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Celebrate Love: Valentine’s Cooking Class Recipes

6 p.m. ET | Friday, Feb. 12

Kick off Valentine’s Day weekend with Friar chef Christine Merlo ’85 for an evening of fun in the kitchen. Merlo will provide food demonstrations on an array of sweet and savory eats to dazzle up your weekend dinner plans. Whether you’re cooking for two, your family, or with your Galentine’s, don’t miss out on Merlo’s new must-try recipes. She will also answer all of those cooking questions you’ve back-burnered.

Savory Items

Pear, Onion, and Blue Cheese Tarts with Honey Glaze (Makes 6)

5 onions, thinly sliced

3 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon thyme, minced or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3 bartlett or anju pears peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 pound blue cheese, crumbled

1 sheet of puff pastry

2 Tablespoons honey thinned with 1 teaspoon water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a saute pan on medium low heat, melt the butter and saute the onions – add salt, pepper, and thyme – until golden about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Unroll and cut one sheet of puff pastry into six squares. Score a small boarder around each square. Place the squares on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Spoon a mound of onions on the bottom of each square (within the scored boarder), followed by pears shingled in a pattern, and topped with blue cheese.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until edges are golden and puffed and the bottom is browned. While they are still hot, brush the top of each one with a little honey glaze before serving.

Puff Pastry Pizzas (Serves 4-6)

Assorted Toppings – veggies, meat, and olives

Assorted Melting Cheeses – mozzarella, cheddar, brie, parmesan etc.

Tomato Sauce

1 sheet of puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If you are using vegetables like onions, peppers – either slice them thinly or saute them for 3-5 minutes in a little oil to soften them. Make sure you drain them of any oil before using.

Either use the sheet of puff pastry whole or cut it into six squares. Either score a small boarder around each edge or leave it as is. Top with any ingredients you wish – bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Avocado, Mango, and Seafood Lettuce Wraps with Ginger Soy Sauce (Serves 4)

Filling:

1/2 pound of shrimp (or lobster, crab), cooked and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 of a mango, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 avocado, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 Tablespoons cilantro or parsley, minced

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

The juice of 1/2 lime

1/4 cup of the Ginger Soy Sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Ginger Soy Sauce:

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1 head of Butter or Iceberg lettuce, washed and leaves separated

Begin by making the sauce in a small bowl – mix together all of the ingredients – let the sauce sit for 5-10 minutes, taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more sugar or ginger. 

Make the filling in a separate bowl by combine all of the ingredients. Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper.  Fill each lettuce leaf and serve with the remaining sauce.

Whipped Ricotta Crostini with Blistered Tomatoes (Serves 4-6)

Tomatoes:

1 container of cherry, grape, or pear tomatoes

1-2 Tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried basil or thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon of each)

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and pepper

Crostini:

1/2 – 1 baguette, sliced 1/4 inch thick or your favorite bread, cut with the crust removed

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1-2 cloves garlic

Whipped Ricotta:

1 container (15 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional)

1-2 Tablespoons chives, parsley or both – chopped small

Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by making the crostini – preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the tops of each piece of bread/baguette with olive oil and season the tops with salt and pepper. Bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Remove and if using, take a clove of peeled garlic and rub the top of each crostini.

To make the blistered tomatoes, wash and dry the tomatoes. Place them in a bowl and add the olive oil, basil or thyme, and if using, red pepper flakes. Toss well. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 15-20 minutes or just until blistered/bursting.

To make the whipped ricotta – place the ricotta and olive oil (if using) in a food process or a bowl using a hand mixer, and whip until light and fluffy – about 2 minutes. Stir in the herbs and add salt and pepper.

To assemble, spread some of the whipped ricotta on top of each crostini, followed by some tomatoes. 

Sweet Items

Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes (Makes 4 individual cakes)

4 ounce bar of quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (or weigh out 4 ounces of chips)

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks (discard the whites)

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Flour or cocoa powder for dusting

To make the cakes, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Break or chop the chocolate into small pieces and place it in a bowl along with the butter. Melt this in a double boiler over simmering water on the stove. Remove and allow the chocolate to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, and sugar for 2-3 minutes until it is light and thick (you can use a hand or standing mixer if you want). Add the chocolate, flour, and salt. Mix until combined.

Generously butter (or use pan release spray) 4 ramekins and dust the insides with the either flour, cocoa powder, or sugar. Make sure you tap out (inverted each ramekin and gently bang it onto the table) any access. Spoon the cake batter 2/3 full in each ramekin. Bake 7-10 minutes or until the top of the cake is slightly cracked and the center of the cake is slightly loose. Do not overbake!  Allow each to cool 1 minute – run a small knife around the edge of each ramekin, then invert each onto a plate – wait 10 seconds before removing the ramekin. Adapted from Chef Jean-George Vongerichten

*To make a Mocha Molten Lava Cake add 2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder to the melted chocolate and butter

**To make a Mexican Spiced Molten Lava Cake add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the melted chocolate and butter

Chocolate Fondue

Chocolate:

6 ounces good quality chocolate – either in a block that has been chopped, or in chips

4 ounces heavy cream

Flavored chocolate options – 1 Tablespoon liquor of your choosing – like amaretto, Bailey’s, etc

Dippers (cut into bite sized pieces):

Fruit – strawberries, pineapple, mango, banana, green apples, raspberries, or dried apricots, etc.

