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This Valentine’s Day, make it a kitchen date – The Denver Post

By Eric Kim, The New York Times

There may be one thing more romantic than cooking for another: cooking together.

Learning the rhythms of each other’s day-to-day movements, like how one folds laundry and cooks dinner — or burns toast — is one of the best ways to get to know someone. For veteran couples, preparing a meal together can be a gentle reminder to check in on one another. If this is something you already do every night, why not go a little luxe on Valentine’s Day?

Here is an elegant menu that lets you do just that. These three courses come together easily, proof that the quality of a meal need not rely on hours and hours of preparation. This will serve you particularly well on a day like Valentine’s Day, when spending more time with your partner is what it’s all about.

For the first course, radicchio, its purple leaves struck through with lightninglike patches of white, pairs well with Camembert, taleggio or another soft and funky cheese that bulges at room temperature. Together, they make an ideal starter that you can nibble on while tackling the other dishes (and sipping on that first glass of wine).

Wonderfully bitter radicchio tastes otherworldly when seared briefly in a skillet, and the cheese melts gloriously in the hot pan. When seasoned with honey and sherry vinegar, the dish sings a sultry melody. (Think Ariana Grande’s velvety “Thank U, Next.”)

The main course is more regal, but takes a modern approach. The English dish beef Wellington — a fillet of beef wrapped in puff pastry — is ordinarily a big project. But the joy of this single-serve version, in which store-bought puff pastry envelops individual filets mignons, is that it’s significantly easier to assemble, making it much less intimidating. And with two in the kitchen, you can split the labor and, like life, meet at the end.

Pâté de foie gras and prosciutto are common ingredients in a traditional Wellington, but they’re skipped here in favor of ease and more balanced flavors. Just as common is a deeply caramelized mushroom and shallot mixture known as a duxelles, which lends a strong anchor of earthy umami for the beef. In this version, a little red wine and heavy cream add richness to the vegetables.

Serve the baby Wellingtons warm with roasted potatoes, a luscious green salad or more of the cheesy radicchio course.

Dessert is a make-ahead affair. The night before or earlier in the day, one person can whip cream for ice cream while the other melts chocolate for hot fudge. For efficiency’s sake, the same can of sweetened condensed milk goes in the olive oil ice cream and the sauce that gets drizzled over it like molten lava, keeping potential waste at a minimum.

The fruity olive oil, with its subtle fattiness that coats the tongue, tucks beautifully into the salted sweet cream — a rogue yellow-green scarf nestled in the folds of a snow-white duvet on laundry day.

The ice cream is no-churn, which means you don’t need an ice-cream maker to prepare it. Instead, the condensed milk base is aerated with whipped cream, which is gently folded in. Once this fluffy mass is frozen and scooped, the silky texture will make you think: Why does anyone churn at all?

And to Drink …

Beef Wellington is the type of dish that goes beautifully with good red wines. Whether you are serving it for Valentine’s Day or not, it’s a great excuse to open something wonderful. A good Burgundy or Barolo would be my top choice, particularly with some age, which will help the wine pair with the mushroom flavors. Figure at least 10 years for a premier cru Burgundy, depending on the vintage, and even more for the Barolo. Properly aged Pomerol would also be a fine selection. If these are unavailable, other red wines will be terrific as well. Options include Chianti Classico, Rioja Reserva, restrained pinot noirs from around the world and savory syrahs, whether from the Northern Rhône or from elsewhere in that Rhône style. — Eric Asimov

Pan-Seared Radicchio With Soft Cheese

By Eric Kim

Is there a vegetable more perfectly sized for two people than a single head of radicchio? Not much bigger than a softball and wonderfully bitter, radicchio tastes otherworldly when seared briefly in a skillet, gaining a roasted kale-like savoriness while maintaining most of its crunch. A funky, strong-flavored soft cheese like Camembert or taleggio melts gloriously in the hot pan and, with a bit of sherry vinegar and honey, creates a makeshift dressing. This easy but luxurious recipe proves that you don’t need much for a stellar appetizer: just a pan, a few ingredients and a hunk of crusty bread to sop up the salty, bittersweet juices.

Yield: 2 servings

Total time: 10 minutes


  • 1 head radicchio (8 to 10 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 4 ounces Camembert, Brie or taleggio cheese, cut into wedges or large chunks
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Crusty bread, for serving


1. Quarter the radicchio head lengthwise and slice the hard white core off each piece, then cut each quarter in half crosswise. Don’t separate the leaves.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add the oil and carefully nestle the chopped radicchio into the pan, leaving it alone to sear on one side until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir for a few seconds. The radicchio leaves may separate and start to smell like roasted broccoli or kale. Immediately remove the pan from the heat so the leaves don’t wilt too much. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the cheese, placing some pieces directly over the radicchio and others in the empty spots of the pan. The cheese will start to melt and bulge slightly. Drizzle the vinegar and honey evenly over the radicchio and cheese, and finish with a final sprinkling of salt, if you’d like.

