Dinner For Two

By Judy Purcell

Have you ever gone out on Valentine’s Day for a romantic dinner only to be  disappointed by the noise level of the restaurant, food that didn’t quite measure up, or felt rushed by the wait staff to move along for the their next seating? This Valentine’s Day, skip the crowded restaurants and prepare this simple sweetheart dinner for two.

Scampi-Style Steak & Scallops with Roasted Asparagus is an impressive dish, takes only a few minutes to prepare, and the cost will be easier to stomach too. Tenderloin steak is seared in butter then finished with scallops in subtle accents of lemon zest, white wine, garlic, and fresh basil creating surf-n-turf heaven.

For a sweet ending, Date-Chocolate Truffles are dense with a deep chocolate-fudge flavor. A sprinkling of coarse sea salt is the perfect finish to balance the richness, though you will enjoy them salted or not.

Scampi-Style Steak & Scallops

Serves: 2
Time: about 30 minutes

2 medium beef tenderloin steaks, 1 1/2-inch thick
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter
6 large sea scallops, rinse and pat dry
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped green onions (about 4 scallions), white and light green part only
3 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon minced parsley
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
Dash hot pepper sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Season steaks with salt and pepper. In a 10 to 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until hot and bubbly (more can be added, if needed). Add steaks to skillet and brown on one side for about 5 minutes. (At this point, begin the sauce in another small skillet or wide sauce pan as described in step 2.) Turn the steaks on end to brown the sides, continuing to rotate about 3 minutes, then turn over to brown the final side for 5 minutes. When turning the steak to brown the last side, add scallops to the skillet to brown at the same time, about 2 minutes on each side.

Sauté onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat 3-4 minutes, until fragrant. Add wine and lemon juice; simmer to reduce slightly, 1-2 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons butter and stir until melted into the sauce. If the steak and scallops are not yet done, slide the sauce off heat until they are ready.

Once the scallops are browned on each side, stir the fresh basil, parsley, lemon zest, and hot pepper sauce into the scampi sauce. Reduce heat to low, add the scallops, spooning the sauce over the scallops. Once the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125°F (the rare side of medium-rare), add to the pan with the scampi sauce and spoon sauce over the steaks.

Serve immediately with additional sauce over both the scallops and the steak.

Roasted Asparagus

1 pound asparagus
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Position top oven rack in the middle of the oven, approximately 12 inches under broiler and turn broiler on HI. Prepare asparagus by trimming fibrous ends. Arrange asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet so that each spear is touching the pan and separate. Drizzle with olive oil and roll asparagus to coat well. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Set asparagus under the broiler for 10-12 minutes, checking and turning (rolling ¼ turn) asparagus every few minutes until lightly browned in spots and crisp tender. Cook slightly longer if a softer texture is preferred.

Date-Fudge Truffles with Sea Salt

Serves: 10 Yields: 22

¾ cup dates, pitted (8-10 dates, packed)
½ cup pecans, or walnuts
1/3 cup shredded coconut meat
¼ cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet or bittersweet
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt, fine grind
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, melted for dipping
Coarse sea salt, for finishing

Place dates, pecans, coconut, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and sea salt in a food processor and pulse to incorporate the ingredients. If the cocoa powder clings to the sides of the processor bowl, after 8 or 9 pulses, stop processing and scrape down sides. Sprinkle the vanilla extract over the mixture and process on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture forms a consistent paste. There is no worry of over mixing, so allowing the processor to continue to run a little longer is okay.

Using a melon baller or a tablespoon, scoop small amounts of the truffle mix into the palm of your hand and roll or press into 1″ size balls and place on a wax paper lined rimmed pan with a space between each. Depending on the size, this recipe should yield 18-22 bite-sized truffles.

Once all the mix is formed, place the pan of truffles in the freezer and freeze until firm, about 1 hour. The truffles need to be firm enough to not
fall apart when dipped in chocolate.

When ready to cover the truffles in chocolate, melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler, or according to package directions. Remove truffles from the freezer and one-by-one, roll in the melted chocolate with a spoon until covered. Try to cover as thinly as possible, then transfer coated truffle back to the wax paper lined pan about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle a small amount of coarse sea salt on top of each one before the chocolate hardens.

Repeat until all the truffles are covered in chocolate and salted.

Place pan in the refrigerator to allow chocolate to set, 30 minutes to an hour. Transfer truffles to a zip top bag or container and store in the refrigerator.

NOTES: Use chocolate chips based on your own preference. Semi-sweet chips will yield a sweeter chocolate flavor; bittersweet chips will yield a dark
chocolate flavor.

Judy Purcell is the author and recipe developer at SavoringToday.com, a food blog dedicated to making dinnertime nourishing and relational. Throughout her writing, cooking classes, and life-coaching, Judy shares her food philosophy—cooking is serving, ingredients matter and savoring is better than consuming. Judy’s cookbook, Serve and Savor, makes it easy to avoid common processed foods while preparing delicious meals you’ll be excited to serve (including gluten-free). Recipes include helpful suggestions for gluten-free conversion, make-ahead tips, enhancements for entertaining, as well as making the most of leftovers. Her easy to follow recipes are ideal for anyone ready to make great-tasting whole food cooking a regular part of life. The book is available at Amazon.com and  shopsavoringtoday.com . For more information, visit SavoringToday.com.

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