Our advice this Valentine’s Day: Do it in the morning.
Cooking, that is.
Usually, romance-minded gourmands are faced with a choice between treating their sweethearts to a lovingly prepared meal at home, or an amorous restaurant repast.
But this year, with Cupid’s day falling on Saturday, you have time to enjoy the best of both worlds: lingering over a leisurely, home-cooked breakfast, and still going out for a fancy, hassle-free dinner (assuming, of course, you’ve made your reservations by now).
Breakfast is a perfect opportunity to make something indulgent, even a little sinful. Some of the best breakfasts are really just desserts you eat before noon, all done up in sugar and syrup and spices.
The twin culinary treasures of Valentine’s Day - chocolate and champagne - can comfortably take their place at the breakfast table in everything from mimosas (equal parts orange juice and champagne) to chocolate waffles, crepes and croissants.
Maybe best of all, many breakfast recipes are on the fairly simple side, easily executed by even a relatively inexperienced chap, er, chef. (After all, we all know whose day this really is.)
For some pointers on romantic breakfasts, we turned to the experts - the people who cook at some of the area’s cozy bed-and-breakfast inns.
And what better place to start than Love’s Victorian Bed and Breakfast in Deer Park?
During February, Love’s is featuring heart-shaped waffles made from a yeasted batter spiked with orange, as well as an egg creation in small, heart-shaped dishes. A small, lit red candle is clipped to each plate.
“We try to make the month of February a real special time, because not everybody can make it on valentine’s weekend,” says co-owner Leslie Love.
At the Fotheringham House in Spokane, Saturday morning’s menu will include huckleberry crepes with fresh lemon curd and Devonshire cream, British-style bangers (sausages) and pears poached in orange juice with cinnamon heart candies. “It turns everything wonderfully pink and cinnamony,” says cook and co-owner Jackie Johnson.
Johnson likes to use waffles as a blank canvas for all sorts of fruits, nuts and other toppings. For a special touch, she takes pure maple syrup and adds flavored drink syrups (such as Seattle’s Da Vinci Gourmet line) to lend such accents as amaretto and hazelnut.
Along with the food, it’s the mood that makes for a romantic meal, says Pam Dalby, owner of Sandpoint’s Serendipity Country Inn. Candles, music, flowers and fine china all help create an atmosphere.
“The presentation is really important,” Dalby says. “I don’t think we take out our china and crystal enough. That really makes a difference.”
So do such details as adding a little flavored liqueur to fresh fruit, she says. For breakfast champagne, Dalby prefers a lighter, sweeter asti spumante.
What’s the ultimate romantic breakfast?
“Breakfast on the terrace with asti spumante and strawberries, eggs Benedict, something you don’t do very often,” says Dalby.
But if your significant other didn’t select you for your cooking, well, don’t worry.
“It’s having breakfast with someone you love - who’s at the table, where you are,” says the Fotheringham House’s Johnson.
Whatever you prepare, if you want to be really romantic, dig out a tray or two and serve breakfast in bed.
But if you get, um, preoccupied and end up missing your dinner reservations, don’t blame us.
French Toast Baked in Honey-Pecan Sauce
From “Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook,” by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge (Terrace Publishing, 1997). Sweetened with honey - among the most sensual of foods - as well as maple syrup and brown sugar, this puffs up to a golden, sticky ecstasy in the morning’s hot oven.
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 thick slices French bread
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped pecans
Combine the eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Pour half the mixture into a baking dish. Place the bread in the dish and top with the other half of the egg mixture. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.
Melt the butter in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and stir in the 1/4 cup brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and pecans. Add the soaked bread slices. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.
Yield: 2 to 3 servings.
Nutrition information per each of 3 servings: 707 calories, 37 grams fat (47 percent fat calories), 84 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams protein, 347 milligrams cholesterol, 479 milligrams sodium.
Dark Chocolate Waffles
From “Chocolate for Breakfast and Tea,” by Laura Zahn (Down to Earth Publications), this specialty of The Graham B&B; Inn and Adobe Village in Sedona, Ariz., can be topped with a variety of fruits or syrups. Innkeeper Carol Redenbaugh prefers them dusted with powdered sugar and crowned with fresh strawberries.
