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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dinner for Two

An evening in for $20 or less:

Isn't it funny how Valentine's Day can either be "fantastic" or "dreadful". Unfortunately, everything "okay" or "fine" falls under the dreadful category thanks to modern day marketing and social expectations. Don't misunderstand me: I love Valentine's Day marketing - I work in a chocolate shop, for heaven sake. But, speaking from personal experience my Valetine's Days have been slowly making an upward climb; which, is better than a downward spiral. The last two I spent at fencing tournaments, at least one before that was spent drinking smuggled champagne in our dorm suite, and I don't really care to go back beyond that.

This year, things are mostly looking up: no sweaty, stinky fencing equipment in sight. But, I've been realizing that there are some simple things that really stand out when you're trying to make a statement to your sweet heart; a tasty, decadent dinner, for example. SPUDS is happy to present you with the perfect menu for just a such a statement, and at a fraction of the price of take-out. This menu is a guideline more than anything else. For example, if you like blue cheese swap in the Gorgonzola for the Parmesan in the cream sauce. For the record, the sweet sausage tortellini about blew my mind dressed up in the nutty Parmesan sauce though, so why meddle with perfection. Want an appetizer instead of dessert? Toast up half of your fresh bread, brush it with olive oil and rub it with garlic and serve with a little of the leftover cheese from your pasta. If you're feeling up to it, you can factor in another $6-7 and pick up a meat entree at your grocer's prepared foods counter.

There is some bad news, though. My Olympus FE-340 - yes, the point and shoot that takes all my photos - seems to be badly distressed. The problem hasn't been solved just yet, although all signs point towards a trip to the technician's for a diagnosis. We are going to make a move towards the iPod camera - as soon as I find it, again... In the mean time, SPUDS will be taking a short hiatus.

Dinner for Two

Pasta with Parmesan Cream Sauce ($7.38)
-The Complete Guide to Sauces

Pictured: Sweet Italian Sausage Tortellini with Parmesan Cream

1 package refrigerated cheese (or meat) filled pasta

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup cheese (Parmesan or Gorgonzola)
pinch of nutmeg

1. Melt the butter over low heat with the cream and cheese of your choice.
2. Stir until everything begins to combine.
3. Increase the heat and simmer the sauce a minute or two until it thickens slightly.
4. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Serve warm.

Fresh Bread (.89 - 2.99)

Notes: The next time you are in your local grocery, check out the bakery. Many stores will have a discount basket with loaves market down as low as .89 cents. Be sure to check the loaves for freshness: is the crust still crispy, does the bread smell fresh or yeasty even? Very often, these loaves are either seasonal, specialty, duplicates or nearing the "sell by date". But, why pay full price when you don't have to?

Seasonal Fresh, Frozen or Canned Vegetable (.75 - 1.95)
Notes: Pairing a simple vegetable side dish with a rich entrée is a no-brainer. Too many complex flavors can overwhelm even the most well-trained palate. Luckily, there are tons of options in the modern day market. Make heart-shaped sweet and sour beets (.75 can), an easy to find fresh vegetable like green beans or fresh spinach, or even a lightly seasoned frozen option - all you will have to do is heat them up.

Pictured: Kiwi fruit Pizzettes with Blood Orange Sorbet

Sweet Fruit Pizzettes with Sorbet (5.37)
-Baking with Julia

Notes: The pizzettes can be made a few hours before your dinner, but I like them hot. Be sure to thoroughly defrost the puff pastry before you begin to roll it out. Once the pastry gets warm it will get extremely sticky so flour your surface liberally, but not excessively. Follow the package instructions to thaw the pastry. Although it has a lot of butter in it, be sure to lightly grease your cookie sheet before baking your pastry hearts; otherwise, it is possible they will stick.

Because I was using such a juicy fruit (kiwi) I chose to top the pizzettes with them after baking, rather than before. The heat drained the kiwi fruit of almost all of its color on the first try; which, is why I chose to serve them fresh. But, something like a strawberry or plum slice may not suffer the same fate. My advice: top half the hearts with fruit and leave half plain in case the pizzettes get too soggy, or the fruit too pale. You'll always have a back-up. I skipped the large carton of sorbet for reasons of fitting into my clothing after this holiday. Most stores offer a tolerable selection of single or double serving containers in the freezer section.

1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
1 kiwi, 6-8 pieces of fresh fruit like plum or pear slices or fresh berries
goat cheese (optional)
cinnamon sugar

fruit sorbet to serve

1. Thaw the pastry in its package for about 40 minutes at room temperature.
2. Lightly flour a work surface (like waxed paper or a clean counter) and gently unfold the pastry.
3. Use a floured cookie cutter, cut out your desired shapes. Dust them with a little cinnamon sugar and place on your baking sheet.
4. Either gently press a slice of fruit or fresh berry into the pastry before baking, or bake as is for 12-15 minutes. If desired, you can crumble a little goat cheese on top of the fruit before baking.
5. Serve with a scoop or two of sorbet (or ice cream if you're into that).

1 comment:

  1. Nice guide! thank you!/I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

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