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Last-Minute Valentine's Day Pairings: Wine and Chocolate

Last-Minute Valentine's Day Pairings: Wine and Chocolate


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Chocolate and wine can be a tricky pairing, given the often overpowering nature of today’s diverse and exotic chocolate offerings. Sometimes it’s best to just break open a few different bars of chocolate — from the subtle nuances of white chocolate to the familiar textures of milk chocolate and the bittersweet games of various degrees of dark chocolate. Then, pop a few corks and get to "work" mixing and matching the various wines to the assorted chocolates to find the right pairing balance of weight, texture, sweet, and tannin. Personal palate preferences will drive this delicious experiment — a bitter taste tips your tongue off to a less-than-stellar pairing; however, if the wine and the chocolate taste better together, then you’ve discovered a solid pairing synergy. Enjoy!

Wine with White Chocolate

White chocolate is predominately based on cocoa butter, some milk solids, and a sweetener (typically sugar) — not a whole lot of cocoa bean kicking here. So with that in mind, keep the wine pairings on the sweet side with plenty of balancing acidity. Consider late-harvest dessert wines, ice wines, or a light-bodied moscato d’asti. Going for the romance of bubbles? No worries, snag an off-dry, demi-sec style of sparkling wine or champagne if you are shooting for the Valentine’s Day gold. Sherry PX is another proven partner for white chocolate — melding the smooth, creamy textures of the fortified wine with the similar mouthfeel of the white chocolate. Orange muscat represents another classic pairing in the presence of white chocolate, a winner for picking up fruity nuances.

Wine with Milk Chocolate

As far as red wines go, a lighter-bodied, fruit-forward pinot noir marries extraordinarily well with the mild palate impressions of milk chocolate. Tawny ports with their sometimes chocolaty undercurrents tend to pick up the pairing profile in creamy, milk chocolate delights. Tuscany’s famous vin santo dessert wines provide an unexpected backdrop to milk chocolate, with a fuller-body, off-dry character, and nutty nuances they can play particularly well with the popular textures and flavors of milk chocolate creations. The sweet, honey-like character of Pedro Ximenez Sherry brings its own caramel and chocolate notes to the table and marries exceptionally well with mild, milk chocolate textures. It can even handle a blend of nuts and fruit in the chocolate mix with incredible versatility.

Wine with Dark Chocolate

The fortified wine favorites find their ultimate calling with the bittersweet profile variations offered up by today’s enticing medley of dark chocolate offerings. From ruby port to tawny ports, and late bottled vintage ports to the full-throttle, fortified profile of Banyuls, from Southern France, the heavier body, rich textures, and sweet palate impressions work their magic on a bite of dark chocolate. For the red wine fans, give a well-structured cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or fruit-forward zinfandel a go with the likes of dark chocolate. You’ll often find that the sturdy tannins in the wine cancel out the stout tannins in the dark chocolate, allowing a surge of fresh fruit to surface from the depths of the wine — a remarkable pairing to be sure.


Last-Minute Valentine's Day Ideas That'll Surprise Everyone You Love

"How do I love thee?" If you're still pondering that question, hurry&mdashyou only have so many days left to count the ways. Surprise your valentine this holiday with one of our gift ideas that can be made easily and speedily while still conveying a thoughtful sentiment.

Looking for last-minute Valentine's Day flower delivery? Combine the traditional duo&mdashflowers and candy&mdashtogether in a single vase. Treats and sweets&mdashwrapped chocolates and caramels&mdashare always adored for Valentine's Day. Clip-art and templates always add finesse to your Valentine's Day card&mdashand they couldn't be easier to use&mdashwhether it's a punny cartoon, a pop-up greeting, or an old-fashioned illustration that says "hand delivered." Simply print one of them onto paper, prep, and you're done! If your kids need valentines to pass out to their classmates at school or you want to deliver presents to friends and neighbors, your gifted tokens of affection&mdashin the form of care packages, wooden hearts, and paper clip hearts&mdashwill be fondly remembered. And what better way to greet someone on the morning of February 14 than with a hearty breakfast (emphasis on the "heart") or a sprinkling of rose petals? The latter can even lead the way to a candlelit dinner for two.

