Love Stories

JOSHUA CUPP & BRANDIE KREINER
BILL & KAYLA RIEGNER
JOHN HURIN & REBECCA HALLAHAN

Setting the Mood

One of the most romantic ways to propose is during a quiet dinner at home. But first you'll have to set the mood. Here are some recipes to titillate your taste buds, and Tapper's special playlist of love songs to warm up any evening.

Romantic Playlist

Click here to access this playlist on iTunes.

  • "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" – Rod Stewart
  • "In Your Eyes" – Peter Gabriel
  • "Come Away With Me" – Norah Jones
  • "Give It Up" – Amos Lee
  • "It's Your Love" – Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
  • "Moondance" – Van Morrison
  • "Try A Little Tenderness" – Michael Bublé
  • "Lover Lay Down" – Dave Matthews Band
  • "Making Memories Of Us" – Keith Urban
  • "Your Body Is A Wonderland" – John Mayer
  • "I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More, Baby" – Barry White

Selecting Wine

Okay, so you're all ready to pop the question. You've decided what to cook for dinner. Dessert is prepared. Your playlist is packed with romance. How about some wine? If you're going to serve wine with dinner, here is some advice on how to select the right kind.

The classic rule when it comes to picking wine is, red wine with beef and white wine with fish or poultry. And that's a pretty safe bet. But let's dig a little deeper to uncover why some wines go better with some foods.

The key to matching a wine to a food is to make sure the two tastes don't fight each other for your attention. They should be balanced.

Wines come in essentially three categories of taste: Sweet, Dry (Acidic), and Tannic (Bitter). So a sure bet would be to look for those tastes in the food, and serve a wine with the same characteristics. Sweet wine with sweet food. Bitter wine with bitter food. And when it comes to acidity, just think of foods that go well with a squirt of lemon (like seafood), then you would serve a wine with acidic characteristics.

Here is a list of which wines display which characteristics:

  • Sweet Whites: Pinot Grigio, Most German Wines, Vouvray, Chenin Blanc, Many Rieslings, White Zinfandel
  • Sweet Reds: Lambrusco, Port
  • Dry (Acidic) Whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, White Bordeaux, Sparkling Wines
  • Dry (Acidic) Reds: Pinot Noir, Red Burgundy, Sangiovese, Chianti, Gamay, Beaujolais
  • Tannic (Bitter) Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Red Bordeaux, Red Zinfandel

Spinach and Mushroom Ravioli

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons for boiling water
  • 6 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnishing
  • 6 egg roll wrappers (6 1/2 by 6 1/2-inch squares)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/2 cup mushroom (cremini, shiitake, button), finely chopped
  • 2 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saute pan heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. When almost smoking, add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms, about 6 minutes. Add spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until you get a coarse texture. Place in bowl and stir in mascarpone and Parmesan cheese. Check for seasoning and set aside.

Line up 3 wrappers on a cutting board. Brush with the egg and water mixture. Using a tablespoon, arrange 4 dollops of the filling on each wrapper – 2 on the first row and 2 on the second – 1-inch apart. Place another wrapper directly on top, pressing around the filling and sealing the edges. Using a fluted ravioli cutter, cut out squares of ravioli. Each filled wrapper will yield 4 raviolis, giving you a total of 12 ravioli. Place ravioli onto a floured baking sheet and keep covered with a linen towel.

In a large pot, bring to a boil 4 quarts of salted and oiled water. Carefully add small batches of ravioli, about 3 to 4 at a time. This will prevent them from crowding in the pot and sticking together. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Using a spider strainer, carefully remove the ravioli and place on the plate. Tent with foil to keep warm and continue cooking remaining ravioli.

In a saute pan, heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. When almost smoking, add chopped mushrooms and saute until soft and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Carefully pour in tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.Divide ravioli between 2 serving plates. Top with mushroom tomato sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.

Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato.

