Valentine’s Day is awful. A disease — an intractable infliction in need of its own foundation to donate millions of dollars towards finding a cure This is a fact and a foregone conclusion for the male of the species. Many females too. However, what if you changed the name to something like, “Day to eat delicious food with your loved one(s).” That doesn’t sound so bad, as long as you don’t waste your time going out to an overcrowded restaurant whose wait staff herds patrons through like cattle and whose kitchen staff will serve any rotten piece of food as long as it is heart shaped. That is what all restaurants invariably turn into on Valentine’s Day — if you can even get a table. Instead, celebrate Eat Delicious Food Day at home. Pull out all the stops, spare no expense on ingredients, and spend the entire day in the kitchen — just do the shopping before the actual day. This is what has become my tradition, and it just happens to fall on February 14th every year!
So let me start with the menu and then I will explain how I arrived at that conclusion
1st course – Camerones de ajillo, Spanish style
2nd course – Home made wild mushroom and goat cheese stuffed ravioli with pistachio pesto
3rd course – Sesame seed encrusted seared yellow tail with sun choke puree
4th course – Chocolate mousse
How did I come up with this menu? A combination of serendipity, available kitchen supplies, and available ingredients…
On Eat Delicious Food Day, I like to stick with what I know how to cook. I typically save the experimentation for days like Tuesday. And what I know best is Italian food. So the initial plan was to cook a traditional Tuscan meal — ravioli en brodo (ravioli in broth), pollo arrosto (whole roasted chicken) con spinaccio al fiorentina al contorno (spinach sautéed with garlic and tomatoes on the side).
Problem one with that meal is that my oven is broken, so no go on the roasted chicken. I could still make the ravioli, though, and stuff them with whatever good ingredients I find in the store. But I needed another meat. So I headed to whole foods in search of a protein and some bones — any bones — with which to make a stock. Whole Foods would be the deciding factor on what to make.
The camerones de ajillo was an easy decision. Jumbo shell-on shrimp were on sale and adding an appetizer would take about 10 minutes to prepare. Slice the shrimp thin, toast sliced garlic in olive oil, turn the heat off and poach the shrimp in the garlic oil. While in the fish section, I noticed that they had beautiful yellow fin tuna steaks. Typically out of my price range, I figured what the hell, Eat Delicious Food Day only comes once a year — and seared tuna certainly is delicious. I also remembered having some toasted sesame seeds at home, which makes the perfect crust for seared tuna.
Next on to the produce section to find something to stuff the ravioli with, and perhaps the base for a sauce for the tuna. The mushroom section had these gigantic Portobello mushrooms, probably one foot across. So I grabbed one of those, a handful of shitaki mushrooms, and later a plain goat cheese to mix with the mushrooms cooked down in red wine to serve as the stuffing for the ravioli.
Then serendipity brought the sun chokes. I had eaten them in a restaurant before, but never cooked with them. So I got on my iPhone Epicurious App, and saw that sun chokes are often pureed and used as a base for a protein. So I grabbed a pound on them, boiled them in milk and blended the whole thing with some garlic and fresh ginger. I also added a dash of sesame oil to match the sesame seed crust on the tuna.
Then on to find some bones to make a stock. Not even on a normal day will I settle with store-bought broth for this dish. Ravioli en brodo is a very simple dish relying entirely on well-made ravioli and a rich stock. Store-bought broth simply doesn’t have the richness or depth needed for this dish. Unfortunately, no bones were to be found. So instead, I made the simple switch to a pesto and ravaged my basil plant that is somehow still growing like a champion in my apartment. I then decided on pistachio nuts instead of the typical pine nuts. Pistachios tend to stay chunkier in a pesto than do pine nuts, and adding a crunch seemed like a good contrast to the soft ravioli.
As for the chocolate mousse dessert, my girlfriend deserves all the credit. Late in the afternoon, she just decided to make the dessert. About an hour later, and thanks partially to the amazing-ness of KitchenAid standing mixers, the mousse was done and chilling in wine glasses.
Posted in: Food Culture | Tags: Camerones de ajillo, Chocolate mousse, chocolate mousse dessert, Eat Delicious Day, Eat Delicious Food Day, homemade ravioli, pistachio pesto, Ravioli en brod, Ravioli en brodo, Seared tuna, seared yellow tail, sun choke puree, valentine’s day dinner, valentine’s dinner