So, if you're looking for little ways to spread love to family and friends this Valentine's Day, browse our ideas that will leave you smitten. Discover everything you need to know to make sweet treats, handmade gifts, heart-shaped crafts, kid-friendly projects, flower arrangements, and more.


37 Last-Minute Valentine&rsquos Day Gifts That Your Partner Will Love

Your SO won't even know you waited until crunch time.

Valentine's Day may be most well-known for the heart-shaped chocolate boxes, flowers, and fancy dinner reservations that come along with it. Still, there's no need for gifts related to the day to be boring, but it can be hard to be creative with your shopping when you procrastinated. No judgement here! To help you with any last-minute Valentine's Day gifts for your longterm partner or recent significant other, this list includes items you can find on Amazon (most of which can be at your door step in two days flat if you're a Prime member). We'll keep the fact that you waited last minute to do your shopping on the down-low. Promise. 😉

You can never have too many socks. and you probably steal theirs to begin with anyway.

Whether you've been together for years or are a newer couple, dating should always be exciting. This box is full of date ideas to make that easier.

Whether you're making plans for a staycation or day-dreaming about all of your future travels, you'll need a hefty overnight bag.

It can be hard to start vulnerable and difficult conversations, especially when they're necessary, so this activity book is designed to make strengthening your relationship fun.


200+ last-minute Valentine’s recipes for treats, meals, desserts and more. We got you!

Need some help with last-minute Valentine’s recipes? Good ones? We hear you! Whether you’re planning a deliciously sweet Valentine’s Day breakfast, packing heart-shaped lunchbox treats, baking (or avoiding baking) for the classroom, whipping up semi-homemade Valentine’s treats for a bake sale or party, or having a romantic Valentine’s dinner at home, we’ve got you covered, big time.

We’ve put together all our favorite easy, last-minute Valentine’s recipes that we’ve been sharing on Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Eats in one place. This way, you can scan them quickly to save more time for, well, whatever else you have planned for Valentine’s Day, (Whomp whomp)

Plus you’ll find some terrific DIY tricks here that turn store-bought treats into something special for the big day. Because, hey, we’re all about easy on Valentine’s Day.

And that’s not a double entendre.


The 8 best aphrodisiac food and drink pairings to set pulses racing this Valentine’s Day

It’s likely that Valentine’s Day this year will be looking rather different to the norm for many of us. The prospect of eating out at a fancy restaurant or enjoying a few romantic glasses of wine in some shadowy candlelit locale seems a faraway dream.

Yet we mustn’t sink beneath our despair, but carry on – and find different ways to keep the flame of ardour burning. Yes, even if it does mean getting a little creative in the kitchen.

So if you’re in need of a little inspiration this Valentine’s Day then fear not, as Amaro Montenegro’s expert mixologist has shared the best aphrodisiac food and drinks pairings couples need to be whipping up this year to ‘get in the mood’…

1. Milk Chocolate and Port

When it’s time to indulge in a special dessert, why not channel Casanova – arguably the most famous of all the historical lovers – who was said to have a burning love for chocolate. Pair a sweet dessert wine such as port with chocolate for the ultimate after-dinner aphrodisiac this Valentine’s Day.

2. Oysters and Chablis

Oysters are arguably the most famous aphrodisiac there is. Pair them with a crisp glass of Chablis for a pleasingly irresistible match made in heaven – much like you and your partner.

3. Pomegranate and Amaro Montenegro

The antioxidants in pomegranate are said to stimulate blood flow, making it an ideal aphrodisiac. Enjoy with a glass of Amaro Montenegro on the rocks to get yours and your partner’s blood pumping.

4. Avocado and Pinot Grigio

Avocado’s reputation as an aphrodisiac can be traced back to the Aztecs. Pair with a light Pinot Grigio for the perfect match to start your evening on the right track.

