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Cupid's Annual Mission
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Cupid Aims His Arrows from the Kitchen
With Valentine's Day just ahead, Cupid is poised and ready to touch two hearts that share thoughts of love. A little planning and a few gourmet dishes can make that special person in your life feel pampered to the max. And you'll soon notice those sweet moments of TLC flowing back to your heart. After all, it's Cupid's day to romp his way into lovers' hearts.
For that special Valentine of yours, set the love scene with extra special touches. Haul out the linens, light the candles, and turn on the soft music. A small vase with a single red rose and a glass of wine or sparkling apple cider launches your special Valentine dinner with a sweet beginning.
As an easy and tasty starter, Cashew Stuffed Mushrooms can be prepared one day ahead. Two mushrooms each may seem like a tidbit, but they're quite enough considering the sumptuous meal that lies ahead.
Next, prepare a fresh salad of baby greens enhanced with shredded carrots, diced jicama, sliced radishes, cherry tomatoes, and diced avocado. Then, dress the salad for the occasion with a knock-your-socks-off
Creamy Garlic Soy Dressing that makes those greens come alive with snap.
Your pièce de résistance is a captivating Tofu Vegetable Napoleon, an extraordinary dish that evokes passion in those with a spirit of dining adventure. By preparing the tender crust the day before and reheating last minute, the dish should come together quickly.
To accompany your tasty entrée, steam some brown rice, quinoa, or bulgur wheat to complete the main course.
Dessert is a stunning Fruited Coeur a la Crème, French for heart of crème that speaks words of love at first sight. It's light and absolutely gorgeous. Easily prepared in a heart-shaped mold, this treat can be made the day before and the Red Berry Sauce topping spooned on just before serving.
Now that you've done your part, you can be sure you've given Cupid every opportunity to shoot his arrow with perfect aim. He is, after all, the son of Venus, goddess of love. With that little cherub at your side, you can't miss having a spectacular Valentine's Day.
A tasty starter for a romantic beginning, these mushrooms can easily be prepared ahead and brought out at just the right moment. The recipe is adjusted to serve a happy couple or a pack of party animals.
Cashew Stuffed Mushrooms is one of the delicious recipes from Zel Allen's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.
CASHEW STUFFED MUSHROOMS
Yield: 2 servings
5 button mushrooms
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon water
2 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cashews
4 green onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped green bell pepper
3/4 teaspoon capers, well drained
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
- Wash the mushrooms and pat them dry. Using your thumb, press gently on the side of the stems to loosen and remove them. Set the stems aside.
- Combine the apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and water in a large bowl and add the mushrooms. Toss them until they are evenly coated. Marinate for 1 or 2 hours at room temperature, tossing occasionally.
- Combine the mushroom stems, cashews, green onions, red and green bell peppers, capers, and soy sauce in the food processor. Process briefly, just until blended but still chunky.
- Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and dry them with paper towels. Stuff the cavities with the cashew mixture.
- Line a serving dish with lettuce leaves, and arrange the stuffed mushrooms on top. Garnish by pressing the base of each tiny cilantro leaf into the center of the stuffing with a toothpick. For the finishing touch, push an upright pine nut into the center next to the cilantro leaf.
Note: Below are the quantities for a larger group of Valentine's Day party guests. Use the same directions as above:
Yield: 10 servings
20 button mushrooms
1/4 cup (60 ml) apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup (80 ml) raw cashew pieces
4 green onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped red bell pepper,
1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped green bell pepper
2 to 3 heaping tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Try this garlicky and pungent salad topping that will win the favor of that special person and stoke the fires of romance. Oil-free to avoid extra calories, this dressing borrows its richness from the addition of pecans. For convenience, prepare it a day or two ahead--it's a good keeper.
CREAMY GARLIC SOY DRESSING
Yield: 2 1/4 cups (440 ml)
- Combine the pecans, lemon juice, water, and garlic in the blender and blend on slow speed for a few seconds. Switch to high speed and blend for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture is a thick, satin-like puree.
- Add the remaining ingredients and blend for 1 minute, or until the dressing is smooth and creamy.
- Use a funnel to transfer the dressing to a narrow-neck bottle for easy pouring. Serve immediately or chill for later use. Refrigerated, the Creamy Garlic Soy Dressing keeps well for up to 2 weeks. Shake well before.
Note: Guar gum and xanthan gum are both used in very small quantities to thicken sauces and dressings. Guar gum is a dried powder that comes from a legume plant grown in India. Xanthan gum is a powdered natural carbohydrate. Purchase them in natural food markets.
