Welcome to issue no. 7 of Foodstuff

February 8, 1998

Valentine's Day

Ik houdt van jouw (Dutch)
Je t'adore (French)
Ya liubliu tebia (Russian)
Ich liebe dich (German)
Te amo (Spanish)
Saya cinta cau (Malaysian)
I love you sure sounds lovely in any language!

Why not make the most romantic day of the year extra special by preparing an ultra- romantic dinner for two? Don't forget the special little extra touches like candles (lightly scented), music (Nat King Cole, soft, classical), a warm cozy fire, champagne (the best you can afford), flowers (roses), a romantic movie (Casablanca) or even an erotic one (Like Water For Chocolate), and of course, something chocolate for dessert!

Your table establishes the mood for the evening - make it romantic. Select one of your prettiest linens for the table, such as a light peach damask covering. (Peach is a soothing, comforting color and works its magic to establish an environment where you'll feel relaxed and at ease.) Tie each napkin with a satin ribbon and tuck a rose on top. If at all possible, choose a table that is slightly on the smallish side. You want your knees to touch. Choose your prettiest china and crystal in patterns that compliment the rest of the table setting. If you need to use supplementary light, trade soft pink bulbs for standard ones. This will provide the extra lighting you need yet cater to the romantic ambience you are creating. One final tip - place a tray of votives in the powder room, and why not set a few in the bedroom as well! The flickering candlelight extends the romantic mood throughout your home.

The dining room is the obvious choice for your romantic dinner, but give consideration to setting a table in the living room next to the fireplace. The intimacy of the setting will carry over to your dinner. ..and the rest of the evening.

A Valentine's Day menu

Raspberry Spinach Salad

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
1/3 cup vegetable oil
8 cups spinach, rinsed, stemmed and torn into pieces
3/4 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts or toasted almond slices
1 cup fresh raspberries
3 kiwis, peeled and sliced

Dressing: Combine vinegar and jam in blender or small bowl. Add oil in thin stream, blending well. Toss spinach with 1/2 of the nuts, 1/2 of the raspberries, 1/2 of the kiwis and the dressing. Top with the remaining ingredients (nuts, raspberries and kiwis.) Serve immediately.

Brie-Covered Crostini

1/4 French baguette
3 oz. brie, softened
1 sprig parsley, snipped
1 teaspoon paprika

Slice the bread into 1/4-inch thin rounds and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 4-5 minutes, turning once, until crostinis are hardened, but not browned. Remove from oven and let cool briefly. Mix parsley with brie; spoon a bit onto each crostini. Lightly sprinkle paprika over top of crostini's. Bake at 350 degrees for 3-5 more minutes, or until cheese starts to bubble and brown.

Scallops With Basil-Lemon Sauce

4 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs. bay or sea scallops, rinsed and well dried
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In large, heavy skillet, over medium heat, melt butter. Add garlic and cook until softened. Do not brown. Add scallops and basil and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add lemon juice and continue cooking, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.

Classic Crème Brûlée

The taste and texture of this dessert is almost erotic. Savor it slowly, and enjoy every sinful calorie!

8 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated white sugar (for the caramelized tops)

Preheat oven to 300ºF. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add cream and vanilla, and continue to whisk until well blended. Strain into a large bowl, skimming off any foam or bubbles.

Divide mixture among 6 ramekins or custard cups. Place in a water bath and bake until set around the edges, but still loose in the center, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled. Remove cups from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days. When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over each custard. For best results, use a small, hand-held torch to melt sugar. If you don't have a torch, place under the broiler until sugar melts. Re-chill custards for a few minutes before serving.

Serves 6

For more about crème brulee, please visit my new website - www.cremebrulee.com - but keep in mind it's still under construction.