Grilled Lobster Tails with Mashed Jerusalem Artichokes, Sauteed Asparagus, and Lemon-Tarragon Butter

  • 2 (1 1/2 pound) live lobsters
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled and diced Jerusalem artichokes
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 6 asparagus spears (pencil thick)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves, plus sprigs, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Set a large 2 to 3 gallon stockpot to boil over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, immerse the lobsters in the pot. Cook the lobsters for 3 minutes, remove, and chill immediately in an ice bath. Once the lobsters are cool enough to handle, remove from the water and place on a kitchen towel draped over a cutting board.

Twist the tails off the lobsters, and cut the tails in half lengthwise using a large chef's knife (score along the length of the tail). Set the cut tails aside, and crack the shells of the claws to remove the meat. Reserve the claw meat for pasta or a salad for a later date.

Place the Jerusalem artichokes in a 1-quart saucepan, and cover with water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, cook the artichokes for 15 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife. Remove from the heat, drain, and place the artichokes in a food processor with the heavy cream, 1 tablespoon of butter, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper. Process the artichokes for 10 to 15 seconds, or until a smooth puree is formed. Remove from the bowl of the food processor, and place in a heat resistant bowl set over a water bath to keep warm.

Trim the ends off of the asparagus and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, remove from the water and cool in ice water. Once the asparagus is cool enough to handle, remove from the ice water and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut the asparagus into thirds on a bias.

Set a small saucepan over a low heat and add 4 tablespoons of the remaining butter, the lemon zest, and the lemon juice. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld, and season with a pinch of salt, white pepper, and the chopped tarragon. Set aside, but keep warm.

To finish the dish, set the grill on medium-high. Brush the lobster tails with the olive oil on the cut end, and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper. Place the tails, cut-side down, on the grill, and cook for 3 minutes. Rotate 45 degrees, and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Turn the lobsters over and cook for 2 minutes. While the lobsters are cooking on the shell side, place a small skillet over medium-high heat, and once the pan is hot, add the remaining1 teaspoon of butter and saute the asparagus, tossing, for 1 minute. Season lightly with salt and white pepper.

To plate the dish, divide the Jerusalem artichoke puree evenly between 2 warmed dinner plates or wide shallow bowls. Arrange the asparagus around the artichoke puree, and place the lobster tails on top of the puree. Pour 2 tablespoons of the lemon- tarragon butter over each serving of lobster and garnish with additional tarragon if desired.

Serve immediately.

Maple-Glazed Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets

Marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tablespoon pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed

Pineapple Salsa, recipe follows

Place salmon filets in a resealable plastic bag. Combine marinade ingredients in a non-reactive bowl or measuring cup. Pour marinade over filets and refrigerate from 1 to 24 hours.

In a grill basket sprayed with cooking spray, grill the salmon, skin side down, over hot coals. Flip after 2 to 3 minutes and cook for another 1 to 3 minutes, or until desired doneness. Serve with pineapple salsa spooned on the side.

Pineapple Salsa:

  • 1 medium size ripe tomato, chopped into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 pickled jalapeno pepper slices, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chucks, fresh or canned
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Place all ingredients in a small, non-reactive saucepan. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve with the salmon.

Steak Pinwheels with Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffing and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

STEAK:

  • 1 2/3 cups canned beef broth, Swanson®
  • 3/4 cup ready-to-use julienne sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), Frieda's®
  • 1/4 cup butter, Land O'Lakes®
  • 1 package (6.6-ounce) stuffing mix, Stove Top® (flavor optional)
  • 1 (1 1/4-pound) skirt steak
  • Salt and pepper

ROSEMARY MASHED POTATOES:

  • 2 packages (11 ounces each) refrigerated prepared mashed potatoes, Simply Potatoes®
  • 6 tablespoons butter, Land O'Lakes®
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Steak Preparation:

Bring broth, sun-dried tomatoes, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in contents of stuffing mix pouch. Cover saucepan and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff stuffing with fork. Cool stuffing. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Lay steak flat on clean work surface. Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper. Cover steak evenly with stuffing. Roll up steak lengthwise to create a pinwheel effect, enclosing stuffing completely. Skewer seam with toothpicks.

