Notes From Swan's Nest

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Cooking From The Heart

Dining with my husband Randy in front of a crackling fire in the hearth is my idea of a romantic Valentine's Day celebration, so we've enjoyed many such Valentine dinners over the years. Randy and I stopped going out for Valentine's Day many years ago. Instead, I create a romantic multi-course dinner at home each year. For us, there are no crowded restaurants, no rushed service, and we literally have the best seat in the house. What could be more romantic than that!

In preparation, I move the small drop leaf table that usually resides between two living room chairs in front of the hearth and draw two comfortable dining room chairs up to the table. I cover the table with heirloom white linens, add tall candles, a small vase of flowers, chargers, china, sparkling crystal, and silver flatware we received as wedding gifts.

The key to keeping a Valentine dinner celebration easy and uninterrupted is incorporating make-ahead components. Serving dinner in courses sets a relaxed pace and promotes leisurely conversation. I often serve a soup course, followed by individual garden salads garnished with artichoke hearts, radicchio, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Making the soup several days ahead, and the salads early in the day ensures dinner can be served in a relaxed atmosphere. I cover the salads with plastic wrap and chill them until just before dinner; then drizzle them with homemade red wine vinaigrette, but there are many good quality bottled vinaigrettes in supermarkets, too.

For dinner, roasted rack of lamb or a thick rib eye steak cooked in a cast iron skillet with wild mushrooms are my go-to entrées. Either way, I know the flavors will be divine and my sweetheart will be pleased. I always give careful thought to the dessert course. It should be easy to prepare, but decadent. The Chocolate Valentine Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache pictured on my homepage is a romantic grande finale for this special occasion, and best of all, it may be made a day or two in advance. Look for the recipe in my recipe section of christyrost.com.

Happy Valentine's Day!

-Christy