5. Strawberries and Sparkling Wine

In Ancient Rome, strawberries were a symbol of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. A good sparkling wine can compliment the little red berries perfectly for a pleasing and straightforward taste sensation.

6. Prosciutto and Sherry

A prosciutto, fig and mozzarella starter paired with a glass of sherry, will kick your evening off on an appropriately sophisticated note. The striking, stimulating flavours make for a perfect Valentine’s pair.

7. Asparagus and Sauvignon Blanc

Such are asparagus’ reputed aphrodisiacal powers, three courses of the vegetable were served to bridegrooms in the 19th century. Serve al dente with a Sauvignon Blanc of your choice.

8. Cheese and Brandy

Though cheese may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of an aphrodisiac, pair an after dinner cheese board with a delicious brandy and set yourself up for a romantic end to the meal.

There’s no need to deny yourself the romantic enjoyment of Valentine’s Day this year. As this list of enticing pairings shows, you can set things up in the right mood perfectly well from your own home. If you’re still on the lookout for the perfect last minute Valentine’s gift, then check out our list for wine lovers, here.


Let's face it, kids love Valentine's Day because it means candy. But if you're looking to satisfy your little ones with something healthier, Liz Shaw has got some sweet treats that are also good for their hearts, including cereal cake pops naturally sweetened with dates, zucchini cake, and a fun charcuterie board adults will love as well.

Mix up some love potions for Valentine's Day using natural aphrodisiacs. Spice things up at home with a no-proof spicy bees knees, a chocolate fashioned, or a sexy strawberry spritz to really get your heart racing. Bottoms up!


5 last-minute Valentine’s Day treats for the chocolate lover in your life

Valentine’s Day is Friday. Do you have a plan for your friends and/or loved ones? Will you wait until Thursday and then decide you need a plan?

Either way, we have you covered. We know about the temptation to grab one of those grocery or drugstore boxes of chocolate. Instead, we’re offering up five chocolaty recipes from our archives that you can whip up at almost the last minute, most with ingredients you may already have in the house. How sweet.

Nutella Doughnut Truffles, above. A box of stale doughnuts for Valentine’s Day? No, thanks. A tray of elegant, chocolate-dipped truffles made with day-old doughnuts? Yes, please. Whether you decide to share that the main ingredient came from your neighborhood doughnut chain is entirely up to you.

Fudgy Flourless Brownies. All you need are a few pantry staples, one pan and 20 minutes of work to put together these rich, gluten-free treats.

Chocolate Almost-Mousse. You’ll have to come to the realization that you want to make this at least a few hours in advance, to let the pudding base and finished mousse chill. Otherwise, this makes a fine day-ahead or morning-of dessert.

Salted Marshmallow Walnut Fudge. This recipe takes all the intimidation factor out of making fudge, thanks to the inclusion of sweetened condensed milk. We enjoyed the Rocky Road experience with the marshmallows and nuts, but change the mix-ins to suit your loved one’s sweet tooth.

Boiled Peanut Butter Cookies. Thank Edna Lewis for this no-bake, pantry-friendly cookie. It also happened to be the most popular recipe from our 2019 holiday cookie package.


MAIN COURSE:

ROASTED TOMATO AND GARLIC SPAGHETTI &ndash By Nourish and Fete &ndash * Sigh* I mean, it&rsquos pasta, you can&rsquot EVER go wrong with pasta!

SCALLOPS AND ASPARAGUS WITH LEMON SPAGHETTINI &ndash By Diversivore &ndash Sip some wine while you and your honey assemble this mouthwatering dish&hellip

PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PORT & DRIED PLUMS &ndash You&rsquoll like this one because it&rsquos a complete meal in under an hour &mdash and half of that time is roasting&hellip so you can, you know, sip some wine and make kissy-face.

RACK OF LAMB WITH HERB CRUST &ndash Sounds fancy, right? Ridiculously easy! Costco sells these racks for about $12-14 and they will easily feed 2-3 people. And what&rsquos more carnal than gnawing the meat off a bone?

