intense one-‘if you don’t want to have garlic on the breath’. If you don’t care about garlic odor then by all means chop it finely). Sate garlic over medium low heat until oil starts to form bubbles and garlic begins to get golden color. Place in clams and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring the clams every so often to distribute the flavors. Remove from heat. Sprinkle in the freshly chopped parsley. Stir for about one minute. 

Place pasta in boiling water according to package directions (about 10 minutes). Taste before draining to be sure pasta is done to your liking. Drain in colander. When water is drained off place in saucepan with clam sauce and toss with pasta pincer till pasta is coated. Squeeze ½ lemon over pasta and toss. Place in individual serving dishes

Can be served with dry white wine – 1small glass

Second Course : Pepperoni Imbottiti

(Stuffed peppers)

1/4 cup cannelloni beans

1 tables minced onion

2 taps of fresh garlic minced finely

1 cans tuna (6 ounces)

1 tblsp of extra virgin cold pressed olive oil

Juice of ½ small lemon

¼ cup freshly chopped parsley

½ tsp Sapori D’Italia spice -Tuscan blend

 Drain tuna can. Place tuna in large bowl and flake. Then add in beans,  3 tsps olive oil, garlic, onions, spice blend (leave a pinch behind to bake peppers), lemon juice. Toss.

Take whole peppers, cut of tops and clean out seeds and inside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place peppers standing on glass or ceramic baking baking dish. Drizzle with 1 tsp of olive oil and a pinch of the spice blend. Place in oven for approx 20 minutes or until tender.

Remove from oven, let cool and scoop in tuna mixture. Divide evenly between both peppers. Serve cool or while peppers are still warm. In the summer you may want to try serving this with raw peppers. This makes a wonderful picnic dish also.

Dolce : Fragole con Limone

(Dessert course: Strawberries with Lemon)

1 pound of fresh ripe strawberries

1 fresh lemon

1 handful fresh mint

1 tblsp sugar or 3 packets  artificial sweetener

(Optional- 1/4 cup red wine)

Make this dessert about 1 hour before dinner so that the lemon juice and sugar have a chance to marinade the fruit>

Wash and hull strawberries. Cut each strawberry in quarters. If you are using the baby strawberries  (fragolini- little strawberries) you can leave them whole.

Place in serving bowl. Cut lemon in half, with fork incised into lemon half (use both halves). Squeeze juice over strawberries- taking out any seeds. Sprinkle sugar on top. If you want t add in red wine-do so now. Stir and toss so strawberries are coated well with juice and cover bowl, refrigerate for about 1 hour.

When ready to serve, garnish with mint leaves on the top of the individual serving dish.

After Dinner Drink: Caffe Dolce e Speziata

(Spicy Dessert Coffee)

2 cups hot espresso coffee

2 tsps artificial sweetener or sugar

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of cinnamon

2 tblsps of light whipped cream

Place hot coffee in individual espresso serving cups

Stir in sweetener, top each cup with pinch of cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg and then 1 tblsp of light whipped cream.

Other useful tips:

*Even though olive oil is very good for you, you may want to lessen the calorie content of some of these dishes by substituting Enova oil for half or 1/3 of the olive oil in the dishes. Always use some olive oil so you still

Capture that flavor in each dish. Enova oil is a ‘good for you oil’ but you do not absorb all of its fat content.

*In any of the dishes that use sugar- even though my recipes don’t generally use a lot of sugar- so the sugar calories are minimum- you can still substitute an artificial sweetener.

*This meal contains a lot of good for you ingredients, Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, pasta, seafood, olive oil. However, I have included a small amount of alcohol in the form of spumante (sparkling wine) because this is meant to be a dinner for a special occasion. But remember alcohol does add calories- even thought there have been health benefits found- you should  limit your alcohol consumption to special occasions so as not to load up on unnecessary calories, etc. I also recommend that if you  drink the cocktail (Tintoretto) -you serve that with your appetizer. You should never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. And you don’t want to munch away on salty pretzels and peanuts to add more calories with your cocktail.

*If you drink the cocktail before dinner and still want to drink wine with the meal be sure to drink a small glass only with the meal. Alcohol-even wine does add calories

*Since this is meant to be a romantic meal for two- you may want to partake in a small square of dark chocolate (should be minimum of 70% cocoa to get the health benefits) with your after dinner drink.

Buonm Appetito..

Ciao for now..

tanti baci e abbracci per San Valentino..   Maria

For more recipes get your copy of the best selling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at http://www.marialiberati.com and receive $5 off retail price and free shipping for a             limited time only!!

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