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup milk or 3/4 cup buttermilk
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and cooled chocolate. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, if using.
Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture alternately with the milk, blending well with each addition. (If using buttermilk, which is thicker than milk, add a little more, if necessary, to thin almost to a pouring consistency.)
With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the batter.
Place about 1/3 cup batter in a hot waffle iron, close the cover and bake until the steaming stops; these waffles are dark so don’t judge doneness by the color.
Yield: 5 to 6 waffles, or 2 to 3 servings.
Nutrition information per each of 2 servings, using 1 percent milk: 187 calories, 12 grams fat (58 percent fat calories), 18 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams protein, 54 milligrams cholesterol, 169 milligrams sodium.
Salmon Scrambled Eggs
From the Swan House B&B; in Anchorage, Alaska, courtesy of 1st Traveler’s Choice Internet Cookbook (www.virtualcities.com/ons/recipe.htm).
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup milk
6 ounces smoked salmon
Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a fork. Pour on hot griddle and stir often until done. Top with fresh parsley or dill.
Yield: 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving, using nonfat milk: 323 calories, 23.5 grams fat (65 percent fat calories), 4 grams carbohydrate, 23 grams protein, 378 milligrams cholesterol, 739 milligrams sodium.
Chocolate-Stuffed Crescent Rolls
From “Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook,” by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge (Terrace Publishing, 1997), this is an easy version of the classic French chocolate croissant.
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 (4-count) package refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the chocolate into 4 pieces, each about 3 inches long. Unfold the crescent roll dough. Place 1 piece of chocolate at the wide end of each piece of dough and roll up. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Mix the egg yolk, milk and sugar in a small bowl. Brush on the rolls, then bake according to package directions. Cool for 15 minutes before eating.
Yield: 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 225 calories, 15 grams fat (60 percent fat calories), 23 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams protein, 53 milligrams cholesterol, 186 milligrams sodium.
Banana Sour Cream Pancakes With Cinnamon Maple Syrup
From “Pancakes A to Z,” by Marie Simmons (Chapters, 1997), these moist, tender pancakes are adapted from a favorite recipe at Bette’s Oceanview Diner in Berkeley, Calif.
4 large eggs
2 cups sour cream
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 bananas, peeled and cut into thin slices
Cinnamon Maple Syrup (see recipe below)
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until light and bubbly. Stir in the sour cream until blended. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt onto the liquid ingredients. Fold until blended.
Heat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over medium heat until hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Brush with a thin film of vegetable oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
For each pancake, pour a scant 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle or skillet. Immediately arrange 3 or 4 thin slices of banana on the surface of each pancake. Adjust the heat to medium-low. Cook slowly until the tops are covered with small bubbles and the bottoms are lightly browned. Carefully turn and cook until lightly browned on the other side.
Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately with Cinnamon Maple Syrup.
Yield: About 12 (4-inch) pancakes, or 3 servings.
Nutrition information per serving, including syrup: 905 calories, 44 grams fat (44 percent fat calories), 117 grams carbohydrate, 17 grams protein, 362 milligrams cholesterol, 696 milligrams sodium.
Cinnamon Maple Syrup
1 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and cook, stirring to blend, until the mixture boils. Remove from heat and let stand until ready to serve.
Chocolate Breakfast Crepes
From The Blue Harbor House in Camden, Maine, courtesy of 1st Traveler’s Choice Internet Cookbook (www.virtualcities.com/ons/recipe.htm).
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened chocolate powder
1 egg white
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup skim milk
Mix all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add all liquid ingredients and stir until batter is smooth and creamy. Let rest in the refrigerator until the air is settled, about 2 hours.
When ready to prepare crepes, heat crepe pan over medium heat and pour 1/3 to 1/4 cup of the batter into hot pan. Rotate pan until batter is cooked through and then turn to cook the other side. When done remove from pan and let cool on a rack. Store until ready to serve (may be made 1 to 2 days ahead of time).
Fill with seasonal fresh fruits, sorbet or sweetened whipped cream.
Yield: 2 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 146 calories, 7.6 grams fat (47 percent fat calories), 17 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams protein, 27 milligrams cholesterol, 19 milligrams sodium.
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