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Mmm, smell the love …


My husband Edward and I always celebrate Valentine’s Day with a scrumptious dinner by the fire. Sometimes we invite another couple over and enjoy foods filled with allure and romance.

Certain foods and drink are associated with Cupid’s holiday. Oysters, hearts of palm, artichokes, truffles — the chocolate kind and the savory fungus, lobster, strawberries and raspberries are often on my menu. Champagne with dinner and cognac round out the celebration.

Oysters are sexy, indeed, and we prefer to enjoy them raw. The problem is in opening them. Edward and I have tried to do so on a number of occasions and, believe me, it’s difficult. We’ve watched the expert shuckers at the Sansom Street Oyster House open them with one quick motion, but we just can’t get the hang of it. Therefore, I buy a few dozen oysters and have the fish monger open them for me. Make sure you retain the top shell. When you get home, place the oysters in a large pan and cover them with a damp dish towel. I always serve them with a red-wine vinegar and shallot dipping sauce.

Lobster ravioli can be found on any number of Valentine’s Day restaurant menus. I also like to make them at home. While I’m at it, I pick up some truffle oil. Actually, it is essence of truffle oil because, like authentic balsamic vinegar, truffle oil is very expensive. The taste and aroma of truffle oil is very sexy. I sometimes add a bit to my olive oil and lemon juice dressing for a salad.

I’ve decided on a special salad for Valentine’s Day. It will include hearts of palm, which come packed in water in cans. Hearts of palm have a mild flavor and enhance all sorts of salad ingredients.

Chicken breasts in a champagne sauce are easy and tasty, and everyone loves them. What’s nice about my recipe is that it can be easily doubled or tripled.

Chocolate truffles with strawberries and raspberries, along with snifters of cognac, are a romantic ending to an easy-to-prepare but special lovers’ dinner. Chocolate coats the tongue and ruins the taste of champagne, so cognac is a better choice. Strawberries from California have been good-sized and very sweet. A half-pint of raspberries will cost about $4, but they’re worth the splurge right now because they just make chocolate taste better.

Here are recipes for Valentine’s Day.

Lobster Ravioli in a Truffle Oil Sauce


12 fresh or frozen lobster ravioli
1 stick sweet butter
1 teaspoon canola or other light vegetable oil
Few drops of truffle oil, or to taste
1 cup dry white wine or champagne
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the ravioli according to package directions. While the ravioli are cooking, melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the canola oil and the truffle oil and swirl around to combine. Raise the heat to medium high and add the wine or champagne.

When the ravioli are done, drain well and add them to the skillet. Lower the heat to medium, add a sprinkling of salt and pepper and coat the ravioli with the sauce.

Serves two.

Note from Phyllis: Actually, this serves four, but some people have large appetites.

Hearts of Palm Salad


1 small head radicchio
1 Belgian endive, separated into leaves
1 fennel bulb, sliced
4 jumbo radishes, thinly sliced
1 (15-ounce) can hearts of palm, rinsed and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Carefully separate the radicchio into leaves. Line a pretty glass salad bowl with the radicchio and Belgian endive leaves. Add the fennel and radishes.

Cut each heart of palm into three pieces. Add them to the salad. Sprinkle on kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Dress with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

Serves two.

Note from Phyllis: In honor of Valentine’s Day, this salad is red and white.

Chicken Breasts in a Champagne Sauce


2 large boneless chicken breast halves, pounded very thin
Flour for dredging
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 stick, or more, sweet butter
1 teaspoon canola or other light vegetable oil
1 cup champagne
Chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves


Place the flour on a plate and sprinkle on kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Dredge the chicken breasts thoroughly in the flour. Place them on a plate and set aside.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the oil and swirl around. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the chicken breasts. Saut� about three-four minutes on each side, depending on how thin you have pounded them. The coating should be a light golden-brown. Remove the chicken breasts to a warm plate.

Add the champagne and raise the heat to high, reducing the sauce to a rich consistency. Using a wooden or plastic spoon, scrape up all the brown bits from the chicken breasts from the bottom of the skillet. You want to incorporate them into the champagne sauce. You may want to add more champagne and a bit of butter for added richness.

Sprinkle the chopped parsley on the chicken when ready to serve.

Serves two.

Note from Phyllis: You can saut� a few sliced shiitake or cremini mushrooms with the chicken. If you have a can of artichoke hearts on hand, you can slice them and add them when making the sauce.

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