It was the night before my 43rd birthday and as I approached the long crowded bar to order a round for my friends, I noticed him next to me. I’m pretty sure that I did not elbow him out of the way as we stood there together, but I did manage to get the bartender’s attention first and order some drinks. Without a word, I gathered up my order and navigated the crowded floor back to my friends to hand out beverages and enjoy the last few hours of being 42. Not much time passed before everything changed for me and suddenly I was being introduced to the guy from the bar. I guess it would be a much cooler story if I had said something witty and then walked away leaving him dazzled as the bartender took his order. Unfortunately all we have from that brief encounter are two conflicting stories of whether or not I elbowed him out of my way.
Love isn’t always glamorous or complicated. Sometimes it’s as simple as standing elbow to elbow with someone who is about to order a beer. Of course a bit of luck always helps a romantic situation. In my case regardless of my elbow or the fact that we didn’t say a word to each other, we were always going to be introduced to each other that night.
Admittedly I appropriated his attention for the rest of the evening and probably learned all I needed to know. That is, that I wanted to know more. I know it’s Valentine’s Day but I’ll spare you the sappy details of the rest of the story. This is a food blog after all. The important thing to mention is that we quickly discovered that food was the common interest that would always bring us together.
For Valentine’s Day week (why not take the whole week?) we enjoyed a series of meals that one or both of us cooked for the other. Because as it turns out, food is the way to our hearts.
If you’re still trying to decide what to cook for your valentine today, consider some of our favorites, steak and pasta. Most importantly don’t be fooled into thinking this day is only for romantic love. I can’t remember the valentines before Mike, but I remember the meals I’ve cooked and shared with my best friends and my family, my first loves. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
Gemelli with Ceci (Chick Peas) and Hot Sausage
- 1 box (12oz) of pasta – We used Gemelli
- 1 (12 oz) can Ceci/Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans, drained
- 2- 3 links hot Italian Sausage
- 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 1 large onion (yellow or white), finely chopped
- 1 – 1.5 large celery stalks, finely chopped
- Olive Oil
- White cooking wine
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into a few large chunks
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Fresh chopped parsley
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for topping
- Crusty Italian bread
- Heat 5 quarts of salted water on high for the pasta.
- Slice sausage in half longways and broil in the broiler or toaster oven. Turn 2-3 times while cooking. Broil until browned and cooked through – about 10-12 min.
- While the water is heating, begin the sofritto which is the onions, carrots and celery preparation.
- First in a large skillet, heat olive oil and then sauté garlic over med-high heat until lightly browned. Discard garlic.
- Next, add onions and begin to sauté over medium heat. Add a dash of salt.
- Then, as soon as onions begin to release moisture and become translucent, add carrots and celery. Reduce heat slightly and stir occasionally.
- After about 5 minutes, vegetables (sofritto) should begin to soften.
- Add the chick peas and white wine. Continue over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally until alcohol cooks off.
- Pasta can be dropped around the time the chick peas are added. Cook until just barely al dente (about 8-9 min.) pasta will finish in the skillet.
- When sausage is done, remove from broiler and slice into small chunks and add to skillet mixture.
- When pasta is ready, first reserve about 1-1 1/2 cups of pasta water to add to the sauce in the skillet. Then strain the pasta and add to the skillet.
- Add about ½ cup of the pasta water and raise heat to medium-high.
- Add salt and black pepper to taste.
- Cook for about a minute, stirring frequently until the liquid reduces a bit and the pasta is done.
- Serve at the table in a large bowl. Top with fresh parsley. Note that the pasta will continue to absorb a bit of the sauce, so add a bit of pasta water as necessary to maintain consistency. It should be very moist, but not soupy.
- On the plate, top with grated Parmigiano.
- Serve with crusty Italian bread.
- London Broil – approximately 18- 24 oz, ~1½” thick
- ½ large white onion – roughly chopped
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- McCormick Steakhouse Onion seasoning
- Remove steak from refrigerator – allow to come just up to room temp (15-20 min).
- Remove rack and cover broiler pan with heavy duty foil, add a small amount of olive oil to coat with a very thin layer.
- Turn broiler on high.
- Place a small amount of olive oil on your hands and rub both sides of steak.
- Season both sides of steak with generous amount of each seasoning.
- Place steak in center of broiler pan (right on the pan).
- Surround steak in the pan with chopped onions.
- Sprinkle onions with seasoning mix.
- When broiler is up to temp, place pan in broiler, about 5-6″ from flame
- Cook on one side for about 5-7 min.
- Briefly remove pan from broiler and quickly stir onions and turn steak. Top with a small amount of seasoning if desired.
- Cook on 2nd side for 4-5 min, depending on thickness (Do not overcook!!!).
- Remove pan and set steak on cutting board. Cover with foil and allow to rest about 5 minutes.
Cream Cheese Cookies
- 5 cups of flour
- 5 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup of sugar
- 5 eggs
- 2 sticks of butter, softened
- 1 tbs vanilla extract
- 1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
- 1 box of confectioners sugar
- water or milk
- Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla in a mixer until blended.
- Then add in the butter and cream cheese a little at a time.
- Once blended, slowly add the flour and baking soda a little at a time until completely incorporated into the mixture and it becomes a very soft dough.
- Alternately, you can do the above steps manually by making a well with the flour and baking soda and mixing the eggs, sugar and vanilla in the middle then adding in the butter and cream cheese mixing and incorporating flour into the mixture until a soft dough is formed.
- This dough does not require full kneading. You simply fold half of it over on to itself to from a soft smooth dough.
- To form cookies, take a piece of dough about two inches long and an inch thick and roll it into a rope pressing very lightly with your hands and/or fingertips so as not to flatten the dough.
- Next, twirl the rope into a circle winding it onto itself until a round knot like cookie is formed.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
- When the cookies are cool, it’s time to frost.
- Start with a cup of confectioners sugar and add a few drops of water or milk until all the sugar is incorporated forming a frosting that is just thick enough to spread on each cookie.
- You can also put the frosting in a plastic bag, slightly snip the corner to create a piping bag and pipe frosting over the cookies. *You can also add food coloring to the frosting to make fun colors.
- For Valentine’s Day, I formed the cookies in the shape of hearts (pictured above) and frosted them with red icing. I really had no idea what I was doing but Mike took some video so we’ll be posting that soon.