Category Archives: Valentine

Take Me to Pleasure Town Lobster Salad Rolls Recipe

Somewhere between creating his flamboyant romantic poetry, looking for his next love affair, and fighting for independent Greece or with his swings from gluttony to binge eating and back, the Lord Byron wrote: ‘A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unlessit be lobster salad and Champagne, the onlytrue feminine and becomingviands.’ Sounds to me like a perfect Valentine’s dinner app. Yes, it’s not yet a lobster season, but we are all SOOO tired of this cold never-ending winter! A bit of a summer fling in your plate might help, no? And what can be easier, faster and tastier than a quick hearty lobster roll in the midst of a snowstorm table traveling you to someplace hot?
This week Loblaws made it even easier for everyone with the real bargain: uncooked cold water frozen lobster tails are at $2.99 a pop (hey, I’m not sponsored for this ad, I swear) – what a wonderful and timely occasion for the Valentine! Naturally, it will never be a real hot summer deal from the grill, but it has some advantages: it’s faster and easier to prepare. No need to wrestle with the live lobster; sweat with breaking precision and artistry, spraying and flying shells; and only half-bib is required, WOW!
Few years ago I learned from Serious Eats a simple trick on how to prevent the lobster tails from curling while cooking: insert a wooden skewer down the length of each lobster tail I also learned that ‘The best lobster rolls are a careful balance of texture and temperature… Something magical happens when a warm, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, golden-griddled, fluffy bun contrasts with the cool sweetness of the lobster, with just a touch of lettuce for crunch. It’s the interplay between those elements that make an outstanding lobster roll, not just the amount of lobster meat served in the sandwich.’
Photo credit Serious Eats
I’ve also learned that the lobster rolls bun can’t be a piece of baguette or a sweet bun: it can only be specifically top-split white bread hot dog buns like these:

While I admit, it might offend the purists with some additions like smoked paprika infused mayonnaise and bits of celery, please don’t forget: this is a lobster salad winter version made of frozen lobster tails. I find it much more tasty with these additions.

Ready to pamper? Now, close your eyes and imagine it’s summer, you’re some place hot (like on a wonderful beach) and you absolutely need to take a break from the sun and refresh. 
You dive into the local seafood shack with conditioner and embark on a marathon lobster roll tasting session. You make an order and some miraculous server brings you a simple plate of warm lobster rolls in no time. It’s not just a picture: the sweet fresh lobster chunks kissed with mayo and paprika and sprinkled with chives and (optionally) dill popping out of warm butter grilled venerable roll. You take a bite and everything else drifts away. For a split moment nothing matters but this this roll, it tastes heavenly, completely carrying you away: this is how real best American sandwich should taste. You are in a pleasure town
Ultimately (and as Lord Byron prescribed) champagne will bring everything to the whole new level. A bottle of the ‘’king of wines and wine of kings’’ with few of these babies on a side shall turn any Valentine into a sublime intimate feast.  However, a glass of Kim Crawford or vino verde will help to bring that sunshine back into life as well. 
Happy Valentine’s Everyone!
Other easy and fast recipes you can do with lobster tails:  Dublin Lawyer; Lobster Club; Lobster Waldorf
Yields: 4 lobster salad rolls
4 uncooked frozen cold water medium+ lobster tails
2 tbsp unsalted clarified butter, melted
1 pinch of fresh parsley, minced
2-3 tbsp mayonnaise
Pinch of smoked paprika (optional)
1 inner celery stalk, minced
1 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
½ tsp lime zest (optional)
1 scallion or few chives, minced
1 tbsp fresh dill, minced (optional)
Pinch of the best salt and pepper you have (I used pink salt and freshly ground pepper)
4 top-split white bread hot dog buns
Thaw the lobster tails in the fridge from few hours to overnight. Optional but useful: insert a wooden skewer down the length of each lobster tail, so it doesn’t curl during the cooking process.  Bring the large pot two third full of water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Add lobster tails and boil for:
3 minutes for 3 ounce tails
4 minutes for 4 ounce tails
5 minutes for 5 ounce tails, and so on.
Drain the pot and remove the lobster tails. Let cool and remove the skewers.
Split open the lobster tails with sharp knife or kitchen shears from underneath. Pick the meat and cut into ½ inch (or smaller if you wish) pieces. Toss with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and parsley. Set aside.   Mix mayonnaise with smoked paprika. Add celery, lemon or lime juice, zest and half of scallion/chives and dill.  Add lobster meat and toss carefully.
Heat the pan over moderately high heat. Brush the hot dog buns on the outside with the rest of the melted butter and toast for a minute per side or until slightly golden and crisp (don’t burn it, please). Fill each bun with ¾ cup of the lobster salad mixture and sprinkle with the rest of chives and dill. Serve immediately.

