"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."
(Charles M. Schulz)
A couple of days later, are you still feeling the love? I know not everyone is keen on Valentine's Day, but any extra push to celebrate love and friendship is good enough for me. This time around, I'm not only in a relationship, but I'm married, unlike during my previous 2 posts about the holiday ("Leap Month 2012 Highlights" and "XOXO").
Even though I was never anti-Valentine's Day, I'm also not one to make a big deal about it. I actually think Valentine's Day might be more fun as a children's holiday than a lovers' holiday, and I enjoy seeing all of the cute crafts that come from it. This year was our first Valentine's Day together, and rather than going out, we stayed home and I cooked a romantic dinner (see details, photos, and recipe links below).
Fondue with Gruyère, Emmenthal, Brie and Champagne
I made this fondue with good-quality Gruyère, Emmenthal (aka Emmentaler), and Saint Angel, a triple cream French cheese (you can use any Brie or Camembert), along with champagne, shallot, a splash of lemon, and a dash of nutmeg. I served it with cubes of French bread and slices of Granny Smith apple. We sipped the rest of the champagne with dinner, and it was all good.
A friend gave me a small, candle-lit fondue set years ago, which I never got around to using before my sister borrowed it -- probably almost 10 years ago, because it was right after she got married -- and I never saw it again. It might be somewhere in their storage area or in my parents' attic, but it clearly has not been a kitchen must-have for me since I hadn't really thought about it until I decided to make fondue this Valentine's Day. I considered buying another small one, but my week was too busy and I didn't have the time or arm-space to buy or carry one from work to meetings to home. And I'm big on multitasking items, as some of you know.
The Three-Cheese Fondue with Champagne recipe from Bon Appétit via Epicurious.com is meant for 2 people to share, and not for a large crowd, so I was able to transfer some of it from the stovetop into my gravy boat and it kept warm until it was time for a refill. I haven't actually used my gravy boat for gravy yet.
There is something about fondue that is so comforting, especially during the winter months. It also reminds me of a nice meal we had at Artisanal, complete with a chocolate fondue dessert.
Lavender Chicken with Lemon, Thyme and Honey
From the time I first saw the recipe for Poulet au Citron et Lavande, adapted from Rachel Khoo's The Little Paris Kitchen -- a BBC series and cookbook -- I knew it would make an unusual and special Valentine's dinner main course. I had never cooked with lavender before, and I found that it lends a distinctly fragrant, decidedly Provençal character to food (use sparingly).
Did I mention that roasted chicken is one of my favorite foods? This might not be an everyday version, but it resulted in flavorful, caramelized skin, with melded flavors of lavender, thyme, and honey. It's surprising how many ways culinary lavender can be used (there are currently 910 lavender recipes on Food.com alone).
Dark Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries with Icing Drizzle
I love baking, but to keep things simple yet still sweet, I planned for a dessert of dark chocolate-dipped strawberries with white and red icing drizzle. I tried 2 different Barefoot Contessa recipes, but the first one -- which called for heavy cream -- became too oily and the chocolate wouldn't stick to the strawberries; so I started over and used Ina Garten's simpler Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries procedure, which worked out perfectly.
Strawberries and dark chocolate are both great sources of antioxidants.
Tonight, we will be having dinner at Osteria Morini and then we're planning to go see Identity Thief. In addition to the lovely roses and tulips, Sam got me a spa package for an organic facial, Swedish massage, and moisturizing mani at Venelle Salon & Spa, so I might try to take advantage of that on Monday. Enjoy your weekend!