Trendy Fois Gras

Why am I all of a sudden hearing about this stuff called fois gras? It's everywhere these days. You always read that world leaders at summit meetings were served fois gras. Chefs everywhere are doing all sorts of interesting things with it, for example stuffing ravioli with it, pouring port and truffle sauce over it, and serving expensive champagne with it. But just what is *it* anyway? Although the literal translation from French is "fat liver," foie gras is the term generally used for goose liver. This specialty of Alsace and Perigord, is in fact, the enlarged liver from a goose or duck that has been force-fed and fattened over a period of 4 to 5 months. These specially bred fowl are not permitted to exercise - which, combined with the overhang, creates a huge (up to 3 pounds) fatty liver. After the bird is killed, the liver is soaked overnight in milk, water or port. It's drained, then marinated in a mixture usually consisting of Armagnac, port or madeira and various seasonings. The livers are then cooked, usually by baking. The preparation, or cuse, depends on the cook. In general, goose liver is considered superior to duck liver; all foie gras is very expensive. At its best, it is a delicate rosy color with mottlings of beige. The flavor is extraordinarily rich and the texture silky smooth. Pate de foie gras is pureed goose liver that usually contains other foods such as pork liver, truffles and eggs. Mousse or puree de foie gras must contain at least 55 percent goose liver. Foie gras should be served chilled with thin toast slices.

Steamed Egg Ramekins with Fois Gras

2 70-gram cans goose or duck fois gras
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons crème fraiche
salt and pepper
fresh snipped chives to garnish

Butter four small ramekin dishes. Remove the fois gras from its cans and cut into dice. Distribute these in the bottom of the ramekins, break an egg over each and carefully dollop on the cream. Season with salt and pepper Steam the ramekins for about 10 minutes, or until they are sufficiently cooked to taste. Sprinkle over the snipped chives and serve.

Fresh Corn Polenta with Seared Fois Gras and Chanterelles

This recipe is from Ken Frank, a wonderful chef from La Toque and now Fenix (in the Argyle Hotel, Hollywood).

6 ears fresh sweet corn, peeled
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices fresh "A" grade foie gras 2 to 3 oz. each
16 small fresh chanterelles
salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste
black truffle (as much as you can afford)

Using the back of a chefs knife scrape off the pulp from the corn cob leaving the casing from the kernels on the cob. Discard the cob and simmer the corn pulp over low flame with 3 tablespoons of the butter, some black truffle and salt until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Verify seasoning. Keep warm.

In the meantime, clean and sauté the chanterelles with salt and pepper in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Keep warm.

Season both sides of the foie gras slices and sear the foie gras in a thick iron pan that has been pre-heated beyond belief. In a hot enough pan the foie gras will sear in under 30 seconds with a perfect crust on the outside. (This is a great chef's trick for cooking foie gras.)

Spoon the polenta into soup plates, top with a slice of foie gras and the sautéed chanterelles .

Top Ten Cookbooks This Week

  1. "Joy of Cooking," by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker (Scribner, $30).
  2. "The New Making of a Cook," by Madeleine Kamman (William Morrow, $40).
  3. "CookWise," by Shirley O. Corriher (Morrow, $28.50).
  4. "Cooking With the Two Fat Ladies," by Jennifer Patterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright (Random House, $25).
  5. "Marcella Cucina," by Marcella Hazan (HarperCollins, $35).
  6. "More Cooking Secrets of the CIA," by Joyce Oudkerk Pool (Chronicle Books, $14.95, paperback).
  7. "Play With Your Food," by Joost Ellfers (Stewart Tabori &Chang, $19.95).
  8. "Tamales," by Mark Charles Miller, Stephen Pyles and John Sedlar (MacMillan, $25).
  9. "Sauces," by James Peterson (John Wiley & Sons, $44.95).
  10. "The Fearless Frying Cookbook," by John Martin Taylor (Workman, $10.95, paperback).

Rankings are based on the L.A. Times poll of national cookbook and independent booksellers.

© 1998, 2003 Debbie Puente
All rights reserved. You may print for personal use, however, without express written permission, you may not reproduce, reprint, or distribute. All content on www.cremebrulee.com is original copyright.