Feb 13, 2012

Love Bites

Still planning your menu for a romantic Valentine's Day dinner? We asked personal chef Dara Lyubinsky, whose high-profile clients include well-known names from the entertainment and sports worlds, for some easy last-minute recipes. "They say the fastest way to someone’s heart is through his or her stomach,” says Lyubinsky, who runs Tastes Like More Culinary Services. “While that rings true all year round, Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to whip up a delicious meal for the one you love. These recipes feature heart-healthy benefits (omega 3 fatty acids in the branzino and antioxidant-rich dark chocolate in the dessert), and there’s minimal cleanup and fuss so that you can get on to more exciting parts of your evening …

Oven-Crisped Branzino with Herbed Fleur de Sel over Lemon Basil Pesto Risotto
Serves 2 with leftovers

1 large Branzino, filleted
1 Tbsp Herbed Fleur de Sel or other sea salt
2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
2 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
4 Tbsp minced shallotts
1/2 cup Carnaroli or Arborio rice
4 Tbsp Brandy or Cognac
1/4 cup store-bought basil pesto
Zest of 1 lemon

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock until it boils, then reduce to a simmer and cover. In a 3-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it starts to foam. Add the shallots and stir, cooking until tender for approximately 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and toast it in the shallot and butter mixture for 2 minutes. Add the brandy or cognac, stirring until it has almost completely evaporated. Add 1/4 cup of chicken stock and stir until absorbed, approximately 2 minutes. Continue adding the stock, stirring constantly, each time waiting for the rice to soak up the liquid. Repeat until the rice is al dente—this should take approximately 20 minutes. While you add chicken stock, heat the broiler to high. Place the fish filets on a parchment-lined baking sheet and dab very dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides of the fish with the fleur de sel and, with the skin side up, place the fish under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the skin slightly blisters and the fish turns opaque. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the pesto and lemon zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the Risotto to two serving plates and top with the crispy skinned Branzino.

Individual Warm Chocolate Gooey Cakes
Serves 2 with leftovers

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
1/8 tsp sea salt
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I like Guittard or Valrhona)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter plus more for greasing ramekins
1 large room-temperature egg
1 large room-temperature egg yolk
4 Tbsp sugar, divided

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with the rack in the center of the oven. Combine 1 Tbsp sugar with 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder. Butter two 4-oz ramekins and dust with the sugar/cocoa mixture, tapping out the excess. Place the ramekins on a parchment-lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and remaining cocoa. Set a heat-safe bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the top of the water. Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl, stirring with a heat-safe spatula until just melted. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk and remaining sugar. Add the flour mixture, stirring gently into the eggs. Slowly add the melted chocolate mixture, being careful to bring the temperature of the eggs up slowly so they don't scramble. Divide the mixture between the two ramekins. Bake for 12 minutes, then transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack for 2-3 minutes. The cakes can be inverted onto a plate and topped with ice cream or eaten right out of the ramekins. Enjoy warm!

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