Though the traditional Napoleon was originally a French dessert, it has evolved into a host of innovative, layered savory creations. This picture-perfect version, with its stacked layers is the ideal Valentine dish to symbolize blossoming romance. This tender top and bottom structure of tasty, exotically flavored tofu invites a crowd of succulent veggies to form the delectable filling. You'll find it a great time-saver to prepare the tender crust the day before.
TOFU VEGETABLE NAPOLEON
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
- TO MAKE THE TENDER CRUST, preheat the oven to 400 degrees (Gas Mark 6) and line a jellyroll pan with parchment or lightly oiled aluminum foil, shiny side down.
- Rinse and drain the excess water from the tofu. break it into coarse chunks, and put them into the food processor. Add the pine nuts, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, miso, salt, and pepper.
Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl once or twice.
- Spoon the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and use the back of a spoon to form a rectangle approximately 7 x 9 inches (17.5 x 22.5 cm) by about 3/8 inch (1 cm) thick. Smooth the surface and make the edges even. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and cool.
- TO MAKE THE FILLING, thoroughly wash the spinach and remove the stems. Drain the excess water, chop the spinach coarsely, and set it aside.
- Dice the mushrooms, peppers, and onion in the food processor and transfer them to a large, deep skillet,
- Add the water, olive oil, coriander, cumin, and salt and cook and stir over high heat for about 4 or 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and transparent. Add the spinach and cook and stir for another 1 or 2 minutes.
- If you've prepared the crust the day before, warm it in the oven at 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) for about 10 minutes before assembling the dish.
- TO ASSEMBLE THE NAPOLEON, cut the tender crust in half lengthwise. Then make 2 to 3 crosswise cuts to result in 6 or 8 pieces, depending on whether you plan 3 or 4 servings.
- Place 1 piece of crust on each dish. Top with the cooked vegetables, and cover with another crust or place it at an angle so half the filling is exposed and part of the crust is resting on the dish.
- TO MAKE THE TOPPING, arrange the tomato slices on an ungreased baking sheet and place it under the broiler for about 2 minutes, watching carefully not to burn them. Arrange the tomato slices artfully over the top crust, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.
Note: If you own a Silpat sheet, available at houseware specialty stores, place it on the baking pan instead of the parchment.
Aluminum foil is best placed with the shiny side down to prevent deflecting heat away from the food being cooked.
Cupid's arrow is ready to touch your heart on Valentine's Day. To share the romance with that special someone, plan ahead by preparing this valentine-shaped, ambrosial dessert with its rich macadamia filling. Then slather it with delicious Red Berry Sauce just before serving. With its rich flavors and tantalizing presentation, this Coeur is sure to reward with amour.
Fruited Coeur a la Crème is one of the delicious recipes from Zel Allen's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.
FRUITED COEUR A LA CRÈME
Yield: 6 servings
- Line a 4-cup (1 liter) heart-shaped mold with a large piece of plastic wrap, leaving plenty of excess to drape over the sides. Set aside.
- Peel and core the apples. Cut them into 8 wedges and put them into a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan with the water and 2 tablespoons of the organic sugar. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low and steam for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest for 10 minutes, covered.
- Create a macadamia paste by combining the remaining 3 tablespoons of organic sugar and the maple syrup in a 1 quart (1 liter) saucepan. Stir continuously for 1 to 2 minutes over medium high heat, until the sugar dissolves.
- Transfer to the food processor. Add the macadamia nuts and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract and process until smooth and creamy. Transfer the paste to a small bowl. Wash and dry the food processor workbowl and blade.
- Drain the cooked apples and transfer them to the food processor. Add the dates, silken tofu, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and process until smooth and creamy.
- Spoon half of the tofu mixture into the prepared mold and spread it to the edges. Crumble the macadamia paste over the top and press it down lightly. Spoon the remaining tofu mixture over the top, spreading it to the edges to cover the macadamia paste. Cover the mold by folding the excess plastic wrap over the top, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
- Shortly before serving, open the plastic wrapping and invert the coeur onto an attractive platter. Cut the strawberries in half lengthwise and garnish the center of the coeur with them. Spoon 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the Red Berry Sauce over the top, allowing it to cascade down the sides. Pour the remainder of the sauce into a bowl or pitcher and pass it at the table for guests to add as much as they like.
Red Berry Sauce
Combine the strawberries, organic sugar, and lemon juice in the blender. Blend on low speed until the sauce becomes thick and smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes about 3 cups.