POACHED SALMON FILETS IN TOMATO WINE SAUCE &ndash By Killing Thyme Here&rsquos a delicious quick low-carb alternative &mdash so you won&rsquot get weighed down before other activities can ensue.


No Pressure Valentine's Day Guide

Savory is here to tell you that you can have a no pressure Valentine’s Dayeven if you are waiting to the last minute. (You know who you are).

Valentine's Day will be here before you know it. You’ve been seeing the ads on social media telling you how you need to make it special. "Make these reservations! Buy this gift! Lobster tail and steak, or nothing!" We don't blame you if the pressure of Valentine’s Day expectations makes you a little nervous.

We are here to tell you that you can have a low-pressure Valentine’s Dayeven if you are waiting to the last minute. (You know who you are). Savory has developed a mini game plan on what you need to get at the store, so you can put your dinner on the table in no time.

Let’s talk about the menu. No need to go outside of your cooking comfort zone, but it might be fun to try something new. Better yet, plan on cooking dinner with your sweetie, so you can have fun making it together.

Appetizer - Charcuterie Board

Depending on how you are feeling, a charcuterie board is a great way to start the night off. Grab some meats and cheeses at the deli, fresh fruit, and some assorted crackers. You can make just enough for an app or to munch on throughout the evening!

Main Dish - Easy Skillet Chicken Parm

Chicken parm is a classic, crowd pleaser. This recipe is super easy and is ready in just 25 minutes. Pro Tip: A great wine to pair with chicken parm is a medium-bodied red, like Merlot or Pinot Noir.

Dessert – Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Nothing symbolizes Valentine’s Day like chocolate-covered strawberries. Buy strawberries to add to your Charcuterie board and save some for dipping.

Voila! You have your Valentine’s menu ready. Three easy dishes that you can have ready in less than an hour and you’ll enjoy doing together. Sounds like the perfect Valentine’s Day to us.


Easy Last-Minute Valentine's Day Recipes

Forgot to make a reservation? You can impress your date with these simple, delicious recipes.

Valentine&rsquos Day may be the most important day of the year, at least where relationships are concerned. And why not? You get to show the one you love that you love them, that you thought ahead, that you&rsquove got this. Important as it may be, planning a Valentine&rsquos Day date doesn&rsquot have to be hard. At least where dinner is concerned. Even if you&rsquore only planning it last minute.

Here&rsquos how you can pull off a delicious evening. You&rsquove got this.

First, forget going out. If you&rsquove ever tried to make reservations on Valentine&rsquos Day, it&rsquos near impossible. Save yourself, and your time. Make the time count.

Below you&rsquoll find a number of Valentine&rsquos Day meal ideas. None of them require more than 10 ingredients or an hour of active cooking time. Simple is best, especially for Valentine&rsquos evening. You want to spend the bulk of your evening enjoying your company, not in the kitchen focusing on what&rsquos on the stove.

Pasta Al Limone

Rotisserie chicken is one of my favorite go-to ideas when I&rsquom trying to figure out a quick meal. You can find it ready to go at almost any supermarket, ready to incorporate in a variety of ideas.

This recipe is a take on the classic pasta al limone &mdash long threads of creamy pasta flavored with fresh lemon and rich parmesan cheese.

The meal is ready in under 30 minutes. Big cubes of rotisserie chicken lend extra heft to the creamy, cheese dish, and with capers thrown in for extra flavor and tang. It&rsquos similar to chicken piccata, but in pasta form and simplified.

French Onion Soup

French onion soup is classic comfort food: caramelized onions and crusty French bread bathed in a rich broth, all beneath a rich, cheesy crust. Could it possibly get any better?

This is a vegetarian version of the classic, one that substitutes the robust flavors of a beef-based broth with an equally rich, umami-infused mushroom broth.

Panzanella

This dish is best served as a side dish, particularly during the winter months. And it&rsquos a perfect complement to a rich bowl of soup.

A classic Panzanella usually consists of fresh tomatoes, which, in some locales, are only available during the summer months, but canned tomatoes make an excellent substitution. They have the flavors, body, and heft to make a great Panzanella salad.

