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Dinner for Two



February 10, 2017

Chef Amber Michelle

Rack of Lamb on Arugula

Valentine's Day. A Day of love, chocolate, mushy cards, champagne and all that is red, black and lacy. Or is it? I mean what about the heart? The health of your heart is about so many things. Taking time for one another, planning a nice meal, setting a beautiful table and trying something different. It does a heart good to experience something new together. An urban picnic next to the fireplace, bundle up and take a walk in the park and return home to some spiced cocoa, or a late supper enjoyed in courses, all can be a good way to check in with what makes your heart flutter.

This year I'm making dinner for a special friend. Diverting from the usual compulsory and often meaningless rituals, we are enjoying a sumptuous meal, a modest bottle of red wine (Monastrell), and having a little fun incorporating the spirit of the day and heart healthy foods.

We're beginning with Hearts Afire, which are just grilled red peppers. Cut peppers right on the indentations, vertically, seed and trim, then toss in your favorite oil and grill. They are sweet and smoky and can be eaten alone, with a vinegar glaze or filled with white beans, tabbouleh salad or marinated goat cheese. I like them just as they are.

Traditionally, I make a rack of lamb on Valentine's Day and this year is no exception. Simply seasoned with olive oil and rosemary, crushed garlic, salt and pepper, and a little chili flake to keep things hot and the heart pumping. Grill, then serve on arugula salad. When it comes to red meat, I think small portions and the French Paradox, so sip slowly while you nibble.

It wouldn't seem like Valentine's Day without just a little chocol`ate. Our "Piece de Resistance" is savory, sweet and filled with beets. Red Velvet Ravioli. It seems beets are the new kale and I know many of you are very relieved by that. Beets are packed with nutrition, especially fat soluble vitamin A. "Ahhh, the better to see you with, my dear." They are also reported to help lower blood pressure. While decadent, this dish offers a layers of flavors, and incorporates chocolate and wine in an unusual way.

I think the best way to cook beets is "low and slow." Wash them and cut off the tops (cook those up separately with a little lemon or vinegar), coat with a little oil and roast for 90 minutes or until very done. When cool, the jackets slip right off. While they're roasting, make a buerre noisette with one cube (4 oz.) of butter. Just melt slowly on the stove, letting the milk solids fall to the bottom and get very brown, then strain by pouring slowly into a cup, discard the sediment. This produces a lovely hazelnut scented, clarified butter.

Also while the beets are roasting, whip 8 oz. of cream cheese with 2 oz. butter and some fresh thyme together. This is your "frosting."

When beets are cool, peel them (reserving the peelings and ends into a small sauté pan), cut into quarters and pulse in a food processor until finely chopped. Slowly pour buerre noisette through the feeder. Scrape the sides, add a little salt, and blend into a thick paste.

Using wonton wrappers, assemble ravioli, by placing one tablespoon of beet filling on the wrapper, and sealing with egg wash, add another wrapper on top. Make 4-6 ravioli, then steam or poach in a shallow pan of water. Keep warm in a 250 degree oven.

Chef Amber Michelle

Prepared Ravioli

Frost your plates with one tablespoon of savory frosting, and make your sauce. Add ½ cup of wine to your beet peelings, a date or teaspoon of date or coconut sugar, 2 tablespoons of balsamic or sherry vinegar. Reduce to 3-4 tablespoons and strain into very small sauté pan. Continue to reduce a little more and remove from heat. Add 1 oz. of butter and 2 oz. of very dark chocolate. Swirl to emulsify. Place one or two ravioli on a frosted plate and spoon chocolate sauce on top.

Most of this can be done ahead, so all you need to do is assemble when you're ready. It's nice to take a short break after dinner, before dessert or the next course. Sit with your wine, enjoy the culmination of flavors and savor the time. Happy Valentine's Day.

Chef Amber Michelle

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