With Valentine’s Day being this past week, you didn’t think I would lose such a perfect chance for a theme menu, did you? Of course you didn’t! Well, not one to disappoint, we had a heart shaped feast! I started with some wild caught salmon from the seafood case in my local grocery. Sprinkled liberally with Tuscan seasonings, salt and pepper, and olive oil. I put my little fishy friends in a nice, hot, 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes to roast.
While my salmony friends were roasting to perfection, I started on the potatoes. I decided that since it was Valentine’s Day, almost everything was going to have to have a love theme. This included the potatoes. I used a granny knife (it is a paring knife with a little hooked, very sharp point on the end) to cut a deep “v” shape in the top center of each raw potato. I then stood it up on one end and gently and carefully began slicing think layers from the bottom / sides of the heart to form the basic shape. Using my vegi peeler, I started to round the “v” in the middle and the sharp angular edges to form the rounded upper part of the heart. Once this was done, I sliced off each end and threw the whole potato into a pot of salted, boiling water. I used three potatoes for 6 people (4 adults and 2 children). Once these have cooked thoroughly, remove them from the heat, drain and rinse with cold water at least two times.
Slice each potato into ¼ inch slices and pan roast with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and paprika. Easy breezy!
The salad was super easy to make. A bed of spinach or arugula (my family likes different greens, but as long as they will eat them, I’ll buy any type of green that goes in and stays in – my 3 year old hasn’t given up the fight on all things green staying in yet). I used a tiny heart shaped cookie cutter to cut hearts in red and yellow bell peppers. For our cucumbers, I used the same technique I used for the potatoes, but sliced and added to the salad. The little cherry tomato heart was easy as can be. You simply take one oblong grape or cherry tomato (I like the grape ones because of the shape), slice on the diagonal, and rotate one half of the tomato 180 degrees. There you have a heart! I secured with little yellow toothpicks so that it resembled a tiny arrow through the heart.
Once your salmon is done, remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 15 minutes before you begin to use your heart shaped cookie cutter to stamp heart shapes from the fish. These go on top of the bed of greens and vegies you just assembled.
To top the salmon, I roasted cherry tomatoes with salt, pepper and olive oil. Once done, I threw those into a blender, skins and all, and added garlic, dill and chives along with ½ cup of greek yogurt. Blend thoroughly for a divine drizzle that adds tons of flavor without a lot of bad for you fats and calories. Top each salmon heart with a bit of sauce and some microgreens for a stunning effect. Yes, I busted out the microgreens, yes my children thought I had yard clippings on their fishies. Hahaha – more for Mommy!
The final element of our entrée was sautéed mushrooms and shallots. I used a simple garlic infused olive oil to with salt and pepper to sauté the vegies. Once the shallots are transparent, you are done. I used two packs of gourmet blend mixed mushrooms and ½ shallot. Place the mushrooms on your plate in a thin layer and top with your heart shaped, pan roasted potatoes. Your main course is done done done!
For dessert, I made a lovely crème brule with rose shaped strawberry toppers. Yes, my ramekins were heart shaped – they don’t call it theme night for nothing! Start with 8 egg yolks, 1 cup of sugar, 4 cups of heavy cream, and two tablespoons of Mexican vanilla. If you have time, you can infuse vanilla beans into the cream using a saucepan over a low heat, but I didn’t have that luxury on a school night. The egg yolks and sugar thoroughly, then slowly mix in the cream, little by little, until you have utilized all four cups. Incorporate your vanilla and your base custard is done.
Fill ramekins about 4/5 full and place into a water bath to bake. I like to set my oven to 325 for about an hour and a half. The goal is to take out the custards while the center is still a little giggly. Let the custards rest for a bit and start to set up.
While our lazy little friends are resting after their sauna, we want to make the strawberry roses. Select strawberries with a nice round cone shape. You want ones that are relatively uniform in size and have a nice slope. Turn them so that the green cap is facing down and the point up. Hold the strawberry by the cap and begin making slices at the base, very thin, around the sides to create the first layer of petals. Move up a row and begin making slices with your granny knife in the spaces between the petals of your first row. Again, you want the petals to be thin and deeply cut, yet still attached securely to the base. Continue this process all the way to the tip of the rose. Pluck out the tiny piece that will be left at the center of the berry to create a little opening. Using your knife, pull each petal back slightly to open the flower to the desired state of bloom and place on your dish of choice.
Before we place our strawberry roses, we need to caramelize the sugar coating on the top of our crème brule. Liberally sprinkle white sugar on top of your custard. Using your culinary torch, turn on the flame and slowly begin applying it to the sugar. You want to melt but not burn it. Use slow sweeping strokes to make sure that you are melting it evenly, taking care not to leave your flame in one place too long or the sugar will melt. No one likes a finger full of melted, super heated sugar – trust me, some lessons have been learned the hard way!
Tiny isn’t terribly fond of the culinary torch. I think she has trust issues. 🙂 Papa Bear gave it to me for Christmas because I have been wanting one for years. Tiny saw me using it for the first time and looked at Papa Bear and said “Just because she says she wants something doesn’t mean you put it in her hands!” and walked back out of the room. Pardon me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. I think I just heard myself emerge from my child. It was bound to happen. Enjoy your love meals and let me know how your crème brules turned out, it really couldn’t be easier!
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