Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Loving Valentine's Day Dinner

Ah, Valentine's Day! Something about this holiday always makes me so happy! I think it is because the pretty pinks and reds brighten the gloomy weather and our outlooks. And, there’s nothing like receiving a valentine to brighten one’s mood. While expressions of love and friendship are always welcomed, it is this time of year when we might just need them most!

What are you doing for Valentine's Day this year? I am planning to make a special family dinner. Since I have two teens in the house, I am NOT planning a menu with aphrodisiac foods. Enuf said.  :-)

In 2011, I am working to take care of my favorite hearts--those of my husband and kids. So, I've been thinking about some delicious celebratory dishes using heart-healthy ingredients. Keep in mind, though, this is a special occasion dinner, so of course it has more calories and fat than usual--in this case we just watch our portion sizes and enjoy every bite.  

Here is my menu: 

Almond-Crusted Salmon with Leek and Lemon Cream
Salmon is a number one heart-healthy food--lots of Omega 3 fatty acids; try for wild pacific salmon (which will cost you a fortune) or a good Norwegian "ocean-farmed" salmon, which will still be expensive, but less so than wild. It should not be as red as the wild: if it is, it probably has artificial coloring which should be avoided. Almonds are another superfood with plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.

Brown rice
Brown rice is filled with B-complex vitamins, fiber,  niacin and magnesium. Avoid the instant stuff and use a rice cooker to turn out perfect brown rice, which is so much better for you.

Roasted asparagus

Asparagus is a good vegetable choice with beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B-complex vitamins,  folate and fiber. Using a bit of olive oil is all the better. Click here for guidelines on how to roast it. 
Pinot Noir 
Twenty years ago, we were introduced to the concept of the French Paradox and discovered the benefits of red wine. A glass of red wine (5-6 ounces) with your meal provides catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids), and could improve "good" HDL cholesterol.

Dark chocolate truffles with fresh raspberries
Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids), found in dark chocolate (70% or higher cocoa content), may reduce blood pressure. In addition, researchers say that chocolate triggers "feel-good" chemicals in the brain. One truffle would be sufficient. Served with raspberries, we also get potent antioxidants, vitamin C among other benefits.*

I can't wait!

Today, I have the salmon recipe for you, which I have adapted from Bon Appetit magazine. I have made it many times--truly, it is one of my favorites. This year I will use milk instead of cream in the sauce (by the way, DON'T use half and half or you will get a curdled mess). Even if you use cream, you really only need a dollop of the sauce. 

Almond-Crusted Salmon with Leek and Lemon Cream

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium leek, halved, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 6 skinless salmon fillets (4-6 ounces each)
  • 2 egg whites, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leek; sauté 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook until leeks are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Increase heat to medium; add lemon juice and stir until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Mix in cream. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly. Transfer mixture to blender. Blend until smooth. Strain sauce into same saucepan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (Sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

  • Mix almonds, parsley, lemon peel, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper on plate. Place flour on another plate. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Dredge salmon in flour, shaking off excess. Lightly brush 1 side of salmon with beaten egg whites. Press brushed side of salmon into almond mixture, pressing lightly to adhere. Arrange salmon, nut side up, on baking sheet.

  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in each of 2 heavy large skillets over medium heat. Add half of salmon to each skillet, almond-coated side down, and cook until crust is brown, about 5 minutes. Turn salmon over. Sauté until salmon is cooked through and opaque in center, about 5 minutes. Transfer salmon to plates.

  • Reheat sauce, stirring over medium heat. Spoon around salmon and serve.
Tomorrow: Dark Chocolate Truffles!

* Thanks to for nutrition information in this post.

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