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Cooks’ Exchange: Romantic recipes to celebrate Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2019 GMT

While I was growing up, Mother often set the dining room table with themes to celebrate special moments while the three meals of the day were being served and appreciated. Valentine’s Day meant frilly white linens accented with small red hearts, pretty napkins, red candles, and a bouquet of red flowers placed in the center of the table.

February 14th was also the sweetest day of the year to remember, and for me that meant forever recalling the year when a giant chocolate kewpie doll stood at attention on the frilly white table cloth by my dinner plate. I loved what I saw but couldn’t imagine where I’d begin nibbling on what Daddy so proudly brought home for me to enjoy.

The only thing missing today to remind me of the chocolate kewpie doll was not having a picture taken with Mother’s special Kodak pop-up camera. It seemed that she captured other special childhood moments that today fill a collection of bulging photo albums, but for some reason, not that day.

I may not remember what I had for supper last night, but the chocolate kewpie doll, larger and more beautiful than any I’ve ever seen since then, I can see and taste that like it was just yesterday.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day Thursday stirs other memories including frosted heart-shaped cookies to enjoy after school with glass of cold milk. Here is a new cookie recipe for a Valentine’s Day treat, not heart-shaped, but pink and with a sweet flavor that will work just fine and offers an array of other tasty possibilities.

Maple glazed salmon fillets

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

¹⁄8 teaspoon salt

¹⁄8 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 (4-6 ounce) salmon fillets

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place salmon in a small shallow glass baking dish and coat with the maple syrup mixture. Cover and marinate salmon in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once. Place baking dish in the preheated oven and bake uncovered 20 minutes, or until fish easily flakes with a fork.

Caterson also suggests serving this with the salmon.

Sauteed new potatoes with rosemary

1 pound medium red potatoes, cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon rosemary

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until nearly tender, 10 or 15 minutes. Drain. Heat olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and saute until nicely browned, about 10-20 minutes. Add rosemary and garlic and saute for 5 additional minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Here is a simply delicious dessert that could highlight the entire meal.

Chocolate cherries jubilee for two

½ cup cherry preserves

¹⁄8 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons Cognac or other brandy

1 pint chocolate chip ice cream

Toasted sliced almonds

Melt preserves in heavy small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Mix in cinnamon and Cognac. Scoop ice cream into bowls, spoon sauce over, and sprinkle with almonds.

Note: It’s hard to believe that something so delectable can be made so quickly. For a showy presentation, add the Cognac to the sauce and heat gently without stirring it in. Ignite with a match and spoon the flaming sauce over the ice cream.

Below zero weather with incredible wind chill factors found me paging through past requests, many receiving no responses from readers, one being for shepherd’s pie. Here is an English favorite described as being a perfect recipe to make and enjoy on a cold day, shared by Dani Lind in an exceptional collection of favorites from Edible Madison, published by Jamie Lamonde in 2017 celebrating local foods in Southern Wisconsin.

English shepherd’s pie

Filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil or local sunflower oil

1 pound ground beef

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon each dried thyme, rosemary and sage (or sub 1 tablespoon each fresh chopped herbs)

1 medium onion, chopped

3 medium carrots, cut into small dice

1 medium leek, cut in half lengthwise, rinsed well and thinly sliced

1 cup grated celeriac (celery root)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¾ cup beef or chicken stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 cup frozen peas

Topping:

3 medium gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

4 tablespoons butter

½ cup whole milk or buttermilk

4 ounces grated medium or aged cheddar, divided

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Boil potatoes in salted water until just soft.

Meanwhile, in a large cast iron or heavy bottomed saute pan over medium-high heat, heat oil then brown ground beef for a couple minutes (don’t fully cook it at this point), seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper. Add herbs, onion and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add leeks and celeriac and cook another 5 minutes or so. Add flour and stir for another minute, then add beef/chicken stock, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until liquid has evaporated. Stir in peas and pour into prepared pie pan, smoothing the top.

Drain potatoes and mash with butter and milk until fluffy. Stir in half the cheddar. Spoon evenly over filling, creating some dips and crests in the topping with the back of your spoon. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Bake on center rack, with a large pan on the rack below it to catch any drippings, for 20-25 minutes, until topping is golden.

Serve 6 to 8

Recent request: A Japanese “crispy seaweed fried fish item called Makisushiu” once served at Goeden’s on University Avenue.

Happy Valentine’s Day!