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Archive for Valentine’s Day

RECIPE: Beet Tartare

Deep red beets are a natural for Valentine’s Day. In fact, our heart beets for them.

Top chefs agree. Here’s a recipe from one of our favorite Top Chef finalists, Fabio Viviani.

Among his other pursuits, Chef Fabio serves as the brand ambassador for Bertolli Olive Oil (which happens to be the world’s number one brand). He is also the host of the award-winning web series “Chow Ciao!” on Yahoo!

We can’t get to Fabio’s Firenze Osteria in North Hollywood, California; but we can whip up his recipe.

Fabio serves the beet tartare with lobster tail poached in olive oil. You can substitute shrimp for the lobster; or serve the tartare as a side or a first course, presented with whatever you like.

Prep and cooking time: 45 minutes.



Beet tartare (under the edible flower) and poached lobster. Photo courtesy Fabio Viviani.


Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 lobster tail (or equivalent amount of shrimp)
  • 1 large red beet, parboiled until fork tender
  • 1 tablespoon shallots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • Optional garnish: edible flower, fresh herbs


    We love fresh beets, but they are one of the
    rare vegetables where the precooked,
    plastic-packaged or canned versions taste
    just as good. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.



    1. PREPARE the beets: Dice the beets into small pieces so they resemble chopped tuna. Place in a bowl and add the shallots, orange zest, mustard, vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    2. PREPARE the lobster: Place the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and 2 sprigs of thyme into a small pot and place over low heat. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add the lobster. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the lobster is cooked through (but not overcooked—it will be tough and dry). Remove and set aside.

    3. PLATE: Add the diced beets to a mold or ramekin; place on the plate with the lobster and garnish as desired.



    Steak tartare, or tartar steak, is a meat dish* named after the legend that Tartars† did not have time to cook their meat, so ate it raw on horseback.

    Steak tartare is made from finely chopped or minced raw beef or horse meat, plus seasonings. With its growing popularity over the last 30 or so years, other recipes have adopted the name. Salmon tartare, tomato, tuna tartar are some examples.

    *The typical recipe is round raw beef mixed with onions, capers, Worcestershire sauce and a raw egg, served with toast points. A variation, tartare aller-retour, is tartare patty lightly seared on one side. Steak tartare is often served with frites (French fries). In Belgium, the dish is known as filet américain. American? What happened to the Tartars?

    †The Tartars, also spelled Tatars, are an ethnic group in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Most Tatars live in the Russian Federation. To Americans, the most famous of the Tartars is Genghis Khan, whose troops invaded Europe in the 13th century. The most famous Tartar-American is the actor Charles Bronson.



    RECIPE: Beet Mashed Potatoes

    Beets and mashed potatoes are a delicious side with any protein, and a perfect color for Valentine’s Day.

    At any time of year, this lavish mash recipe is sure to impress. It’s easy to prepare when you use packaged baby beets, typically found shrink-wrapped in the produce department. This recipe is courtesy Love Beets. Find more beet recipes at

    The recipe serves two: prep time 5 minutes, cooking time 20 minutes.



  • 1 pound all-purpose potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 package baby beets (3.25 ounces) or
    equivalent canned or fresh-cooked beets
  • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche*
  • Salt and pepper


    Purple passion: mashed beets and potatoes. Photo courtesy


    *Buy crème fraîche or make your own with this recipe.



    Serve the mash with your favorite protein.
    Photo courtesy Love Beets.



    1. PEEL the potatoes and cut each into 8 pieces. Put them into a large pan of salted water and bring to boiling. Simmer for 10 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender. While the potatoes cook…

    2. CHOP the beets into quarters.

    3. DRAIN the potatoes and add the quartered beets and crème fraîche to the pan. Mash everything together well until you have a smooth pink mash. Season to taste.



    Beets, Beta vulgaris are a root vegetable: leaves grow above ground, and the edible root is below. In America, the shortened form, beet, is used instead of the longer beetroot.

    Beets evolved from wild sea beet, which grew in places as wide-ranging as Britain and India. It was first cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East—although only the leaves were eaten. (Even today, beet greens are delicious. Don’t throw them away: Sauté them in olive oil with some minced garlic.)

    Roman recipes included cooking beets with honey and wine. Apicius, the renowned Roman gourmet, included a beet broth recipe in his cookbook as well as beet salad with a dressing of mustard, oil and vinegar. All are still fine recipes today.

    The original beet roots were long and thin like carrots. The rounded root shape of today was developed in the 16th century; by the 18th century it was widely cultivated in central and eastern Europe. Many of today’s classic beet dishes originated in this region, including borscht.

