Cooking from the Heart for a Dinner to Love This Valentine’s Day
February 2022 Issue
By Leslie Rohland
Photography by Lucy Rosen
Love and food have always been closely linked, and for many people, there is nothing more romantic than delicious food. Often considered a symbol of love, food is a big part of our everyday lives and our romantic relationships. Perhaps nowhere is the link between food and love seen more than during February and the love-filled holiday of Valentine’s Day—known for its signature heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, decadent desserts, and, of course, special dinners to mark the special occasion.
Whether you are cooking a romantic candlelight dinner for two for your sweetheart, or spending a cozy evening in the kitchen cooking together, or simply want to prepare and enjoy a special meal for yourself, there are so many ways to bring the love to your Valentine’s Day meal. And with Italy bursting with love, romance and exquisite cuisine, an Italian-inspired dinner is the perfect choice for what is sure to be a perfect night. Italian food is famous for its flavorful dishes, fresh ingredients and cooking techniques developed across the Italian Peninsula and is considered to be one of the most romantic cuisines in the world.
With some simple recipes—and a lot of love—you can bring the tastes and romance of Italy to your own kitchen this Valentine’s Day. I’ve created my “Tuscan Valentine’s Dinner” as a way for you to prepare some traditional classic favorites this Valentine’s Day with some added special touches in honor of the special occasion of this much-loved holiday. From a main course of Tuscan Porterhouse served with Grilled Italian Street Corn and Creamed Spinach, to starting the night off with a Gorgonzola Tomato Basil Salad bursting with fresh flavors, there’s so much to love. And love will truly be in the air from the moment you start cooking until your very last bite of what will truly be a Valentine’s Day dessert to remember: Decadent, elegant and easy to make Chocolate Pots de Crème.
Food is a love language, and there’s no better time to speak the language. Set the mood, get your culinary skills ready, and let love shine through on Valentine’s Day—and all year long.
Gorgonzola Tomato Basil Salad
1 cup Gorgonzola cheese
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsps Olive oil
Sea salt, a pinch
Juice from 1 Lemon
Fresh Basil, chopped
2 cups Mixed salad greens 2 Tbsps Sunflower seeds, or nuts/seeds of your choice
With your hands, crumble the gorgonzola cheese into a bowl, and add the diced tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil over the mix and gently rub until the warmth from your hands begins to soften the cheese; toss well. Add salt, lemon juice and basil and toss again. Keep chilled until ready to eat. When ready, divide the mixed greens into two bowls and add the cheese/tomato mix to each. Toss gently and sprinkle sunflower seeds on top.
Serves 2 | Pictured Above
20 oz Fresh baby spinach
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 medium yellow Onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup Milk
2 Tbsps Butter
1/4 cup Heavy cream
4 oz Cream cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Pinch cayenne pepper
In large pot of boiling salted water, cook spinach for 30 seconds. Drain and place in a bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, drain and squeeze out as much excess water as possible. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and cook until soft, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add milk, heavy cream, and cream cheese to skillet. Simmer until cream cheese is melted. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Add spinach and Parmesan, stir to combine. Remove from the heat and serve, or set aside and cover until needed.
Tuscan Porterhouse Steak
Serves 2 | Pictured top
4 Tbsps Tuscan olive oil
24 oz Prime porterhouse steak (between 20-30 ozs)
6 Lemon wedges
Fresh cracked black pepper
4 sprigs fresh Rosemary, chopped
Press chopped rosemary onto both sides of porterhouse steak; drizzle a bit of olive oil over the steak and set onto a plate and allow to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. Start an outdoor grill using hardwood charcoal, such as hickory. Pre-heat the grill until the coals are white and glowing. Rub the rest of the olive oil onto steak, then season with salt and pepper. Place steak onto grill, and cook until a dark, golden brown (not burnt) crust forms, 5 to 10 minutes depending on thickness of meat. Turn over, and continue cooking until golden on the other side, 5 to 10 minutes more. When finished, place steak onto a platter, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Squeeze the lemon wedges over the steak and sprinkle additional sea salt.
Grilled Italian Street Corn
4 Tbsps Olive oil 2 whole ears fresh Corn, husk on
1 tsp Sea salt 4 oz Ricotta Salata, crumbled (can use feta)
Ground black pepper 1 Tbsp fresh Basil, chopped
1 tsp ground Cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Peel back corn husks, careful to leave them intact at the base of the corn cob. Remove corn silks; fold husks back around corn, and soak in a large bowl of water for 1 hour. Remove corn cobs from water, remove husks and pat dry. Season liberally with olive oil, salt and pepper. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high heat. Grill corn, turning frequently, until tender and charred in spots—6 to 10 minutes. Transfer corn to large platter. While the corn is still warm, sprinkle with ricotta salata, or roll the corn on top of the cheese. Garnish with basil and sprinkle lightly with cayenne pepper.
Chocolate Pots De Crème
3/4 cup Heavy cream
1/4 cup Whole milk
4 oz Bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70% cacao), finely chopped
2 large Egg yolks
1/8 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1/8 tsp Kosher salt
Whipped cream, for serving
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 300°F. Place 2 (6-8oz) ramekins in a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside. Heat cream and milk in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and whisk until melted and smooth. In a large, heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and salt together. While whisking constantly, slowly whisk in the chocolate mixture, until melted. Divide the mixture among the ramekins in baking dish and pour enough hot water into the baking dish until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to splash any water into the ramekins, Place in oven and cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil, Bake until the edges are set and the center still slightly jiggles—about 30 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and uncover. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Serve each with a dollop of whipped cream.
Leslie Rohland, owner of the Cottage Cafe, Bakery and Tea Room in Old Town Bluffton, is an award-winning recipe creator who is known for her delicious and ever-changing menu at her extraordinary restaurant. She is also the owner of the popular healthy eatery The Juice Hive and the micro-roastery May River Coffee Roasters. For more information about The Cottage Cafe, visit www.thecottagebluffton.com or call 843-757-0508.