A feast for lovers: Shower your loved one in food and affection
By Sarah and Tony Nasello
Forum News Service
Love is in the air, and this week we’ve crafted a Valentine’s menu featuring ingredients believed to possess aphrodisiac qualities: Asparagus Bleu Cheese Soup to start the meal, and Linguine ai Frutti di Mare (Seafood Linguine) as the main course. Each recipe has been previously shared here in our column, and we are delighted to present them in a new way for this occasion.
The word “aphrodisiac” stems from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility. Aphrodisiac foods are believed to have properties that naturally work to stimulate our senses and create feelings closely linked to love, like comfort, attraction, desire and even excitement.
To be honest, I don’t know if any of these foods truly possess aphrodisiac powers, but I do know that this Valentine’s menu is filled with dishes that are beautiful, fragrant and delicious. And that’s enough to get me excited.
Wine pairing recommendation: Prosecco. With its lively bubbles and pleasing, fresh taste, prosecco is the perfect wine to enjoy throughout this meal.
“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. More recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.
Asparagus Bleu Cheese Soup
Serves: 4 to 6
1 lb. or bunch of asparagus
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (half a stick)
1 qt. chicken stock
1 tablespoon roux
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut one inch off the bottoms of the asparagus to remove the woody stalk, then cut each stalk into one-inch pieces, reserving the tips for garnish.
Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat, then sauté the onion, garlic and asparagus for five minutes. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer for 45 minutes on low heat.
Whisk in the roux to thicken the mixture, adding more if needed. Add cream and bleu cheese, then puree the mixture using an immersion blender until well blended (you may also use a blender or food processor). Taste soup and add salt and pepper as desired.
Use the bottom of a ladle to gently push the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer until all the stringy parts are removed and the texture is smooth and velvety. Pour into serving bowls and garnish with asparagus tips and crumbled bleu cheese. Soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Sarah’s Tip: To simplify the flavor, you may omit the bleu cheese as a garnish and use toasted pine nuts instead.
1/2 cup butter, shortening, lard or vegetable oil (the more flavorful the fat, the better the roux)
1/2 cup flour
(The ratio we use to make a roux is 1:1)
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, then gradually whisk in the flour until it is completely incorporated with the butter.
Cook over medium-low heat for about 6 to 8 minutes, whisking constantly until a light straw color is achieved. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The roux will harden when refrigerated so that you can break it off in pieces.
1/2 lb. linguine pasta, cooked al dente
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. mussels, cleaned (all tightly shut)
4 oz. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
4 oz. scallops
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup clam juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted (optional)
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoons sliced scallions
Rinse the mussels in cold water to remove any sand and grit from the shell. Discard any mussels that have already opened.
Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and add the pasta. Cook according to the direction on the package, until al dente.
In a large frying pan, saute the garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat for one minute, being careful not to let the garlic brown. Add the mussels, shrimp, scallops, wine, clam juice, lemon juice and breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs will help to thicken the sauce, but leave them out if you prefer a more broth-like consistency.
Cover and cook over medium-high heat until all the mussels have completely opened, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. If the mussels are allowed to cook past the point of opening, the shrimp and scallops will be overcooked, so be sure to periodically lift the cover to check the mussels. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
To make a richer sauce, add the butter at the end and stir until melted. Add the tomatoes and scallions and lightly toss to combine.
Transfer the hot linguine noodles to a platter or plate, and cover the noodles with the seafood mixture. Toss again if desired. For a more dramatic presentation, lay the mussels facing inward around the perimeter of the dish. Serve immediately.