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As My Father Would Say... "Happy Valenheart's Day!"

Monday 02/14/2005 11:28 PM

I couldn't sleep last nite, and, while I was making myself a salad in the kitchen in the wee hours of the morning, I discovered we had some mushrooms that didn't look like they had too much life left in them. When I found we still had some marsala wine left over, you know what I ended up doing for the next 45 minutes.

Deciding to mix it up a bit, I added some yellow and orange sweet peppers to the onions (no shallots) as I got the foundation (my word — I'm sure there's a better, more appropriate culinary term) going.

Not only was there marsala wine, but some sweet marsala wine. Now this stuff generally comes in two different varieties: dry and sweet. You're supposed to use the dry for sauce, but I didn't know that last year when I bought the sweet. So at the appropriate moment in the sauce making procedure, I dumped all the sweet marsala into the sauce pan along with about half a cup of chianti.

As you can see, this was turning out to be almost as much stone soup as marsala sauce.

When I woke in the morning, I decided I was making Valentine's Day dinner for Candy and Grandma. Marsala chicken was the plan, but I had to get some shopping done first.

I needed demi glace and wanted a flat meat pounder for the chicken, so it was off to Someone's In The Kitchen (no web site) on Market Street. As I was checking out, they had free samples of these wonderful concoctions called Love Nuts. They involve chocolate, toffee, pecans and cinnamon and are simply divine. You can learn a little bit more at the weak web site for the company that makes them, Albemarle Edibles.

I just had to buy a box of the Love Nuts.

A quick stop at Publix got me thin sliced chicken filets, french bread and some risotto.

I decided to learn how to blanch asparagus this evening. Boil for three minutes and then dump into ice water. Nothing to it.

Oh and the flat meat pounder is great! The company that makes it is WMF and I found this blurb about them: WMF Products are produced using the most technologically advanced plants and machinery available. WMF's Product Development Department has its own design studio and has worked closely with nationally and internationally renowned designers since the 1920s. My kinda joint.

To work the chicken over, I wrapped it in plastic and then pounded it with the new tool. Worked much better than your traditional tenderizer with the pointed diamonds.

This is already much longer than I anticipated, so I'll finish this up. I stumbled across a recipe for risotto that called for truffle oil. I'd never used that before so I took Grandma to Clusters & Hops to check out the gourmet retail offerings. There I learned a lot from Thomas (second in command in the kitchen) about truffle oil and he helped me pick out a good black truffle oil. Don't worry, I got it a lot cheaper than the price on that web page (actually, almost two thirds less).

Since Thomas was so helpful, I asked him about something else I saw in the risotto recipe: fruity olive oil. I was thinking infusion, but he explained to me that olive oil tastes can range greatly and the "fruity" term refers to the fresh, inherent taste in good olive oil. He then explained to me the benefits of using cold press olive oil and I ended up picking some rather expensive Fini olive oil. Once again, though, I got twice the volume at about the same price. Either online gourmet shops are ripping people off or Clusters & Hops has great prices for hi-end foodstuff.

So how did dinner turn out? Great! I got everything on the table at the same time and it all tasted like it was supposed to. The did-it-myself breading on the chicken filets turned out much better than the first time I tried (last year). After blanching the asparagus, I sauteed it with some balsamic vinegar and the new olive oil. The truffle oil is pretty strong, so I just put a tad in the risotto.

We ended the evening with pastries from Au Peche Mignon.

And BTW, did you know that Valentine's Day is prohibited in Saudi Arabia?

File Under: Candy; Cooking; Grandma; Holiday; Life Happening
Music: Astrud Gilberto "Compact Jazz: Astrud Gilberto"

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