    In 19th century England, beets’ dramatic color were often used to brighten up salads and soups. The high sugar content made it a popular ingredient in cakes and puddings (and in the U.S., led to the creation of red velvet cake).

    Today there are many varieties of beets sizes large and small, including candy-striped (with red and white concentric circles), orange, white and yellow. Look for these specialty beets in farmers markets.


    You can use cooked beets in any recipe that requires raw beets. Just reduce the cooking time accordingly.

    Alas, beet juice does stain. If you aren’t a very neat cook or eater, wear dark clothing! But beet juice is a water-soluble dye, so try one of these methods to clean up stains:

  • To remove from hands, rub with lemon juice and salt before washing with soap and water.
  • To remove from fabric, rub a slice of raw pear on the stain before washing or rinse in cold water before washing in detergent.
  • For cutting boards and containers, use a bleach solution.


    FOOD FUN: Valentine Ice Cream Pops

    We were inspired by these ice cream pops from La Chocolate in Melbourne, Australia to make our own. You can also dip frozen bananas.

    We were unable to find uncoated ice cream bars, and were just as happy to use uncoated frozen yogurt bars. However, you can just as easily purchase chocolate-coated ice cream bars and re-dip them—ideally in a different “color” of chocolate for a double-dip effect.



  • Ice cream bars, uncoated
  • 12 ounces chocolate (your favorite chocolate—
    dark, white or milk)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or mild vegetable oil
  • Valentine-themed candy garnishes: sprinkles,
    hearts, etc.



    Photo courtesy La Chocolate | Australia.


    1. KEEP ice cream in the coldest part of the freezer until ready to use. When ready to begin, line a baking sheet with wax paper.

    2. MELT chocolate and oil in the microwave or over a double boiler, stirring thoroughly to combine. Let cool to room temperature; dip the bars and place on wax paper.

    3. QUICKLY sprinkle on the decorations and return bars to the freezer to set. Wrap each in plastic wrap until ready to serve.



    VALENTINE GIFTS: Fun Stuff From Jacques Torres


    The “Do Not Disturb” sign is chocolate! Photo
    courtesy Jacques Torres.


    Valentine’s Day chocolate isn’t limited to the romance of Champagne truffles and chocolate hearts. Some chocolatiers have fun with it.

    “Mr. Chocolate,” Jacques Torres, is one who creates the fun stuff along with the classics.

    First up, a chocolate “Do Not Disturb” sign. Why would anyone want to disturb you when they could just eat the sign off the door?

    It’s $10.00 at

    Puzzled over what to get a friend? This I Love U Puzzle may be a no-brainer, but it’s also a palate pleaser.

    It’s $11.00.

    There’s more on the menu:

  • Milk- and dark-chocolate covered espresso beans, a treat for coffee lovers (photo), $12.

  • Milk chocolate Champagne corks, filled with chocolate ganache made with Taittinger Champagne, $20.
  • Kiss & Tell, a chocolate kissing game: Champagne-infused square bonbons have a lipstick kiss motif. Each time you remove one from the box, a message underneath tells you where (or how) you have to kiss your companion (check it out), $36.
    And if these don’t float your [swan] boat, there are conventional ideas from pretty boxed chocolates in red heart-shaped boxes to chocolate boxes—heart-shaped boxes of molded chocolate.



    Puzzled over Valentine gifts? Here’s a solution. Photo courtesy Jacques Torres.




    VALENTINE GIFT: Heart Shaped Donuts


    We [heart] Valentine donuts. Photo courtesy
    Dunkin’ Donuts.


    Have a heart…or a dozen hearts. Dunkin Donuts is helping to make Valentine’s Day more festive with the return of its heart-shaped donuts.

    This year there are two varieties of heart-shaped donuts,:

  • The new Cookie Dough Donut, a heart-shaped donut with cookie dough buttercream-flavored filling, topped with chocolate icing and chocolate chips.
  • The popular Brownie Batter Donut, a heart-shaped donut filled with chocolaty brownie batter flavored buttercream filling, topped with chocolate icing and heart sprinkles.
    More good news: You don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day. The seasonal specialties are available now at participating Dunkin’ Donuts shops, through the end of February.


    If you can’t personally deliver the box of donuts to that special someone, Dunkin’ Donuts Cards gift are available from $2 to $100. In participating shops, they’re available in a variety of seasonally-themed designs.

    Or head to the DD website, where you can personalize a gift card with a favorite photo and a message.



    VALENTINE GIFT: The Best Toffee

    We taste a lot of good toffee. But if you like very buttery, buttercrunch-style (dusted with crushed almonds) with more almonds inside, our favorite is Enstrom’s.

    The company sells toffee in different sizes and shapes. For Valentine’s Day there’s a special assortment of milk- and dark chocolate-covered “Petites,” bite size toffee enrobed in chocolate, in a hearts and kisses box.

