Living the WELL Life

Special Valentine’s Day Menu

Friday, February 12, 2010

Want to impress your sweetie this Valentine’s Day? Time to think outside the box…and be indulgent in a most healthy way. Oh…and you should know up front, there’s no chocolate in this menu (okay, one recipe with an option for it, but really…)

I confess that being Italian has colored my perception of what a romantic dinner is; seems to me that Italians invented sexy food and romance.

These recipes are most definitely on the menu on Valentine’s Day in my house. Hope you enjoy them, too!



Rosemary-Red Lentil Orecchiette
Braised Endive and Pear Slices with Lemon
Bitter Green Salad with Walnut-Shallot Vinaigrette
Pignoli Cookies
Zeppole with Orange-Scented Syrup


extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
sea salt
1 carrot, diced
1-2 small turnips or new potatoes, diced
1/4 head green cabbage, diced
1 cup white wine
½ loaf whole grain, sourdough bread, crumbled
3-4 cups spring or filtered water
2 teaspoons sweet white miso
3-4 sprigs flatleaf parsley, finely minced, for garnish

Place 1-2 tablespoons oil, garlic and onion in a small soup pot and turn heat to medium-high.  When the vegetables begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and saute for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in carrots and turnips, a pinch of salt and saute for 1-2 minutes.  Finally stir in cabbage and saute until limp, about 2 minutes.  Pour in white wine and top with bread.  Add water, cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook soup until vegetables and bread are quite tender, about 25-35 minutes.  Remove a small amount of broth and puree miso.  Stir into soup and simmer, uncovered, for 3-4 minutes.  Serve garnished with fresh parsley and a drizzle of fruity olive oil.  Makes 4-5 servings.
Note: You may add cooked lentils or chickpeas to this soup for added energy and protein.

Rosemary-Red Lentil Orecchiette
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked until tender, diced
1-2 tablespoons white wine
1 bay leaf
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well
3 cups spring or filtered water
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, ground or 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons white miso

1 pound orecchiette, cooked al dente
1 bunch arugula, finely cut
1 fresh tomato, finely minced for garnish (in season)
3-4 sprigs fresh parsley, finely minced
extra virgin olive oil

Place onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and wine in a sauce pan and simmer for 5-7 minutes, until onions are soft.  Top with bay leaf, red lentils, water, rosemary and lemon zest.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft, 20-25 minutes.  Remove a small amount of cooking liquid and dissolve miso.  Stir into lentil mixture and simmer 3-4 minutes more.  Turn off heat and cover to keep warm and so the sauce doesn’t set.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta al dente.  Drain well, but do not rinse.  
To serve, simply toss cooked pasta with chopped greens and sauce and transfer to a serving platter.  Sprinkle with a garnish of minced tomatoes and parsley.  Finish the dish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve immediately.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Braised Endive and Pear Slices with Lemon
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 Belgian endive, bottom trimmed, halved
2 ripe, but firm pears, (Bosc or red are best)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oil, vinegar and salt in a flat-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Lay endive, cut sides down, in the pan. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the endive wilts and the cut sides brown, about 20 minutes. When the endive is about 80 percent cooked, halve pears and cut each half lengthwise into thin slices. Lay pears on top of endive, cover and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat, arrange endive halves, cut sides up, with pears laced through the dish. Drizzle with lemon juice. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings

Bitter Greens Salad with Walnut-Shallot Vinaigrette
Walnut-Shallot Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon walnut oil
1 teaspoon brown rice syrup
1 shallot, very finely minced
1 clove fresh garlic, very finely minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2/3 teaspoon sea salt
Generous pinch cracked black pepper

Bitter Greens Salad
2 Belgian endive, halved lengthwise, sliced into long ribbons
2 cups hand-shredded escarole
2 cups baby arugula
1 cup hand-shredded watercress
1 cup finely shredded radicchio
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts, lightly pan toasted (optional)

Prepare vinaigrette: Whisk together ingredients in a small bowl until emulsified. Set aside for flavors to develop.
    Make salad: Combine all salad ingredients, except walnuts, in a large bowl. Toss gently with dressing to coat the leaves. Serve immediately with walnuts on the side for those who want a bit of crunch with their salad. Makes 5 to 6 servings

Pignoli Cookies
3/4 cup almond meal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup semolina flour
pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Scant pinch ground cinnamon
1/4 cup light olive or avocado oil
½ cup brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Unsweetened almond milk
1-2 cups pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350o and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place almond meal and flours in a mixing bowl.  Stir in salt and baking powder.  Mix in oil, rice syrup and vanilla to form a sticky dough.  Slowly add almond milk, if needed to make the dough cohesive, but you still want it to be soft, but not sticky.

Spread pine nuts on a dry, floured surface.  Using floured hands, roll dough into 1-inch spheres.  Roll cookies in pine nuts.  Place cookies on baking sheet, spacing them about an inch apart.  Bake until cookies are golden and slightly puffed.  Transfer to a rack and cool.  Makes 18-20 cookies.
Note: In Sicily, these cookies are dipped in a chocolate glaze after cooling.  To make your own, simply boil 1/4 cup almond milk with 3 tablespoons brown rice syrup.  Pour boiling liquid over 1 cup non-dairy, grain-sweetened chocolate chips and whisk until smooth and satin-like.  Dip one end of each cookie, place carefully on parchment until glaze sets.

2 cups water
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup semolina flour
Pinch sea salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup white wine
Oil, for frying

Orange-Scented Syrup
½ cup brown rice syrup
Grated zest of 2 oranges
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice

Make the zeppole. Bring the water, syrup and oil to a boil. Whisk together flours, salt, baking powder and soda. Mix in boiling water mixture and stir well. Add wine and mix well. Add water as needed to create a soft dough, but not sticky.
Oil a cutting board and turn dough onto it.  Pat down flat and fold dough to create 3 layers. Flatten it and repeat this process 3 more times.

Cut off 1/3 of the dough and roll out the thickness of your thumb. Pinch off teaspoon size pieces ands fry in hot oil until golden and puffy. Drain on paper.

Whisk together syrup with orange juice and zest and drizzle on zeppole.
Note: You can also glaze the zeppole in a thin chocolate glaze.

chocolate glaze:
1/4 cup plain or vanilla almond milk
1 teaspoon brown rice syrup
2/3 cup non-dairy, grain sweetened chocolate chips
1/3 cup non-dairy, grain sweetened chocolate chips, coarsely chopped, for garnish

Prepare the glaze by placing soymilk and rice syrup in a small sauce pan and bringing to a high boil.  Pour over chocolate chips and whisk to create a smooth, shiny glaze.


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