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Celebrate Valentine's Day by cooking a meal together

Editor's note: This story originally published Feb. 10, 2012.

Valentine’s Day is February 14, and all over the world, plenty of people are panicking right now because they still haven’t made plans.

Why panic? Instead, create a romantic meal together. Throw on some music and open a bottle of wine and cook together. And, we already have the menu ready for you.

Two Ohio top chefs have provided a unique, diverse and flavorful spread of options for a romantic dinner for two, just in time for your special evening.

Jenn DiSanto, owner of Kettering’s Fresco, spends each day using high-quality seasonal ingredients to create made-to-order menu items at her upscale carryout.

Here, she offers an appetizer that puts a twist on a classic, an entree with a smoky crust and sauce, a gluten-free vegetarian side dish and a sinfully good dessert.

Margot Blondet, executive chef at Dayton’s SideBar 410, came to the United States from her native Peru in 2005, and her menu both here and at the restaurant reflect her love for her home country. Blondet serves up a love-enhancing menu bursting with the rich flavors and passion of Peru, from a heady cocktail to a super-healthy vegetarian entree and, of course, dessert.

Mango Sour

(Courtesy of Margot Blondet)

Yield: 4 servings.


12 ounces Pisco (in liquor store Peruvian Brandy made from grapes)

4 ounces simple syrup

4 ounces mango puree (peel, dice and blend)

2 ounces lime juice

1 egg white


Blend all ingredients for about 20 seconds, add five ice cubes and blend another 30 seconds.

Roasted Oysters with Creamed Spinach Topping

(Courtesy of Jenn DiSanto)

Yield: 2 servings (4 oysters per person)


8 oysters, shucked

1 tbsp. butter

1 leek (the white part only, thoroughly washed and thinly sliced)

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

3 ounces baby spinach

¼ cup heavy cream

½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 tbsp grated pecorino romano cheese

1 ounce grated sharp white cheddar

3 tbsp, bread crumbs mixed with 1 tbsp. melted butter

Salt and pepper to taste

3 cups rock salt


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread 2 cups of the rock salt on a sheet pan and place shucked oysters on it and store in refrigerator until ready to roast.

2. Melt the butter in a sauté pan. Turn up the heat to medium and add the leek and shallot.

3. Once they have sweated, add the garlic and sauté for one minute.

4. Add the spinach and sauté for another minute.

5. Add the cream and fresh thyme and simmer until reduced by half.

6. Add the pecorino romano and white cheddar cheeses and stir to incorporate. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

7. Spoon a small amount onto each oyster, dividing equally among all of the oysters.

8. Top with the bread crumb/butter mixture and roast for 10-12 minutes; topping should have a nice golden color. Remove from oven.

9. To plate: cover each small plate with rock salt. Place 4 roasted oysters on the plate and serve.

Quinoa and Cheese

(Courtesy of Margot Blondet)

Yield: 6 servings


1 cup quinoa

1 cup evaporated milk

1 pound golden Yukon potatoes

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 chopped red onion

1 teaspoon diced garlic

½ cup tomatoes juice

2 fresh chopped yellow Peruvian peppers (without veins and seeds)

1½ tablespoon chopped cilantro

2 cups shredded cheese (Edam, Gruyere or similar)

Salt & pepper


1. Boil 2 cups of water, add quinoa and bring it to a boil for about 12 minutes or until cooked.

2. Add milk, stir and put to the side.

3. In a saucepan, cook potatoes in salted water until tender. Cool down, peel and dice into 1-inch pieces.

4. Melt the butter and oil; add onions and garlic, cook until soft and golden, then stir in the tomato juice, chilies and cilantro.

5. Mix quinoa, half of shredded cheese, potatoes and onion mix together.

6. Salt and pepper to taste.

7. Transfer the mix to a butter coated baking pan, cover with the remaining cheese.

8. Preheat the oven 350 degrees and cook until the cheese is melted.


Beef Tenderloin Filet with Gorgonzola Crust and Port Wine Demi Glace

(Courtesy of Jenn DiSanto)

Yield: 2 servings


1 shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 cup demi glace (homemade or available at specialty stores)

1 cup excellent quality port wine

2 tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces

2-6 oz. center cut filet mignon

Grape seed oil and clarified butter, for searing filets

2 oz. crumbled gorgonzola

Salt and pepper

10 spears fresh asparagus, tossed in a little olive oil, salt and pepper


1. To make the sauce, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in sauté pan. Sweat the shallot until completely soft and just starting to caramelize.

2. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.

3. Add the port wine and demi glace and reduce down by half. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add the cold butter one piece at a time, whisking in slowly until it’s incorporated. Keep warm.