Place the steak roll, seam side down, on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle roll with salt and pepper. Roast until steak is golden brown and cooked through, about 40 minutes.

Rosemary Mashed Potatoes Preparation:

Meanwhile, peel back corners of potato packages. Warm potatoes in microwave according to package instructions.

Mix in butter, milk, and rosemary. Season potatoes to taste with salt and pepper.

Seared Scallops on Lemon and Spinach Risotto

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • cracked black pepper and sea salt
  • 1 scallops, removed from the shell

Lemon and Spinach Risotto:

  • 5 1/2 cups (44 fl oz) vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon rind, grated
  • 200 g (1/2 oz) baby English spinach leaves
  • cracked black pepper and sea salt
  • parmesan shavings

To cook the lemon and spinach risotto, place the stock in a saucepan over medium-high heat and allow to come to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

Heat the oil in another saucepan over medium high heat. Add the rice and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, 2 cups at a time, stirring frequently and cooking until all the stock has been absorbed. Continue adding cups of stock until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Season with pepper and sea salt and keep risotto warm.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat. Sprinkle pepper and sea salt over the scallops. Place scallops in the pan and cook for 20-30 seconds on each side or until seared.

To serve, stir the lemon rind and the spinach through the risotto and spoon onto serving plates. Top with the scallops and serve with lemon wedges and parmesan on the side.

Grilled Filet Mignon with Garlic Confit Cloves, Vegetables and Red Wine Reduction Sauce

  • 4 (7 oz.) filet mignons
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 2 oz. finely chopped carrots
  • 2 oz. finely chopped onions
  • 1 oz. finely chopped celery
  • 8 asparagus spears
  • 8 baby carrots
  • 12 pearl onions
  • 4 mushroom caps
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups demi glace
  • 1 cup chicken stock
Sauce:

Sauté carrots, onions and celery until golden brown. Add red wine and reduce by one half. Add demi glace and chicken stock, reduce by one half. When consistency coats the back of a spoon, strain and season with salt & pepper. Add a tablespoon or two of unsalted butter if desired to add richness.

Vegetables:

Blanch asparagus and baby carrots (separately) in salted boiling water until al dente. Shock in ice water (quickly submerging the vegetables in ice water reduces cooking time. Reserve for later. Roast pearl onions in hot sauté pan with olive oil and season with salt and pepper al dente. Grill mushroom caps until tender.

Garlic Confit:

In boiling salted water, blanch garlic for 2 minutes. Repeat this procedure 2 more times. Store garlic cloves in room temperature in extra virgin olive oil.

Presentation:

Grill filet mignon until desired temperature. Sauté all vegetables in small amount of unsalted whole butter. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with desired starch (mashed potatoes, rice, etc.). Arrange vegetables around plate. Place filet mignon in center of plate. Spoon sauce directly over filet mignon. Garnish with fresh watercress.

Spinach with Garlic, Olive Oil and Pine Nuts

  • about 12 cups fresh spinach, cleaned
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/8 C olive oil or lemon flavored olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Peel garlic cloves and flatten with the broad side of a knife to crush. Place crushed garlic in olive oil and set aside (for a stronger garlic flavor, do this as much as a day in advance and refrigerate oil).

Wash spinach and shake dry, still leaving some moisture on the leaves. Heat oil in a large skillet, toss slightly damp spinach in heated oil just until wilted and heated through. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Serve topped with toasted pine nuts (or hazelnuts).

Soft Corn Rolls

  • 1 (1/4 ounce) packet of instant yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons
  • 1.2 cup lukewarm milk (110°F)
  • 3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup canned creamed style corn
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Then add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and all the remaining ingredients. Stir the mixture vigorously until it is smooth, then go ahead and stir it a bit more. Now stir in the the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour in two or three additions, or as much flour as it takes to make a soft, kneadable dough.

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary. Round the dough up and and place it in a vegetable shortening greased bowl, orating the dough in the bowl to grease it too. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it's doubled in size, 60 to 80 minutes. Punch the dough down, turn it over, and let it rise again until nearly double, 25 to 30 minutes.

