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Rosemary adds to mood

Three-course meal offers flavor variety, ends with chocolate

In many cultures, rosemary has a long history as an aphrodisiac, an herb with the power to keep fidelity and love strong.

So why not tap that history to grow a little romance of your own on Valentine’s Day? This three-course meal isn’t speedy, but the effort will win you the admiration of your love.

Start by making the pots de creme (the recipe makes an extra two servings in case you’re craving more chocolate later) to give them plenty of time to chill. Then get all your ingredients organized and prepped. Everything else will go together without too much trouble.

Cream of Cauliflower and Rosemary Soup

1 tablespoon butter

1 shallot, chopped

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely minced

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

12 ounces frozen cauliflower, thawed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Rosemary olive oil or other herbed oil, to drizzle

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, melt the butter. Add the shallot and rosemary and saute until the shallot is tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat. Cook for another minute, then whisk in the milk and cream.

Add the cauliflower, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower is very soft and the mixture has thickened.

Using an immersion blender or working in batches in a regular blender, puree the mixture until very smooth. Adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Finish with a drizzle of rosemary oil.

Yield: 2 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving: 756 calories, 33 grams fat (19 grams saturated, 39 percent fat calories), 29 grams protein, 89 grams carbohydrate, 81 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams dietary fiber, 513 milligrams sodium.

Rosemary Seared Tenderloin with Honeyed Sweet Potato and Blue Cheese Green Beans

For the sweet potato:

2 medium or 1 large sweet potato

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the tenderloin:

1 pound tenderloin or 2 beef tenderloin steaks

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely minced

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

For the green beans:

8 ounces trimmed green beans

3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese (such as Gorgonzola)

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prick the sweet potato all over with a fork. Microwave on high for 5 to 6 minutes, or until completely tender. Allow to cool slightly.

Peel the sweet potato and mash it in a small bowl. Mix in the butter, honey, salt and pepper. Cover the bowl with foil and place in the oven to keep warm.

If not already done, cut the tenderloin into two steaks. Rub the salt and rosemary all over the meat.

In a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high, heat the butter and oil until the butter is melted. Sear the steaks on each side until well-browned, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until the steaks reach 125 degrees at the center. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

While the steaks rest, prepare the green beans. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the beans and cover. Boil until bright green and just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the beans, then transfer to a bowl. Add the blue cheese, salt and pepper, then toss well.

Place half the sweet potato, a steak and half the beans on each serving plate. Garnish the beans with the almonds, if using.

Yield: 2 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving: 758 calories, 43 grams fat (19 grams saturated, 50 percent fat calories), 55 grams protein, 39 grams carbohydrate, 218 milligrams cholesterol, 7 grams dietary fiber, 1,296 milligrams sodium.

Milk Chocolate Rosemary Pots de Creme

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup milk

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped

1/4 teaspoon orange zest

3 egg yolks

2 tablespoons sugar

3 ounces milk chocolate bits

Whipped cream, to serve

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, milk, rosemary and orange zest. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and cover. Allow the mixture to steep for 30 minutes.

Toward the end of steeping, heat the oven to 325 degrees. Set four small ramekins (about 4 ounces each) inside a 9-by-9-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar.

Turn on the heat under the cream mixture to medium. When the liquid is just steaming, remove it from the heat. While continuously whisking the egg mixture, dribble the warm cream mixture very slowly and just a little at a time into the egg yolks. Add the milk chocolate and whisk until melted.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the mixture into a liquid measuring cup with a pouring spout. Discard any solids.

Carefully pour the liquid into the ramekins. Pour hot water into the outer pan to come half way up the sides of the ramekins, making sure not to get any water in the ramekins.

Place the pan in the oven and cover loosely with foil. Bake until set and the centers just barely jiggle, about 55 to 65 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water and chill until completely cold, at least two hours. Serve topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

Yield: 4 servings

Approximate nutrition per serving: 436 calories, 35 grams fat (21 grams saturated, 72 percent fat calories), 5 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrate, 264 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram dietary fiber, 51 milligrams sodium.



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