To complement the flavors, I add fresh herbs, rich olives, and assertive lettuce leaves &mdash radicchio and arugula add more robustness to any salad.

Grilled Steak

Is there anything more delicious than a perfectly grilled steak? For this version, I coat the steak in a very light layer of mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is traditionally the stuff of sandwiches and seafood salad, but it works wonders on the grill, keeping whatever you use it on &mdash from steak to potatoes, even fish &mdash from sticking to the grill. And it&rsquos a favorite trick in many professional kitchens. Think Teflon, but without the chemicals. A thin coating won&rsquot affect the flavor of the food &mdash you won&rsquot taste the mayonnaise &mdash but it does impart one magical touch: the Maillard reaction, browning the food and boosting its flavors.

Grilled Pear Salad

If you&rsquore going to grill one dish, why not grill them all? In addition to turning out great food, cooking over the grill provides great entertainment. This dish is a perfect winter salad, combining a colorful assortment of seasonal ingredients. Brown slices of fresh pears, fennel, and radicchio, then toss them with a bright vinaigrette and finish with some crumbled blue cheese, just for good measure.

Sautéed Scallops with Shaved Fennel Salad

This is a simple dish of large sea scallops flavored with nothing more than a dash of salt, pepper, and a touch of lemon, and seared with a pat of butter.

I prefer serving the scallops with a fresh shaved fennel salad, the fennel flavored with shallot, lemon zest, and a dash of salt and pepper. Bright and colorful, it&rsquos a great dish if you&rsquore looking for something on the lighter side.

Dessert

If you&rsquore planning a last-minute Valentine&rsquos Dinner, don&rsquot skimp on dessert. If you&rsquore looking for something extravagant, store bought would be best for any last-minute planning. But if you want to keep it simple, you still have a host of options.

If I&rsquom short on time, I&rsquoll resort to a semi-homemade dessert. Buy a pound cake or angel food cake from the supermarket and cut it into thick slices. Grill the slices &mdash the heat of the grill caramelizes the sugars in the cake adding nutty richness &mdash and serve topped with a slice of ice cream and fresh berries. It&rsquos colorful, delicious, and ready in minutes.

Or buy a package of biscuits from the store and bake them up, topping each with a beaten egg wash and sprinkling of sugar. Slice the warmed biscuits and stuff them with whipped cream and macerated strawberries for a quick strawberry shortcake.

Craving chocolate? Allow me to suggest a frozen chocolate zabaglione.

Similar to the classic French sabayon, zabaglione is an Italian custard that consists of egg yolks whisked with a little sugar and alcohol over heat until it thickens to a creamy, Hollandaise-like consistency.

Because of its alcohol content, zabaglione is a decidedly adult dessert. The classic Italian version calls for Marsala the French calls for Sauternes, a dessert wine. But you could use any alcohol, and I&rsquove made versions flavored with everything from tequila to Bourbon.

If you&rsquore concerned about the liquor overpowering the dish, replace some of it with wine to temper its intensity. Or replace some or all of the alcohol with fruit juice.

For this version, combine freshly-made zabaglione with a chilled chocolate ganache: melted chocolate beaten with heavy cream to a whipped cream-like consistency.

Frozen zabaglione isn&rsquot solid like ice cream &mdash the texture is closer to a thick mousse. Spoon it into a bowl topped with fresh fruit or chocolate shavings.

Pasta La Limone with Roast Chicken and Capers

25 minutes. Serves 2

  • 8 ounces fettuccine or other long pasta
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon, divided, plus extra zest for garnish
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces diced roast chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup drained capers
  • 3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

1. In a large saucepan, boil the pasta in well-salted water according to the instructions on the package, until almost al dente.

2. Meanwhile, in a wide sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the lemon zest and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice and diced chicken breast, tossing to warm the chicken and coat with the flavorings. Remove from heat and stir in the capers.

