Valentine’s is the day we celebrate the one we hold dear. What better way to express that love than to prepare a special meal? After all, food is the way to one’s heart – or so it is said. With this menu, it is possible to create an effortless meal and still have time left over to spend the rest of the evening with your special person. The salmon and cheesecake can be prepared the night before for easy finishing the day of the meal.
Salmon En Croute (in pastry) with Lemon Butter Sauce
- 1 cup basil
- 2 garlic cloves, whole
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1⁄4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄4 cup cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1⁄2 tablespoon chopped shallots
- 2 handfuls fresh arugula or spinach
- 1 whole salmon fillet for two, about 12 ounces, skinned
- Chef Belinda Seafood Spice Blend
- 1 sheet puff pastry
- 1 egg
Preheat oven to 400°F. Into the bowl of a food processor or blender, add basil and garlic, and pulse. Slowly add the olive oil while continuing to pulse. Add Parmesan, salt and pepper and pulse a few more times until just blended. Into a small bowl add the cream cheese; fold the basil mixture into the cream cheese and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Into a medium skillet over medium heat, heat oil and sauté the shallots about 2 minutes, then add the arugula and continue to sauté until wilted. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Season the salmon with the seafood spice blend. Dust a dry work surface with our and roll out puff pastry until thin but not so thin it cannot be handled. Place half the arugula in the center of the pastry and put salmon fillet on top of arugula. Spread the cream cheese/basil mixture on top of salmon—totally coating the top and add the remainder of the arugula. In a small bowl, make an egg wash with the egg and 1 teaspoon of water. Brush the exposed pastry with the eggwash all around. Fold one side of the pastry up and over the salmon; then fold the opposite side over; and then fold the two remaining sides up.
Onto a shallow baking pan lined with foil, place the salmon packet seam side down; and brush all over with the egg wash. If desired, decorate the top with a cross-hatch pattern, using a paring knife, being careful not to cut all the way through the pastry. [At this point you can refrigerate the salmon if you are preparing it the night before. Remove from refrigerator a half hour before baking the next day.] Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Let rest 10 minutes. Slice in half and serve on individual plates covered with one tablespoon of the lemon butter sauce.
Lemon Butter Sauce
- 1⁄4 cup lemon juice, fresh-squeezed
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 1⁄2 teaspoon shallots, minced
- Pinch kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill or parsley
In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, add lemon juice, wine, shallots and salt. Let cook until reduced by half. Add butter one tablespoon at a time, swirling the skillet over the re, until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and add herbs.
Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
- 1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large shallow baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl mix all ingredients, ensuring potatoes are thoroughly coated. Place the potatoes, cut side down, onto the prepared pan in a single layer. Roast 30-40 minutes or until brown and easily pierced with a knife. Keep warm on pan until ready to serve, to prevent potatoes from getting soggy.
Mini Red Velvet Cheesecake
Makes four 4 1⁄2-inch mini cheesecakes or 12 cupcake-size cheesecakes
- 1 1⁄2 cups chocolate graham cookie crumbs
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon sugar (omit if graham crackers are coated with sugar)
- 12 ounces cream cheese
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 1⁄2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) red food coloring
- 1 3-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
- 1⁄4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap each of the 41⁄2- inch mini springform pans with foil on the outside bottom, enough to reach halfway up the sides. Blend crust ingredients and press firmly inside bottom of each pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Lower speed and beat in the sour cream and cocoa powder. Add vanilla and eggs until combined and add food coloring. Pour evenly into prepared pans. Place the mini pans into a larger baking pan; and add 1⁄2 inch of water to the larger pan.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until barely firm in the middle. Remove from oven and cool on a rack until completely cooled. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. When ready to serve, remove springform sides and apply frosting.
In a medium bowl, using a portable hand mixer on lowest speed, combine frosting ingredients until smooth. Place frosting into a piping bag equipped with a piping tip; or into a ziplock plastic bag. Snip the corner of the plastic bag and apply frosting to top of cheesecake as desired. Any leftover frosting will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
Chef Belinda Smith-Sullivan is a food writer, personal chef, and pilot who enjoys exploring the “off the beaten path” culinary world. Her love of cooking and entertaining motivated her to give up a corporate career to pursue a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University. Now living in Aiken, she currently markets her own spice line called Chef Belinda Spices. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Charleston chapter, a philanthropical organization of women in the foodservice industry.