Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine´s Special: Savory Dishes

For most the ideal way to pass Valentine's would be over a romantic dinner with your significant other. With this spirit in mind, I decided to make a complete romantic dinner menu starting with savory dishes and ending with a sweet note.
The way I see it, a romantic dinner should never be heavy or too filling but should be light and flavorful.

My romantic dinner starts with two savory dishes: a starter of baked asparagus and a main of Salmon with pesto sauce. and

Let's tackle the starter. I chose to make some asparagus wrapped in a delicious buttery puff pastry with a drizzle of a tweaked pesto sauce.

The ingredients of the starter:
  • Asparagus (4 per person)
  • Puff pastry (there is a time and  place for home-made puff pastry, but a good quality store bought will save you the hassle)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried herbs (a mix of Mediterranean herbs would be the best)
  • Some parmesan cheese to sprinkle on  top
  • Cream to brush the pastry
First you need to prepare the pastry, my pastry was already rolled out to aout 1/2 cm thick, this is the thickness you need,  just  and cut 1 cm wide strips of pastry with almost the same length as the asparagus.
Remove the woody end of the asparagus and wrap the pastry strips over them in a corkscrew fashion.   Brush the pastry with cream, sprinkle with some salt, pepper, dried herbs and finally sprinkle with some cheese.

Bake in a preheated (200C) oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the dough is slightly golden and the cheese is nicely colored. 
Serve the baked asparagus with a simple vinaigrette sauce or use my tweaked version of pesto sauce which you can prepare by mixing well one teaspoon of pesto sauce, one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar  and 3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle the sauce over the asparagus or put some over the serving plate. 

For the main dish of salmon and pesto you need:
  • 2 salmon fillets (250 g each)
  • 20 g of mixed pine nuts and walnuts (slightly toasted)
  • 20 g of basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • Just a tiny grate of parmesan

To make the pesto base combine the garlic, salt, walnuts, pine nuts and squeeze a tiny bit of lemon. With the pestle work these ingredients together to form a paste then add the oil and the grated cheese. Usually, pesto has more cheese than I recommend using for this specific recipe. However, salmon is an oily fish and if you add too much parmesan the end result would be a bit heavy, so to keep things on the lighter side I reduced the amount of cheese.
Once your pesto is ready, all you need to do is to cover the salmon with the pesto and bake for about 15 min in a preheated over (200C). Check the internal temperature of the fish with a baking thermometer if you have one and it should read 65 C for a perfectly cooked and moist salmon.

If you don´t have the thermometer, don't worry, you will know the salmon is cooked to perfection when it starts releasing some of its oil. When this happens, take it immediately from the oven. Allow the fish fillet to rest a couple of minutes before serving.

I served the salmon with some hasselback potatoes but you can serve them with sauteed carrots, peas or green beans. Additionally, I added some small hearts made with puff pastry just for prettier presentation.

I am confident that these two dishes will satisfy your palate and will be perfect for your romantic Valentine's dinner. 

The dinner is not over yet, the all important sweet treat is waiting for you, catch it in the following post. 
Bon appetit. 

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