5. To sear the filet mignon and roast the asparagus, preheat oven to 425 degrees and heat an oven-proof skillet on medium to high heat.

6. Completely dry off your filets and season with salt and pepper.

7. Once the pan is very hot, add a small amount of grape seed oil to coat pan and then add a little bit of clarified butter.

8. Bring pan back to high temperature (but not smoking) and then add the filets. Let them cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.

9. Remove pan from the burner and top with the gorgonzola cheese.

10. Add the asparagus to the pan, transfer to the oven, and finish cooking for 3-4 more minutes for medium rare.

11. To serve, transfer the filet and asparagus to the plate and drizzle some of the sauce on top.

Suspiro de limeña

(Courtesy of Margot Blondet)

A smooth custard dessert featuring dulce de lecheand port meringue, this Peruvian staple is a beloved classic across South America.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


1 can condensed milk

1 can evaporated milk

1 stick of cinnamon

8 egg yolks

1½ cup sugar

1 cup of port wine

4 egg whites

Ground cinnamon


1. In a medium-size saucepan, combine milks with cinnamon. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until creamy and thick. Let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Beat egg yolks, add vanilla, and gradually incorporate milk preparation, mixing well.

3. Pour into a serving bowl or individual cups.

4. In a medium-size saucepan, combine sugar and port wine. Bring to a boil and continue until syrup reaches the soft ball stage (230° F on a candy thermometer).

5. Beat egg whites until stiff. Start pouring the hot syrup into the whites and continue beating until meringue is cool and thick.

6. Top the cups with meringue and sprinkle with cinnamon.

My Funny Valentine Chocolate Tart with Hazelnut Crust

(Courtesy of Jenn DiSanto)

Yield: One 10-inch tart


6 ounces heavy cream

5 ounces milk

¼ tsp. fresh ground cardamom seeds

8 ounce great quality bittersweet chocolat, chopped

2 tbsp. sugar

1 large egg

Hazelnut Tart dough


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake the tart shell until golden, and set aside to cool.

2. Combine the milk, cream and ground cardamom and bring to a simmer.

3. Remove from heat and add the Belgian chocolate and sugar. Stir until completely incorporated and smooth.

4. Beat the egg and slowly add to the chocolate mixture provided it is not too hot still. If it is still really hot, then temper the eggs first by adding a bit of the chocolate cream mixture slowly and then incorporating them all together.

5. Pour the chocolate in the blind baked tart shell and bake for 15 minutes until set.

Hazelnut Tart Dough


8 oz butter

4 oz sugar

¼ tsp salt

3 oz finely chopped peeled and toasted hazelnuts (almost to powder consistency but not to the point that they become hazelnut butter)

2 oz eggs

12 oz pastry flour (for gluten-free option, substitute gluten-free flour; however, this will produce a firmer, denser crust)


1. In a mixer using the paddle attachment, blend the butter, sugar and salt. Add the toasted hazelnuts and incorporate. Add the eggs and incorporate. Sift the pastry flour and incorporate just until evenly blended, but do not over-mix.

2. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for several hours before using. Roll out on a floured surface when ready to use and press into tart shell (Preferably with removable bottom).

3. To blind bake, poke holes in the crust with a fork. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover the crust with parchment paper or foil in the center and lay pie weights (or even dry beans) on top. Bake until the crust is partially cooked.

Hazelnut Tart Risotto Con Funghi-Porcini Mushroom and Mascarpone Risotto

(Courtesy of Jenn DiSanto)

This was provided as a vegetarian/gluten-free alternative to the steak, or a side with it.

Yield: 2 servings as main dish; 4 servings as side dish

Ingredients: ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

20-24 oz vegetable stock

¾ cup Arborio rice

2 tablespoons shallots, finely minced

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic clove

¼ cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1/8 cup mascarpone cheese

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 cup assorted fresh wild mushrooms- sautéed in olive oil for garnish Salt and pepper to taste


1. Chop dry mushrooms into small pieces. Bring stock and chopped dry mushrooms to a simmer and keep warm over low heat.

2. Heat a large saucepan over medium to high heat. Once hot add the olive oil. Add the shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for one more minute. Add the rice and coat with the olive oil. Add the wine and cook until it has evaporated.

3. Add one cup of the broth with the reconstituted porcini mushrooms and cook over medium heat until the broth has been absorbed by the rice Continue to add broth in small increments, letting the rice soak up the liquid completely before adding more. This will take about 25 minutes. The rice will be done when it is creamy but still has a bit of a bite to it.

4. Once the rice is done add the cheeses, thyme leaves and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

5. Top with assorted, sautéed wild mushrooms for garnish and serve. immediately.

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