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A Valentine's Day Dinner for Two

OYSTERS ON THE HALF SHELL

Oysters are always a delicious and fancy start to a meal. If you're worried about shucking, ask your local fish market to shuck them for you. Shucked oysters can stay fresh for at least 4-6 hours so you can keep them in the fridge at home ready to go.

Mignonette Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot
  • ¼ tsp freshly cracked pink peppercorns
  • 6-12 large oysters freshly shucked

Stir all ingredients into a small bowl. Drizzle over oysters when ready to eat. 

 

VONGOLE 

For the pasta:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 tbsp coarsely chopped parsley
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Salt and cracked pepper
  • 2 portions of your favourite pasta*
    * I recommend fresh pasta from my go to shop – Alimentari, an Italian spot on Roncesvalles cranking out beautiful homemade pasta.

     

    Steps:

    • In a skillet, sauté olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes until they become fragrant
    • Add clams and white wine, then cover
    • Cook, shaking the skillet occasionally until clams open up; be sure to discard any that don't open
    • Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted (like the sea!) water until al dente. Drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid
    • Add pasta, butter, parsley and ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid to the clams, and cook, tossing and adding more liquid if needed until the sauce coats the pasta
    • Adjust seasoning
    • Serve and garnish with fresh chilis & garlicky breadcrumbs

    Garlicky Breadcrumbs

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • 2 slices of Sourdough or country-style bread, crusts removed
    • 1 tsp lemon zest
    • Salt and cracked pepper

    Steps:

    • In a food processor, pulse garlic and bread until they resemble breadcrumbs
    • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan over medium high heat
    • Add bread mixture and stir often until crumbs are golden and crisp
    • Remove from heat and toss with lemon zest, salt and cracked pepper  

      MIXED LEAVES 

      Keep this salad light and fresh to complement the brightness of the clam pasta, and use seasonal greens that are light, flavourful and crunchy.

      • Handful of radicchio leaves
      • Handful of bitter greens like dandelion greens, arugula or escarole
      • Handful of bright fresh herbs like flat leaf parsley, dill or chopped chives
      • Drizzle of high quality olive oil, 1/2 squeezed lemon
      • Season with Maldon sea salt     

       

      BLOOD ORANGE TART WITH CARDAMOM PASTRY CREAM

      For the pastry cream:

      Ingredients:

      • 2 cups whole milk
      • 1 tbsp cardamom pod, crushed slightly
      • 5 large egg yolks
      • ½ cup sugar
      • 6 tbsp all purpose flour
      • ¼ stick unsalted butter
      • 1 tsp vanilla extract

      Steps:

      • Bring milk and cardamom to a boil
      • Remove from heat, cover and let steep 15 minutes
      • Strain milk into bowl
      • Whisk yolks, sugar and flour in medium bowl, gradually whisk in milk
      • Return to saucepan and cook over medium heat until pastry cream thickens and boils, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes
      • Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla
      • Transfer to a bowl and press plastic wrap onto surface
      • Chill until cold, at least 4 hours

      For the blood orange:

      • 6 blood orange or small naval orange, sliced thinly into rounds
      • ½ cup of apricot preserves, melted and strained

      For the crust:

      Ingredients:

      • 1 ½ cup all purpose flour
      • 2 tbsp sugar
      • 1/8 tsp salt
      • 1 ¼ stick chilled unsalted butter, cubed
      • 2 tbsp (or more) ice water
      • 1 large egg yolk

      Steps: 

      • Combine flour, sugar and salt in a food processor
      • Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal
      • Whisk together 2 tbsp ice water and egg yolk
      • Add to dry ingredients and blend just until a moist clump forms (add more water if the dough is dry)
      • Gather into a ball and flatten into a disk
      • Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day
      • Preheat oven to 375ºF
      • Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 13-14 inches diameter
      • Transfer to an 11- inch diameter tart pan with a removable bottom (or individual tart pans)
      • Press in and pierce dough all over with a fork, and remove edges
      • Freeze crust for 30 minutes
      • Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes
      • Transfer to rack and cool

      Assembly:

      • Remove tart shell from pan 
      • Fill gently with pastry curd
      • Top with sliced blood oranges
      • Brush warm apricot preserve over oranges for a shine