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Published on March 11th, 2012 | by RLn Staff

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Valentines Day Tips from the Chef

Editor’s Note: Every year Random Lengths offer Valentines Day recommendations for that special someone in your life. Last month, over dinner and a conversation with a friend who’s also a chef, I asked him what’s the best Valentines Day gift you give or do for your significant other. He was an older gentleman, so expected something corny.

He asked, “Is there a dish you know how to make really, really well?”

I nodded in the affirmative.

Then he said, “Well, make that for her, with candle light, a bottle of wine… the whole nine.”

He fulfilled my expectation of corniness, but after some thought, I decided that even corny ideas can be good ideas. I decided to enlist J.Trani’s executive chef, Justin Trani, as a guest writer, who it turns out has been building a loyal Twitter and Facebook following, dispensing culinary tips left and right like hot cakes. I have to admit, my friend’s corny idea was a good one.

Guest Writer Chef Dustin J. Trani, of J. Trani’s Ristorante San Pedro
Bio: Dustin Trani’s career began at J.Trani’s but it didn’t end there. His experience ranges from working in the kitchen of the Oriental hotel in Hong Kong, the Blue Ginger in Boston, and several master chefs in Italy before he returned home. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Lately I have been receiving a lot of how to questions on my Facebook and Twitter pages regarding cooking techniques and recipe ideas. I absolutely love the fact that I can help someone at home prepare a meal as a chef would. So with Valentines Day approaching, I offer you a foolproof menu to cook for your loved one. That is, if you don’t already have dinner reservations with us at J. Trani’s.

Starters
Start with a salad! I know what you’re thinking, salad… boring! But a salad done with quality seasonal ingredients can easily be the star of a meal. Remember keep it simple and quality.

Shaved Parmesan and fennel salad

Salad
1 cup wild arugula
1 cup mixed spring mix
1/4 cup sliced grape seed tomatoes yellow
1/4 cup very thinly sliced fennel
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
8 chives spears rough

Dressing
3 tablespoons very nice extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt
Two pinches sugar
Fresh cracked black pepper

To assemble toss all ingredients in a bowl and serve.

Second Course

Nothing like the perfect balance of flavors in a well prepared pasta dish such as Spaghetti tomato basil with fresh mozzarella cheese. Note: always use quietly extra virgin olive oil to finish you pastas, there is a big difference!

1/4 pound of dry spaghetti
Half cup fresh tomatoes chopped
Half cup your favorite tomato sauce
Three cloves garlic
Half cup fresh basil
Quarter cup of diced fresh mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. Crush the garlic cloves and sautée with the extra virgin olive oil till brown. Add your fresh tomatoes and your tomato sauce, mix in basil. Cook your pasta, toss with your tomato sauce, simmering at low heat with two tablespoons of pasta water for 1-2 min. remove from heat and toss in your fresh mozzarella. Check if it needs salt-and-pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.

The Entrée

To finish this meal I have chosen domestic lamb, but this recipe can be substituted with you favorite protein. Key ingredient, at least a 12-year aged balsamic vinegar. I know it’s expensive but a little goes a long way. The sweet citrus bite goes wonderfully with, grilled lamb chops.

1/2 rack domestic lamb
Aged balsamic vinegar

Marinade
1 Tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt-and-pepper

Cut your lamb in to individual lamb chops and marinate for 24 hours.
Grill or pan fry till medium rare, serve with your favorite sides, roasted potatoes, sautéed spinach, asparagus. Finish the dish with the drizzle of age balsamic vinegar and a real good extra-virgin olive oil.

Well there you have it, nice little dinner for two. Remember keep your questions coming and always dine with passion.

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