Treats – pound cake, brownies, rice krispie treats, marshmallows, twinkies, etc..

To make the chocolate fondue – place the cream in a saucepan and heat on medium until small bubbles appear on the edge of the cream. Do not boil the cream – just heat it until almost boiling. Place the chocolate into a heat proof bowl – pour the warm cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit and melt the chocolate for 3-5 minutes. With a whisk, slowly blend to combine. Whisk in any flavoring you might want to add. Pour into a bowl – or individual small bowls and serve. If the chocolate starts to get too stiff, whisk a small amount of cream into to loosen – or carefully microwave the chocolate for 15 seconds.

You can spear dippers on wooden skewers or serve on a platter for folks to help themselves with forks.

Decadent Brownies

Brownies – make brownies using the recipe below, your favorite recipe, store bought, or a brownie mix

Mascarpone Mousse with Nutella Drizzle and Chocolate Shavings

Mascarpone Mousse:

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

pinch of salt

In the bowl of a standing mixer, place the mascarpone and butter. Blend on medium until combined. Add the sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt – mix until light and fluffy.

Nutella Drizzle:

1/2 cup Nutella

1/4 cup heavy cream

In a small saucepan on medium, heat the Nutella and cream until melted – blend until smooth.

Chocolate shavings – use a vegetable peeler to scrape chocolate

To finish the brownies, spread or pipe the mascarpone on top of the brownies – drizzle with Nutella and sprinkle with shavings.

Rocky Road – Marshmallows, Nuts, and Chocolate Glaze

2 cups mini marshmallows, rinsed in cool water and drained

1 cup chopped nuts of your choice

Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces heavy cream

2 ounces chocolate (chips or a block of chocolate that has been chopped)

In a small saucepan on medium, heat the cream until small bubbles form on the edges – do not boil. Place the chocolate in a bowl – pour the cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for 5-8 minutes. Whisk until smooth and shiny.

If baking brownies, remove from the oven when done and place the mini marshmallows on top to help them stick. If using store bought or previously made brownies, place them in a 350-degree oven to warm, remove and place marshmallows on top. When cooled, sprinkle with nuts and pour the chocolate glaze over the top – allow to set.

Chocolate Explosion with Whipped White Chocolate Frosting and Dark Chocolate Shavings

Whipped White Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup heavy cream   

12 ounces white chocolate (block cut into small pieces or chips)

Option – to color the frosting, use 1-2 drops of food coloring

In a small saucepan on medium, heat the cream until small bubbles form on the edges – do not boil. Place the chocolate in a bowl – pour the cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for 5-8 minutes. Whisk until smooth and shiny (add food coloring here if desired) – allow it to cool.

Place the cooled ganache into the fridge and allow it to firm up at least 2 hours. Remove and using a hand-held or standing mixer, whip until it is light and fluffy.

Chocolate Shavings – use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate

To finish off the brownies, spread or pipe the whipped ganache on top and sprinkle with shavings.

Mint Surprise with Chocolate Cream and Chocolate Shavings

1-2 cups Junior Mints/Mini York Patties

Chocolate Whipped Cream

3 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 cup heavy cream

In a bowl, place the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt – pour in a little of the heavy cream. Using a spoon, mix these together to form a paste (this will help dissolve the cocoa and sugar). Pour in the rest of the cream and whip using a hand-held mixer or standing mixer on low. As the cream begins to thicken, increase the speed and whip the chocolate cream to your desired consistency.

Chocolate Shavings

If baking brownies, remove from the oven done and place Junior Mints/Mini York Patties on top to help them melt. If using store bought or previously made brownies, place them in a 350-degree oven to warm, remove and place the mints on top. Use a knife to spread the mint chocolate in an even layer. When cooled and set, spread or pipe chocolate whipped cream, top with shavings.

Nigella Lawson’s Everyday Brownies

1 and 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 and 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch salt

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan with parchment or foil. Melt the butter in the microwave oven. In a bowl, place the sugar and add the melted butter. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and pinch of salt. Add the sugar/butter mixture – and stir to combine (this will be a very dry mixture).

In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract and add it to the brownie mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour and scrape the batter into a foil-lined pan, spreading the mixture with a spatula. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. A toothpick/cake tester should come out with some sticky batter – this is desirable. Allow to cool. Adapted from The Food Network