‘Nuts About You’ Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches

As I’m writing this, most of you probably already have some kind of titillating chocolate cherub in the vicinity, so this post might first look redundant, but please keep reading if you wish to discover why these little cookies are my choice tonight.
No matter how commercial, patronizing and insipid the Valentine’s Day may feel, it’s still about LOVE, so it gives you and your significant one a chance to give each other some extra attention in so many ways. Sky is the limit, but for me, Valentine is also about celebrating the miraculous and things I like in general. Like cooking, discovering new ingredient, flavor or combination, etc. – today it happens to be the tiny Lady’s Kisses or Baci di Dama Italian sweet treat I was looking for quite a while and surprisingly discovered in Bonjour Paris website, while I was searching for something completely different. I made a small batch, almost climaxed trying it (think of life as a box of chocolates) and here we are, I am sharing the recipe with you… If for you it’s a cat, ukulele or working out the muscle, give yourself a slack and arrange for your own nirvana.
Life is short and there’s no need for a crystal ball to tell us what we need to do next to be happy. Love is everywhere, every day, every minute and I wish we would notice and celebrate it more often. In the meantime, here is a great dig of a Jimmy Fallon’s Valentine songs during his SNL apprenticeship  back in 1999 to put a smile on your face.
The weather is a usual snow-storming today (let’s be positive: at least it’s not hailing), so good luck with all that reservations taken around the city tonight – it will be a Big Honking Deal.
As for me, a home-made winter warmer (supper + wine) with further cuddling and watching Olympics would fix it, not without a touch of my latest hazelnut cookies addiction to go with a cup of tea (a glass of champagne and some fresh berries might replace it tonight).  And did I tell you that my hubby goes nuts about them too? Why? Because you can’t go wrong with ethereally rose scented hazelnut mini-slabs hosting a decadent dark chocolate filling!  Gluten free, my friends, and you are welcome!

The dough is made of roasted and chopped hazelnuts, rice flour (you can still use regular unbleached flour), butter and sugar with the touch of salt and rose water (I suppose you can swap maple syrup for sugar, but you don’t need to add rose water in that case). Mix the ingredients with your hands in one ball, then cut it and roll it in short logs in batches (1.5 inch diameter), wrap in the film and refrigerate for 2 hours, or just leave it in a freezer for 15 minutes. Slice the logs quarter of an inch thick (about 5 mm), distribute in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 325 F for 15 minutes. Let cool without removing from the sheet, melt the chocolate in bain marie and sandwich a dollop of chocolate between two cookies until you run out of them. Start eating them right away.

Confessions: I doubled the recipe’s quantity and skipped the part of rolling the sliced dough into little rounds (the actual lady’s lips) like it is suggested in original recipe turning them into sandwiches. Heck, it saved me a lot of time and gave me something to talk about with my best half (‘Oh, crikey, I completely forgot to make the lady’s lips out of them, but they still look like cartoonish lips, and the taste is still there… and HEY that’s why I called them sandwiches!‘(say it in Italian, if you know Italian, for more drama)).  
Short in time or space? Go for the faster dessert option of a little Molten chocolate cake – so swoon-worthy for the Valentine! Or just buy a bunch of quality French macaron like I did last year – heavenly. 
 Have a Happy Valentine dear readers!
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger

Makes about 20-24 mini-sandwiches
1 ¼ cups roasted and skinned hazelnuts or blanched almonds
1 ¼ cup rice flour (or unbleached flour)
3.5 oz (100g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (100 g) sugar
½ tbsp rose water (or fleur d’oranger water)
Pinch of salt
2 oz (60g) bittersweet chocolate, melted in bain marie
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Chop the hazelnuts in a food processor to the semi-coarse, but not flour consistency.  Mix all ingredients, except the chocolate, with your hands in one ball, then cut it and roll it in short logs in batches (1.5 inch diameter), wrap each log in the film and refrigerate for 2 hours, or just leave it in a freezer for 15 minutes. Slice the logs quarter of an inch thick (about 5 mm), distribute in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool without removing from the sheet. In the meantime, melt the chocolate in bain marie and sandwich a dollop of chocolate between two cookies until you run out of them.  Enjoy right after the chocolate sets within 15 minutes.
Adapted from: Lady’s Kisses (Baci di Dama) by Theresa Murphy

In Search for a Dream Macaron on Valentine.

Its Valentine day, and nothing can be better for this occasion than some fine French creation: culinary or otherwise. Times and trends can come and go, but as long as what you choose for your Valentine is French and romantic, it is still a symbol of AMOUR. How about some exquisite Parisian specialty like “Paris macaron”? Macaron lovers (or just lovers) know that barely any other confectionery can compare to the sweet, moist perfection of this delicacy.

A Valentine cliché? Not really when finding a real French macaron is a daunting task. I wish I could be now between those celadon walls of Ladurée pâtisserie in Champs-Élysées, sampling the double-deckers delicacy at the place of its birth. 

However, Paris now is further than Panama for me (almost like in a French song from Faubourg 36). I can still play the song (for the background of my quest), but where do I get a real French macaron from where I am?

Look at the subtle pastel colors of this Champs-Élysées lithograph image of 1900. Is not it exactly this rainbow palette you will find at a real French macaron place?
Avenue des Champs-Élysées around 1900 via Wikimedia
Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you: I am not even in Montreal now (where you can find French macarons pretty much everywhere). I am in the downtown Toronto (which takes this quest to a different level) and my time is extremely limited. So far I checked the perimeter of College, Yonge, Queen, and Spadina with no luck. Not that I did not do the research, but you never know… The quest brings me to Chinatown, which is probably the last place on Earth to find French macarons. Somehow, I run into this Valentine message:

Do you get it? Me neither… So far for the Valentine. Almost desperate, I am heading out of my designated perimeter straight to 1 King Street West, where, according to my map, the ‘’Petit Thuet’’ French patisserie is located. I approach the place, recognize the name of Toronto’s most famous Alsatian chef on the logo and step in. Bingo, I just made it to the real French macarons!

I got my rainbow of 12 of these little colorful almond-whitegg-sugar creations and was not disappointed. Looks like the macaron team trained by chef Marc Thuet is up and running delivering 12 tastes of French macarons daily.

The macarons are consistent, the shells break ”comme il faut” (just upon tooth-contact), the filling is a marvelous creamy burst of whatever the name of the flavor is. 

The winners for me were: salted caramel (no wonder its their best seller); raspberry, chocolate with ganache and wasabi & white chocolate with that tangy Japanese horseradish bite. Mission accomplished. Happy Valentine Yal!!!