Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Romantic Night In

As I mentioned last week, we decided to spend Valentine's Day at home.  But spending the night at home doesn't necessarily mean pajamas and top ramen.  (Although who am I kidding -  how good does that sound?)

I spent the entire day preparing an elaborate feast.  And by preparing an elaborate feast, I mean making a cake.  Dinner itself was thrown together in about 15 minutes when I got home from the gym.

Notice the baby monitor - kind of a third wheel on our date night.
Steamed crab is ready in minutes and requires no prep.  The potatoes were thrown in the oven before I headed to the gym so all I had to do was pull them out split them open.  And you don't even need a knife for a caesar salad. 

Dessert was a little intensive though, and a definite crapshoot.  So Thatboy brought home some backup.  We have very different tastes in desserts - I'm more fruit based, he's more chocolate based.  So he picked this apple blackberry crumble out with me in mind.  Of course, you can't really go wrong with anything from Extraordinary Desserts.

I had to run to the liquor store for some airplane bottle of kahlua and asked Thatboy if I should pick up something special to drink for our meal.  He asked for some sort of festive cocktail.  I had picked up a ton of blood oranges (happy winter everyone!) and thought they would make the perfect Valentine's Day drink.  While at the liquor store I looked around to see what would work and found some ruby red grapefruit vodka.  I thought that would be perfect for a martini - citrus plus citrus?  Add a little triple sec for sweetness and a star is born!

Blood Orange Martinis
4 oz ruby red grapefruit vodka
1 oz triple sec
juice of 3 blood oranges
  1. Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Pour into chilled martini glass.

We've done Caesar salads before - usually this means just tearing up romaine and throwing some Caesar dressing on top.  Since this was a special night, I thought I would go all out and do a table-side Caesar salad - like in fancy schmancy restaurants.  I even made my own croutons!  The only problem with making a tableside Caesar is your guests become acutely aware of the ingredients involved - like those anchovies.  Or the raw egg.  Proceed with caution on this one and you will be rewarded.  It's definitely a case of "know your audience."  This was so good and easy, however, that it's already on the menu for this week too. 

 Classic Caesar Salad
stale bread
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp butter
1 head of romaine lettuce
1/2 can anchovy fillets, drained
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 egg
salt and pepper
1/4 cup parmesean cheese
  1.  Make the croutons -Cut bread into cubes, removing any crust.  Melt butter in a skillet and add the garlic.  Cook until garlic is fragrant and then add the bread cubes.  Saute the cubes until they are brown on all sides and then drain on paper towels.
  2. Separate the romaine leaves, wash, dry, and tear into bite-sized pieces.
  3. In a bowl, mash the anchovies.
  4. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice into the mashed anchovies.
  5. Add the mustard to the anchovy mixture.
  6. Pour the dressing over the romaine in a large salad bowl.  Crack the egg into the bowl and toss the salad until the egg has disappeared.
  7. Add the croutons, salt and pepper to taste, and parmesean.  Toss and serve.

And the piece de resistance  - the cake!  I've been having such success with Fannie Farmer cakes lately I wanted to try another one.  But after looking at the ingredients, I worried it might not be a hit - I shouldn't have worried.  This was delicious!  The perfect yellow cake, the fruit and nuts in the center add sweetness and moistness.  The frosting was light and unassuming.  Not too sweet, which I prefer, but sweet enough where even Thatboy was okay with the addition of nuts.

Lord Baltimore Cake (From the Fannie Farmer Cookbook)
1/4 cup butter
2 1/2 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk
2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1/2 cup dry macaroon crumbs
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
12 dried cherries, chopped
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp orange extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with baking spray.  Cream the butter and slowly add 1 1/2 cups sugar, beating until light.
  2. Add the egg yolks and beat well.
  3. Add the whole egg, 2 tsp vanilla, and milk and beat well.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and add to the first mixture, beating until smooth.  
  5. Spread in the pans and bake for 25 minutes.  Cool in the pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto racks.
  6. Make the frosting - Mix the remaining sugar, cream of tartar, a pinch of salt, egg whites and 1/4 cup of water in a pot or bowl over simmering water.  Beat steadily over low heat with a hand mixer until the frosting stands in peaks - 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and continue to beat until thick enough to spread.  Add the vanilla.
  7. Take half of the frosting and fold the remaining ingredients into it.  Use this as filling between the cake layers.  
  8. Use the remaining half of the frosting to frost the cake.


  1. Are you for real? Threw that together after the gym. You have crazy skills.

  2. I'm impressed with that salad! I usually make my own croutons . . . but the totally lazy way. I cut the bread, spray with olive oil (I don't even bother to toss in a bowl - why use the extra bowl?) and then season with whatever I feel like (salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc.) Question - have you ever done the salad without the raw egg? Or have a good substitute?

    1. Oh and then I bake the croutons in the oven at 400, roughly 15 min while I do other stuff. I'm not so lazy as just to serve bread with spray olive oil :)

    2. I haven't done it this way without the raw egg, but I do have a Caesar salad dressing without the raw egg. It's from on of J's boyfriends:

      garlic clove
      1/2 cup olive oil
      Salt, to taste
      6 to 8 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
      1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
      2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
      1 1/2 Tbs. plain yogurt
      2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
      Freshly ground pepper, to taste

      Chop the garlic clove and combine with the 1/2 cup olive oil in a blender. Puree until smooth.
      In a small bowl, using a fork, mash the anchovies until they form a paste. Add to the oil and garlic in the blender along with the mustard, lemon juice and yogurt. Blend at high speed until a smooth emulsion forms.
      Add 2 Tbs. of the Parmesan cheese and blend again.
      Season with a little salt and a little pepper.

    3. Thank you! I have to try this out . . . or get over the raw egg thing. Weird - I have no problem eating things with raw egg as an ingredient so long as someone else (like a restaurant) does it, but I won't do it myself.

  3. Ohhh that martini looks divine.

  4. When I get home from the gym, I need to have EVERYTHING ready otherwise NOTHING gets cooked and sushi is ordered. I'm impressed.