    The 25-piece assortment, 12.5 ounces, is $16.95. Get yours here.

    There’s a sugar-free box of toffee in the classic “break-up” format, $20.95 for a one-pound box (in a standard gift box).

    You won’t believe how delicious it is: You can’t tell the difference from the conventional toffee. More information.

    The difference between toffee and buttercrunch.



    Your Valentine will hug and kiss you. Photo courtesy Enstrom.




    VALENTINE FOOD: Spaghetti & Meat Balls

    Now, loving pasta has a double meaning.
    Photo courtesy Bean Sprouts.


    This fun idea comes from Shannon Payette Seip, author of “Bean Appetit: Hip And Healthy Ways To Have Fun With Food.” She is co-founder of Bean Sprouts Café and Cooking School in Seattle, where families learn to make dishes that are both great tasting and good for you.

    It’s easy to make this heart-shaped pasta dish. For each portion, plan on two cups of cooked pasta, one meatball, 1/2 cup marinara sauce and an optional two strips of red bell pepper.

  • Use aluminum foil to create a heart shape, a little smaller than the size of a salad plate (or dinner plate, for a larger portion).
  • Place the outline on a greased cookie sheet. Fill with cooked spaghetti and bake at 400°F for 10-12 minutes.
  • While the spaghetti is baking, cut the cooked meatball and red pepper into arrow shape. You can use the marinara sauce to make the arrow shafts, instead of the bell pepper, if you wish.
  • Use spatula to transfer the spaghetti heart on plate. Outline with marinara sauce.

    Shannon suggests that, as you dig in with family or friends, you share three things you love about each other.



    VALENTINE’S DAY: Make Heart-Shaped Whoopie Pies

    The biggest challenge to New Year’s diet resolutions is Valentine’s Day. Hopefully, we’ve lost a pound or two in January so we can proceed with “the sweetest holiday.”

    We’re starting with heart-shaped whoopie pies. They require an investment in a heart-shaped cookie pan, which can be used year-around: for Mother’s Day, engagement and anniversary parties, to say “I love you” to someone special, and so forth.

    The same pan makes jumbo cookies. Add a stick to make cookie pops.

    It will be love at first bite when you turn out goodies with this dishwasher safe, nonstick pan. The 12-space pan makes 12 cookies or 6 whoopie pies. Recipes are included.

    The pan is $12.95 at Sur La Table stores or online.

    BYO whoopie pie recipe.


    Heart-shaped whoopie/cookie pop pan from




    GIFT OF THE DAY: Special Caramels For Your Honey


    Salted honey caramels. Photo courtesy


    For the lover of gourmet caramels, something special for your Valentine:

    Put Your Money On Honey salted caramels from Droga Chocolates of Los Angeles.

    The luscious bites are the result of a bet that a caramel couldn’t be made without corn syrup. Seeking a solution to the challenge, Droga says:

    “Inspiration stung us—honey was the answer! The first honey caramel came to bee, and people have been abuzz ever since.”

    And you should make a bee-line for them! So soft and redolent of fine honey, each taste makes you want another. And another.

    The small-batch caramels are:

  • Made with California creamery pure cream and butter
  • Sweetened with raw California wildflower honey
  • Enrobed in premium dark chocolate from Guittard
  • Sprinkled with delicate French fleur de sel sea salt

    The nine caramels in the gift box ($16.95, two boxes for $29.95) will disappear quickly, but leave such happy memories.

    Droga confections are certified kosher by KOF-K.

    Get yours at

    There are caramels in other flavors that also hit the spot. Here’s our review.



    VALENTINE GIFT: Chocolate Covered Potato Chips


    Oh so good! Photo courtesy Shari’s Berries.


    Some people would like box of creamy chocolates for Valentine’s Day.

    Others would gladly trade for a bag of chocolate-covered potato chips.

    Savory meets sweet when crunchy, salty potato chips are drenched in quality chocolate—in our humble opinion, the greatest improvement to the potato chip since it was invented (potato chip history).

    While you can find chocolate-covered chips at Trader Joe’s, more giftable versions come from Shari’s Berries, shown in the photo. A bag of 14 ounces of divine chocolate-covered potato chips is $24.99. The chips are certified kosher (dairy) by OU.


    For a more formal presentation, Neuchatel’s Swiss Chips, dipped in milk chocolate, are packaged in a purple and gold can, $8.00.

    Swiss Colony sells 8.5 ounces in a gift tin for $17.95.

    Enjoy them from the bag, can or a serving dish. Use them to garnish ice cream and other desserts. And hold us harmless from any addiction to chocolate-covered potato chips that may develop.



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