The year was 1921, the place Ellis Island. My maternal grandmother, single, arrives into port from Napoli on the ship Patria to be with her sister...
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and if you are like me, your preference is a quiet candlelit dinner at home, preferably near a toasty little fire with a nice bottle of bubbly prosecco to kick things off. Treat your sweetheart to a delicious cozy meal with a bit of Italian-flair to warm the heart. I have included two incredibly simple recipes that will leave you plenty of time for activities outside the kitchen yet will leave your valentine duly impressed.
The panna cotta recipe can be made a day or two prior to the big day. Simply unmold and plate. I used a heart-shaped silicone mold for my little panna cotta but of course, you could easily use ramekins or large wine glasses.
For the beet and blood orange salad, let your creativity sparkle. Sprinkle remaining pomegranate seeds on top. Or maybe some toasted walnuts or pistachios. The beautiful red hue of the roasted beets will make your valentine’s heart soar.
Buon San Valentino!
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Sauce
For the panna cotta:
· 3 tablespoons cold water
·1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) unflavored powdered gelatin
·1 cup heavy cream
·1 cup whole milk
·1/4 cup granulated sugar
·Pinch of salt
·2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the pomegranate syrup:
·4 cups pomegranate juice
·½ cup sugar
·Juice of ½ lemon
·Fresh pomegranate seeds
Heart shaped mold
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Whisk together. Let stand for a minute or two to allow it to “bloom” or soften.
In a medium saucepan, bring the cream, milk, sugar, and salt just to a boil, over medium heat, stirring. Turn down to a low simmer and add in the gelatin, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Divide evenly among the molds, ramekins or serving glasses. Refrigerate until set, about 4-6 hours.
Make the syrup:
Pour the pomegranate juice into a medium saucepan. Add in the sugar and lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to cook until the mixture has reduced to about 1 ½ cups of liquid. This will take approximately 45-50 minutes. The juice should be the consistency of syrup and be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Allow the syrup to cool. Transfer to a glass jar. Any remaining syrup can be stored in the refrigerator.
If using a mold, unmold the panna cotta onto a plate. Drizzle pomegranate syrup over top and around the base. Sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds.
If serving in its glass or ramekin, top with some of the pomegranate syrup and add some fresh pomegranate seeds. Serve!
Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese with Blood Orange Vinaigrette
·4 medium beets
·3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
About 6 sprigs thyme
·1 blood orange
·Freshly ground black pepper
·1 4-ounce log goat cheese
·2 small shallots, minced
·2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
·1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
·Mixed greens, washed and trimmed
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut the tops and roots off of the beets. Using a vegetable peeler, peel each one. Slice the beets, crosswise, into ½ inch round slices. Smaller beets can also be cut into quarters. Place the beets into a medium bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, cut a few long strips of orange peel. Slice the orange peel into very thin slices. You want maybe 15-20 long thin strips of peel. Juice the blood orange and set aside for use in the vinaigrette.
Toss the beets with the olive oil, thyme leaves, orange peel, salt and pepper. Spread the beets slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes until the beets are tender.
In the meantime, slice the goat cheese log into ½ inch round slices. Set aside.
Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the minced shallot, vinegar, and blood orange juice. Whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream; season with salt and pepper.
When the beets are tender, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Add the goat cheese slices. (You might have to move around the beet slices.) Drizzle the slices with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Return the baking pan to the oven.
Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the goat cheese is soft. Remove from the oven. Place mixed greens on a plate. Top with few beets and goat cheese rounds. Drizzle with the blood orange vinaigrette and serve.
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog OurItalianTable.com.