This Valentine's Day, serve your sweetheart a special dinner that features savory aphrodisiacs. Select a seductive menu that is filling, delicious, and romantic. Entice them with a French onion crostini starter. It's an appetizing variation of the popular soup. Next move onto a luxuriously creamy oyster soup. Fried leeks provide a crunchy texture and mild onion flavor. For the entree, sear thick steaks and top them with a rich blue-cheese butter. A crisp arugula and artichoke side salad with Sherry vinagerette completes the menu. For those of you with vegetarian lovers, simply omit the steak from the menu. All the single ladies should consider hosting a single gal soirée!
For the recipes to these indulgent, passion-inducing dishes, read more.
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 yellow onions (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1/2 baguette, preferably semolina, cut crosswise into 24 slices
2 cups shredded Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese (about 5 ounces)
- In a large, heavy pot or skillet, warm 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and 1 sprig thyme and cook, stirring every 10 minutes or so (if they start sticking to the pan, add a splash of water), for about 1 1/2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°.
- Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush on both sides with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Place about 1 tablespoon cheese on each toast; bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the leaves from the remaining thyme sprig and chop. Top each toast with the caramelized onions and chopped thyme.
For fried leeks
2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), trimmed
4 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups shucked small oysters (6 dozen) with 1 1/2 cups of their liquor (if necessary, add enough bottled clam juice to bring total to 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped
2 large russet (baking) potatoes (1 pound total)
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup half-and-half
Pinch of cayenne
- Fry leeks: cut leeks crosswise into 2-inch lengths, then cut lengthwise into enough very thin strips to measure 2 cups. Wash leek strips in a bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out and pat dry.
- Heat oil in a deep 4-quart heavy saucepan until it registers 360°F on thermometer. Fry leeks in 8 batches, stirring, until golden, about 10 seconds per batch. Transfer as fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Cool completely (leeks will crisp as they cool).
- Make soup: pick over oysters, discarding any bits of shell, and rinse well.
- Wash chopped leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out and drain well.
- Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Cook leeks, potatoes, and salt in butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until leeks are golden and potatoes are beginning to soften, about 15 minutes.
- Add water and simmer, covered, over moderate heat until potatoes are very tender, about 10 minutes. Purée soup in batches in a blender until very smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), transferring to a bowl.
- Return soup to saucepan. Add oyster liquor and half-and-half and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally (do not boil).
- Add oysters and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, just until oysters become plump and edges curl, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.
- Serve soup topped with fried leeks.
Make ahead: Fried leeks can be made 3 days ahead and kept in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature. Soup base (without oyster liquor, half-and-half, oysters, and cayenne) can be made 2 days ahead and cooled, uncovered, then chilled, covered.
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of dried oregano
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Four 10-ounce rib-eye steaks, about 1 inch thick
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 scallion, dark-green part only, finely chopped
2 ounces Valdeón or other intense and creamy blue cheese, crumbled (1/3 packed cup), at room temperature
- On a work surface, using the flat side of a chef's knife, mash the garlic to a paste with the salt. Scrape the garlic into a small bowl.
- Stir in the paprika, cayenne and oregano. Gradually stir in the olive oil. Spread the mixture on a large platter, add the steaks and turn to coat, rubbing in the marinade. Let stand at room temperature for 1 to 4 hours or refrigerate overnight.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mash the butter with the shallot and scallion. Stir in the Valdeón. Scrape the blue cheese butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat it into a 4-inch log. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
- Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Scrape some of the marinade off the steaks and grill over a medium-hot fire, turning once, about 8 minutes for medium-rare meat. Slice the butter 1 inch thick, set a pat on each steak and serve.
8 baby artichokes, trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons pistachios
Pinch of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Sourdough bread, crusts removed, cut into 24 cubes (1 inch each)
Coarse salt and freshly ground peppe
8 ounces arugula, washed and dried
2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Sherry Vinaigrette, recipe below
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved
- Make artichokes: fill a medium bowl with cold water. Squeeze the juice of two lemons into the water and add the lemon halves.
- Thinly slice artichokes lengthwise using a mandoline, placing them in lemon water as you slice. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Drain artichokes and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and add to skillet; cook, stirring until golden.
- Add wine and cook until almost evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add pistachios and sprinkle with Parmesan.
- Make croutons: heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bread and cook, stirring, until golden brown and toasted; season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Let cool.
- Place arugula, pistachios, and croutons in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss gently to combine.
- Place place some of the artichokes in the center of a serving plate. Top with salad. Garnish with remaining artichokes and Parmesan. Serve immediately.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons sherry-wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
- In a medium bowl, whisk together mustard and vinegars until frothy. Continue mixing vinegars with an immersion blender while slowly pouring in each oil; season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer vinaigrette to a tightly sealed jar and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Mix well before using.
Makes 1 cup.