4. Serve right in the pan with crusty bread for dipping into the melty cheese and pan juices.

Individual Beef Wellingtons

By Eric Kim

Beef Wellington, the English dish of a large beef fillet wrapped in pastry, is a project, but the joy of this scaled-down version is that it’s significantly easier to prepare. Pâté de foie gras and prosciutto are common ingredients in a traditional Wellington, but they’re skipped here for a more balanced flavor profile. Just as common is a deeply caramelized mushroom and shallot mixture known as a duxelles, which lends a strong foundation of earthy umami; a little red wine and heavy cream add richness to it. These are excellent for making ahead: Just stop after Step 5, and store them covered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours until you’re ready to bake. Serve with roasted potatoes, green salad or wonderfully bitter radicchio.

Yield: 2 servings

Total time: 50 minutes, plus 1 hour’s chilling


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (5-ounce) filets mignons, each about 1 1/2 inches thick
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup medium-bodied, acidic red wine, such as cabernet franc or pinot noir
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but still cold (half of a 17.3-ounce box)
  • 1 large egg


1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high and add 1 tablespoon oil. Generously season the filets mignons with salt and pepper, and sear until the surfaces on the top, bottom and rounded sides are no longer raw, about 2 minutes total. Transfer the steaks to a plate, reserving the oil in the skillet. Brush or spread the Dijon mustard all over each filet mignon and refrigerate until cool, about 15 minutes.

2. Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add the mushrooms and shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned and no longer watery, 10 to 12 minutes. Be patient: The mushrooms will first release some water; then, once that liquid evaporates, the vegetables will start to brown. If the vegetables are sticking before they can brown, lower the heat or add a little water to the pan.

3. When the mushrooms are deeply browned, reduce the heat to medium and stir in the herbes de Provence, honey, wine and cream. Let the liquids bubble up and reduce until the mixture is thick and jammy, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small dish and refrigerate until cool.

4. To assemble the Wellingtons, cut the puff pastry sheet in half (it doesn’t matter which direction). Use a rolling pin or empty wine bottle to evenly roll each sheet into an 1/8-inch-thick rectangle. Mount a filet mignon-size circle of the chilled mushroom mixture in the center of each rolled-out sheet, evenly dividing the mixture between the two pastry pieces. Top each mound of mushrooms with a filet mignon.

5. Carefully bring the edges of the puff pastry up and over the steaks, stretching the dough if needed to completely cover the meat. Twist the tops of the dough to seal the filling, as if you’re making dumplings. You want an even, uniform layer of pastry, so trim any overlapping dough as you go. When the tops are nicely sealed, flip the Wellingtons over, seam side down, and transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan. You can use your hands to gently tighten each Wellington into perfectly smooth spheres. Refrigerate to chill completely before baking, at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

6. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a small dish, whisk the egg until homogenous and, using a pastry brush or your fingers, evenly coat the entire outsides of the chilled Wellingtons with the egg. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 17 to 20 minutes. The internal temperature of the steak should read 120 degrees for medium-rare (it will continue to cook as it rests).

7. Transfer the Wellingtons to serving plates. Let them rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

No-Churn Olive Oil Ice Cream With Hot Fudge

By Eric Kim

At Ecco restaurant in Atlanta, one dessert stands above the rest: a salted olive oil gelato. Inspired by that dish in flavor but not in method, this frozen treat doesn’t require an ice-cream maker. Instead, a sweetened condensed milk base, flavored with olive oil, is lightened with whipped cream and frozen. Once this fluffy mass is firm and scooped, the silky texture will make you think: Why does anyone churn at all? The hot fudge sauce, with its chewy texture and deep, chocolaty flavor, is as easy to make and uses up the other half of a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk.

Yield: 1 quart ice cream and 3/4 cup sauce

Total time: 25 minutes, plus 3 hours’ freezing


For the Ice Cream:

  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (7 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil (see Tip)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

For the Hot Fudge Sauce:

  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (7 ounces)
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 tablespoon fruity extra-virgin olive oil


1. Make the ice cream: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, olive oil and salt until well combined.

2. In a separate larger bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), whisk the heavy cream by hand or with a hand or stand mixer until stiff peaks form. When you lift the whisk out of the bowl and flip it over, a peak of whipped cream should stand upright without flopping over. Add a dollop of the whipped cream to the smaller bowl with the condensed milk and stir vigorously to help loosen the condensed milk mixture.

3. Add the lightened condensed milk mixture to the whipped cream and, using a rubber spatula or large metal spoon, gently combine the two components by dragging the utensil under and over the mixture, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as you go. Repeat this folding to fully incorporate the cream while maintaining its air bubbles.

4. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

5. Make the hot fudge sauce: To a small microwave-safe bowl, add the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate and salt. Microwave on high in 30-second increments until the chocolate is completely melted, 30 to 60 seconds total. Add the olive oil and stir vigorously until smooth. Alternatively, heat the condensed milk, chocolate and salt in a small saucepan over medium, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted, then turn off the heat and stir in the olive oil.

6. To serve, let the ice cream sit at room temperature to thaw for at least 10 minutes before scooping, then top with the hot fudge sauce. The hot fudge can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days; microwave right before serving until loose enough to dollop over the ice cream. The ice cream can be frozen for up to 1 month.

Tips: Olives are fruits, and cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oils tend to taste the fruitiest. An oil made from arbequina olives and labeled “extra virgin” is an excellent option for this dessert, but many other high-quality extra-virgin olive oils will work as well.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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