Food is LOVE: Three of My Favorite Recipes

I live to serve my readers!  Seeing as I now have more requests for the recipes behind this photo than I can count on two hands, I figure it’s time I published the recipes from our epic Valentine’s dinner:


One of the greatest joys of my life is cooking a meal with my man.  He and I bring such different styles to the cooking process: I’m much more a follow-the-recipe, go with the classics — and he is not at all by the book, experimenting here and improvising there.  What we both share, and what works in harmony if you will, is a genuine love of good food and an unwavering standard for flavor.  There are times that we cook together that end in disaster (the kitchen’s not pretty, and the meal isn’t prime…) but more often than not our differences work together to create a harmonious plate bursting with flavor that well, just works.

After a hectic day for both of us, the last thing I would have expected was for the meal to come together like it did.  Life’s obstacles kept us from celebrating the Valentine’s Day we had imagined, but seeing as we had already bought and planned for our meal at home (much preferred to a fancy dinner out) we saw it through — and it turned out to be one of the best meals of my life, at home or out on the town.  I hope the recipes will come in handy when you need to add the magic and richness of duck a la blood orange and/or a creamy risotto in your life….


Appetizer: Truffle Cheese and Prosciutto Wraps

Original Recipe (c) Part-Time Traveler

Mix 3 parts marscapone cheese with one part truffle oil (becoming less and less expensive and more and more accessible, happy to report)

Spread truffle cheese mixture onto flat piece of prosciutto di Parma, fill with arugula and roll into a tight piece.

Arrange on a plate and drizzle with a balsamic glaze (either reduce balsamic vinegar at home, or go the easy route and purchase the phenomenal balsamic glaze from Trader Joe’s.)

truffle cheese prosciutto wraps

Optional Appetizer: My Go-To from My Time in Barcelona

Inspired by two of my favorite finds from Spain, it’s an easy but delightful second appetizer should your appetite allow:

Manchego Cheese Served with Toasted Marcona Almonds

It’s simple, really: buy a good hunk of Manchego cheese at your cheese retailer of choice, find some Marcona almonds to throw in a frying pan on medium heat.  Toast the almonds, serve warm with a knife to slice the cheese.  You could easily add another charm of Spanish cuisine (in another setting, without the preceding prosciutto) of some jamon serrano.  Happiness ensues.

manchego and marconas

And finally…for the main course:

Duck a la Blood Orange

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Start by prepping the duck.  You’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blood orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 1/2 cups canned low-salt or homemade chicken broth
  • 4 large blood oranges
  • 2 tablespoons grated blood orange peel’
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 1-pound boneless duck breast halves (Whole Foods is a good place to find duck meat)

Stir sugar and water in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil until syrup turns deep amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in vinegar (mixture will bubble vigorously). Add juice and shallots; boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Add broth; boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, 30 minutes. Set aside.

Using small knife, cut off peel and white pith from 4 blood oranges. Working over bowl, cut between membranes to release segments. (Sauce and oranges can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover separately; chill.)

Using small knife, score duck skin (do not pierce meat) in crosshatch pattern. Sprinkle duck with salt and pepper. Heat heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Place duck breasts skin side down in skillet. Cook until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Turn duck and cook to desired doneness, about 10 minutes longer for medium-rare. Transfer to cutting board. Let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring sauce to simmer. Add butter and 1 tablespoon grated blood orange peel; whisk just until butter melts. Drain orange segments and mix into sauce. Set aside.

Slice duck breasts crosswise on diagonal. Arrange on 4 plates. Spoon orange segments with sauce alongside. Sprinkle with remaining peel.

Meanwhile, you’ll prepare the:


Asparagus Risotto

Adapted from Mario Batalli

Time: 45 minutes

1 pound asparagus, peeled if desired, trimmed and cut into one-inch-long pieces, tips reserved
4 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
Salt to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add half the asparagus stalks and cook until quite soft, at least 5 minutes. Rinse quickly under cold water. Put cooked asparagus in a blender or food processor and add just enough water to allow machine to puree until smooth; set aside.

asparagus puree and tips

2. Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add onion, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add a large pinch of salt. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about evaporated, add more.

risotto prep

4. After about 15 minutes, add remaining asparagus pieces and tips, continuing to add stock when necessary. In 5 minutes, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. When it does, stir in 1/2 cup asparagus puree. Remove skillet from heat, add remaining butter and stir briskly. Add Parmesan and stir briskly, then taste and adjust seasoning. Risotto should be slightly soupy. Serve immediately.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Asparagus risotto

Secret tip! We had ordered duck enough in restaurants to know that slicing it and spreading those slices out across half the plate does wonders for presentation.

For fun and style, I added a little of the truffle marscapone from the appetizer and an asparagus tip to to top of each serving of risotto.

L’amour! El amor. L’amore. ENJOY.

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