3. When the pasta is almost ready, stir 2/3 cup pasta water in with the ingredients in the sauté pan. Using tongs, transfer the pasta to the pan, saving the additional pasta water to use if needed. Heat the pan over medium heat.

4. Stir the pasta in with the chicken and flavorings, coating the strands as evenly as possible, and adding additional pasta water (a tablespoon or two at a time), just until the pasta looks evenly sauced. Gradually add the cheese, stirring to evenly coat. If the cheese clumps up or the pasta looks dry, drizzle in additional pasta water until loosened. Season with several grinds of pepper.

5. Serve the pasta immediately, with extra lemon zest and cheese for garnish.

French Onion Soup with Mushrooms (vegetarian)

55 minutes. Serves 2

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound assorted mushrooms (such as crimini, shiitake, and oyster)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and very thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry, Madeira or red wine
  • 3 cups vegetable or mushroom broth
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 to 4 bread slices, preferably baguette
  • 1/4 pound Gruyere cheese, grated

1. Heat a wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over high heat until hot. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, then half the mushrooms. The mushrooms will immediately begin to sizzle. Cook quickly, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms begin to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. The mushrooms should cook quickly enough that they brown before they give up any moisture this will give them a nice nutty flavor. Remove from heat and spread the mushrooms onto a plate to cool. Cook the remaining mushrooms the same way, adding a little additional oil if needed. Remove from heat and add to the first batch of mushrooms, seasoning with one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper.

2. In the same pot, heat 3 more tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent and browned slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue to cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, an additional minute or so. Stir the mushrooms back in the pan, then add the sherry and cook, scraping any flavoring from the base of the pot.

3. Stir in the broth and thyme sprigs, and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes to marry the flavors. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

4. Remove from heat and taste, adding additional seasoning as desired. Discard the herbs. Divide the soup between two oven-proof soup crocks or bowls. Top each with 1 to 2 slices of bread. Sprinkle over the cheese and broil until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

Winter Panzanella

45 minutes. Serves 2 to 4

  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 French baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup sliced red onion (from about 1/4 onion, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices)
  • 1/4 cup Nicoise olives, or similar black brined olives
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed torn basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon loosely packed oregano leaves
  • 4 cups loosely packed salad lettuces (such as frisée, arugula and torn radicchio)

1. In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add as many cubes of bread as will fit in a single layer (this may need to be done in a couple of batches). Toast the bread until golden brown on all sides, stirring frequently. Add additional oil as needed (the bread will soak it up as it toasts). Remove from heat and place the bread in a large bowl.

2. Make the tomato vinaigrette: In a large nonreactive bowl, whisk together the crushed tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and several grinds of pepper.

3. Pour half the dressing over the toasted bread and toss with your hands until the cubes are evenly coated. Add the onion, olives, basil, and oregano and toss until evenly incorporated. Allow the dressing to soak into the cubes to desired tenderness, 10 to 15 minutes if you like the bread soft on the outside with a little crunch in the center.

4. When the bread is soaked, add the salad lettuces toss to combine. Add additional dressing as needed to lightly coat the leaves.

Grilled Ribeye Steak

20 minutes, plus tempering and resting times. Serves 2

  • 1 (1-pound) thick-cut boneless rib-eye steak, preferably prime grade
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Coarse sea salt, preferably Maldon
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Temper the steak: Remove the steak from the refrigerator and set aside until it comes to room temperature, about one hour. Blot the steak on all sides to remove extra moisture.

2. Coat the steak with a thin layer of mayonnaise on both sides. Season the steak on each side with 1 teaspoon Maldon salt, or as desired, along with several grinds of pepper.

3. Heat a grill over medium-high heat until hot. Add the steak and grill for about 3 minutes on one side, then rotate slightly (for good grill marks) and continue to grill for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the steak and repeat on the other side.

4. Check the steak for the desired doneness, then remove and place on a cutting board. Rest the steak for several minutes before slicing and serving.