Turn the dough back out onto the floured work surface and knead it tenderly for 15 seconds -- just to knock the air out. Cover the dough and let it rest for 5 minutes. Now shape the dough into whatever shape you want. I like a classic round roll. I fit 13 balls of dough -- somewhere between a golf ball and a tennis ball in size -- in a greased 9-inch round cake pan. This recipe makes 2 pans. But other roll shapes will work just as well.

Cover the shaped rolls and allow them to rise a final time, until they puff up nicely; 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425°F. Bake the rolls for 12 to 18 minutes.

Key Lime Icebox Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust

Pistachio Crust:

  • 2 cups pistachio nuts, shelled
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Cheesecake:

  • 1 1/2 cups whipped cream (whipped to medium peaks, set aside in cooler)
  • 1 1/4 cup cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 6 1/2 oz. white chocolate, melted
  • 3/8 cup key lime juice
  • 1 sheet gelatin softened in ice water (or you can use 1 envelope unflavored gelatin, softened in 1 tablespoon water)
Prepare Crust

In a food processor, combine pistachios and sugar and grind until fine. Add melted butter and pulse. Test consistency by squeezing a handful of the mixture between your fist. If it does not hold it's shape add a little more butter until it does. Place in the bottom of appropriate mold or pan. Press down until compacted. Set aside.

Prepare Cheesecake

In a kitchen mixer with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed, scraping once and beating again until smooth. In a double boiler add the softened gelatin with the key lime juice, melting over low heat. While mixer is on low speed gradually add the melted white chocolate, scrape and mix. Add key lime juice - gelatin mixture to the cream cheese and sugar mixture. Gradually fold the base mix into the whipped cream. Pour into desired mold and refrigerate for approximately 2 hours before serving.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ounces red food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon vinegar

FROSTING:

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 4 to 5 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening and then lightly flour them.

Cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl. Add the food coloring and cocoa. Alternately add half of the cake flour, half of the buttermilk, and half of the salt. Mix after each addition and then repeat. Stir in the vanilla. Fold in the baking soda and vinegar. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool slightly in the pans, about 10 minutes. Loosen the sides by running a thin knife along the edge of the pans. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

To make the frosting:

Cream together the butter, cream cheese, and milk. Add the confectioners' sugar until you reach the desired consistency. Additional milk can be used to thin the frosting if needed.

Place the bottom layer on a cake base and frost the top. Place the second layer on the first then frost the top and sides.

Chocolate Truffles

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts, and/or toasted coconut, for coating truffles
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

Place the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter in a medium size glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, and repeat this process 1 more time. Set aside.

Heat the heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the melted chocolate mixture; let stand for 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently, starting in the middle of bowl and working in concentric circles until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy. Gently stir in the brandy. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Using a melon baller, scoop chocolate onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Place the cocoa powder, nuts, and/or toasted coconut each in its own pie pan and set aside.

In the meantime, place the 8 ounces of chocolate into a medium mixing bowl which is sitting on top of a heating pad lined bowl, with the heating pad set to medium. Depending on the heating pad, you may need to adjust the heat up or down.

Stirring the chocolate occasionally, test the temperature of the chocolate and continue heating until it reaches 90 to 92 degrees F; do not allow the chocolate to go above 94 degrees F. If you do, the coating will not have a nice snap to it when you bite into the chocolate. Once you have reached the optimal temperature, adjust the heat to maintain it.

Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Use powder-free vinyl or latex gloves, if desired.

Dip an ice cream scoop into the chocolate and turn upside down to remove excess chocolate. Place truffles 1 at time into the scoop and roll around until coated. Then place the truffle into the dish with either the cocoa powder, nuts or coconut. Move the truffle around to coat; leave truffle in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds before removing. In the meantime, continue placing the chocolate-coated truffles in the cocoa or other secondary coating. After 10 to 15 seconds, remove the truffle to a parchment lined sheet pan. Repeat until all truffles are coated.

Allow to set in a cool dry place for at least 1 hour; or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Truffles are best when served at room temperature.

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