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Fallin’ for You – A Casual Valentine’s Dinner

To be totally honest with you, over the years I’ve definitely fallen in, and out, of love with Valentine’s Day.

In the long ago days when I was in school (looooong before social media, cell phones and TikTok) I remember how fun it was to get the corny homemade cards from friends that were more glue and glitter than greeting.  

And then there were the dating years.  

If it was a year a boyfriend happened to be in the picture, it was all roses and chocolates.  

If there wasn’t one (which were more years then with), it was dinner out with girlfriends,  listening to “In Your Eyes” and dreaming of John Cusack.

Fast forward to when I met my husband, and it was bouquets and cards and chocolates and our favorite restaurant.  

But then the kids came along, and we were too exhausted to change out of our sweats, and too poor to trek out to some overpriced-prix fixed-menu restaurant.  

So we’d put the kids down early, light a few candles, put on Enya (it was the early 2000’s after all) and sit down to a home cooked dinner.  

And, by far, those have always been our favorite Valentine’s dinners. 

Even when our kids outgrew babysitters, and we could go out, we opted to stay home.  We just set the table for 2 more.  

Whether you celebrate Galentine’s (which my daughter does with her friends and always has me wishing I’d celebrated that way in high school!), or with a boyfriend, husband, loved ones, friends, family — whoever sits around your table, this simple, cozy meal is sure to make you all feel the love.   

Seared Scallops with Tarragon Cream Sauce

 Serves: 4  Total Time: 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound large sea scallops
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, green and white part
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
  • Grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • fresh chives for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

1

Place the scallops on a plate or platter and put in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

2

In a small saucepan. melt the butter over medium heat.

3

Add the scallions and a small pinch of salt, reduce the heat to low, and cook 15-20 minutes, until the scallions are very soft.

4

Sprinkle the flour over the scallions, and continue to sauté for a minute or two. Cooking the flour for a couple of minutes will get rid of any flour taste in your sauce. You want the flour to thicken, not flavor, your sauce.

5

Slowly add the milk. Raise the heat to medium, and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened. This should take around 5 minutes.

6

Add the tarragon leaves and stir through, then turn off the heat and pour the mixture into a blender.

7

Puree until completely velvety smooth, then return to the pan over low heat, cooking until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

8

Be sure to keep your pan on very low heat. You may need to take your pan on and off the heat, stirring continually, until the sauce thickens.

9

FOR THE SCALLOPS:

10

Pour a very thin film (enough to coat the bottom) of grapeseed oil in the bottom of a sauté pan and warm over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Don’t let the oil start to smoke because that means your pan is too hot and you’ll need to cool it down before adding the scallops.

11

Using your fingers, gently place the scallops in the pan, a few at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan.

12

Sear them just couple of minutes per side until they are nicely browned and caramelized.

13

TIP: They should release from the pan easily once they’re ready. Don’t force them and pry them up to turn them over. You want that gorgeous caramelization. They should also be a little jiggly in the middle. Don’t worry about them being raw – they will continue to cook off the heat.

14

Set aside and keep warm.

15

Taste the sauce and adjust salt if necessary.

16

Off the heat, whisk in the crème fraiche until the mixture is smooth. For a fancy presentation, spoon a little of the sauce into the bottom of shallow, warmed bowls, place scallops on top, and garnish with fresh chives.

Haricot Vertes with Herb Butter

 Serves: 6  Total Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • Kosher salt
  • French string beans
  • scallion
  • fresh dill
  • fresh flat leaf parsley
  • butter
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt or fleur de sel

INSTRUCTIONS

1

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the string beans and cook for 5 minutes or until tender but form. Drain and then place the string beans in a serving dish.

2

For the herb butter, placed the scallion, dill, parsley, butter, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl and combine.

3

Scoop a generous tablespoon of the herb butter and place it on top of the string beans. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Chocolate Ganache Cake

 Serves: 8  Total Time: 50 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-cup sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 16 fluid ounces Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • 1-tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1-cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • Ganache:
  • 1/2-cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2-teaspoon instant coffee granules

INSTRUCTIONS

1

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2

Lightly grease your cake pan and line with parchment paper. I really encourage you to line your pan! The parchment paper makes it ridiculously easy to remove the cake. I left this out once, and my cake came out in pieces. Just trying to save you from disaster because no one should cry over chocolate cake!

3

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. I like to cream them while collecting the rest of the ingredients, so, usually about 10 minutes. This may seem like a long time, but the lighter and fluffier the butter/sugar mixture get, the better the cake will be!

4

Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat after each addition to incorporate each egg. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and coffee granules and mix until just barely combined. Don’t overbeat, or the cake will be tough!

5

Scoop the batter into cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don’t over bake! Let cool thoroughly in the cake pan.

6

While the cake is cooling, make the ganache. Cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. If you don’t have a double boiler NO PROBLEM! Fill a medium saucepan about 1/3 of the way with water. Put all the ingredients in a bowl big enough to fit securely in the saucepan. The bowl should be wide enough that there isn’t a gap (you don’t want water splashing into it), and the bottom of the bowl should NOT touch the water in the saucepan. Over medium high heat, bring the water to a simmer, and, as the ingredients melt, stir to make a lovely, glossy ganache.

7

When the cake is completely cooled, over a wire cooling rack, turn the cake pan over and release the cake onto the rack. VERY IMPORTANT: Be sure to have tinfoil or a large baking sheet under the rack to catch the drippings of the ganache.

8

Carefully, pour the ganache over the cake and use a rubber spatula to smooth the ganache over all sides of the cake. You will want to pour the ganache very slowly, to ensure the majority of the ganache goes on the cake and not onto the foil/baking sheet.

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