Grilled Pear Salad with Gorgonzola and Sherry Vinaigrette

35 minutes. Serves 2 to 4

  • 1 head radicchio
  • 1 large head fennel
  • 2 pears, preferably Bosc or Forelle
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese

1. Remove any wilted outer leaves from the radicchio and slice it lengthwise into eight wedges. Trim the top off the fennel, halve it lengthwise, then slice it crosswise into half-inch strips, discarding the core. Core the pears and cut each into 6 wedges.

2. Whisk together the shallots, thyme, honey, vinegar, and olive oil. Season with one-half teaspoon salt and a grind or two of black pepper, or to taste. This makes about 1 cup vinaigrette.

3. Brush the pear wedges with a little of the vinaigrette and place them on an oiled grill heated over medium-high heat. Grill the wedges for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until slightly softened with defined grill marks. Remove and reserve in a warm place. Do the same with the fennel and radicchio.

4. Arrange the pear, fennel, and radicchio on a large plate. Drizzle a few teaspoons over the salad. Crumble the blue cheese over the salad, and serve immediately.

Sautéed Scallops with Shaved Fennel Salad

  • 1 large head fennel (with fronds)
  • 2 teaspoons minced shallots
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon), divided
  • Coarse sea salt, preferably Maldon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large sea scallops (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 blood orange

1. Trim the fronds from the fennel and mince. Measure one-half teaspoon and place in a medium bowl (discard any remaining fronds, or save for another use). To the medium bowl, add the shallots, lemon zest and 1/4 cup juice, one-fourth teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in the olive oil slowly to emulsify and form a dressing. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as desired.

2. Trim the fennel and quarter it lengthwise. Slice the fennel lengthwise into paper-thin strips if possible, shave using a mandoline. You will have about 3 cups. Place the fennel in a large bowl and toss with enough dressing to lightly coat. Taste and add additional dressing if desired. Cover the fennel salad and any remaining dressing with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

3. Remove the scallops from the refrigerator and set them out to warm slightly while you slice the orange.

4. Supreme the orange: Slice the top and bottom from the orange. Using a sharp paring knife, slice lengthwise between the flesh and rind to remove the peel, rind and outer membrane. Slice the flesh of each segment from the center membrane, so each segment is &ldquoskinless.&rdquo

5. In a large sauté pan heated over medium-high heat, add the butter. When it has melted and started to foam, place the scallops in the pan in a single layer, and season with a pinch or two of salt and a grind of pepper.

6. Cook the scallops without moving them until the bottoms are a rich golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip them over, add the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

7. Divide the fennel salad between 2 chilled plates. Place a few orange segments over each, and top each serving with 2 scallops. Serve immediately.

Frozen Chocolate Zabaglione

25 minutes, plus freezing time. Makes a generous quart

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cognac (preferably vanilla) or port

1. Place a baking dish or glass bowl in the freezer to chill.

2. In a saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it begins to bubble around the edges, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate, whisking until it is melted and incorporated with the cream to form a ganache (if needed, heat the cream gently to help the chocolate melt).

3. Pour the ganache to a bowl set into an ice bath (a bowl set in a larger bowl filled with ice and a little water) and continue to whisk until the ganache chills and begins to thicken. Keep whisking until the ganache has a light, whipped cream-like consistency. Remove the bowl from the ice bath and set aside.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until combined and frothy. Whisk in the cognac.

5. Set the bowl over a large pot of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Continue to whisk until the mixture increases in volume and thickens to a thick, foamy cream, easily coating the back of a spoon. The consistency should be similar to that of a very thick hollandaise.

6. Remove from heat and gently fold the zabaglione into the whipped ganache. Place the mixture in the chilled baking dish and cover the surface with a sheet of plastic wrap. Freeze until firm, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Noelle Carter is a chef, food writer and culinary consultant at Noelle Carter Food. She was the longtime Test Kitchen director and food writer at the Los Angeles Times and a longtime contributor to &ldquoThe Splendid Table,&rdquo a nationally-syndicated radio program from American Public Media. A native Southern Californian, she also holds a degree in film from the University of Southern California. Follow Noelle on Twitter @noellecarter.

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