Just about the last thing you want on a hot summer evening is to work over a hot stove…so how about some recipes perfect for a romantic alfresco meal? Whether you are planning a picnic supper for an outdoor concert, a romantic boat ride, a romantic meal on your balcony or just out in your backyard, we’ve got some great recipes here from Chef Jacques Haeringer of Virginia’s L’Auberge Chez François. These are from his Two for Tonight: Pure Romance from L’Auberge Chez Francoiscookbook–cool recipes that will liven up the spirits after a long hot day.
“Romantic meals are a tradition at L’Auberge Chez François,” explains Chef Jacques. “It’s a tradition based on our philosophy that life’s memorable moments are not complete without a festive meal. The food may be delicious, but it is the thought and energy you put into preparing and serving a meal that is romantic and special.”
With the country in the midst of triple digit temperatures, Chef Jacques has selected some light and nutritious recipes that will create a cool, delightful end to a hot day. Serve these recipes with a delicious non-alcoholic beverage like a sparkling apple cider, or a nice sparkling wine or Champagne.
CITRUS SALAD WITH GINGER (Serves 2):
Ginger is credited with aiding in digestion, improving circulation, and even protecting against motion sickness. This salad also makes a great dessert.
- 2 oranges
- 2 small grapefruits
- 1 banana
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice
Using a sharp knife, cut away the outer rind and white membrane of both the oranges and grapefruits. Section the citrus by cutting along the longitudinal membranes. Peel and slice the banana into 1/4 inch rounds.
Place the prepared fruit in a bowl. Add the ginger and sweetener. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour before serving. Garnish with mint leaves.
Variation: Sweeten with honey.
MY FAVORITE CHEF SALAD (Serves 2):
This is my favorite late-night snack after a day of cooking in a hot kitchen.
For the Vinaigrette:
- 1 small garlic clove, chopped
- ½ teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
- ½ teaspoon fresh chopped tarragon or parsley
- 3 teaspoons vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
For the Salad:
- 4 ounces beef tenderloin or flank steak
- 2 ounces raw milk cheese (gruyère or cheddar)
- 2 ounces salad greens (small handful)
- 2 tablespoons each julienne carrot, beets, and celery
- 4 stalks raw asparagus
- 1 tablespoon of bean or spicy sprouts
TO PREPARE THE VINAIGRETTE:
Combine all the ingredients, except the oil, in a small bowl and beat together with a whisk until they are well blended. Gradually beat in the oil. Taste and adjust seasonings.
TO PREPARE THE SALAD:
Place beef in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to facilitate slicing. While beef is chilling, prepare the salads.
Wash and thoroughly drain the salad greens. Divide the prepared greens between two serving plates. Wash, peel, and julienne the vegetables and scatter over the salad greens.
Julienne the cheese and set aside.
Remove the beef from the freezer and thinly slice. Divide the beef and then the prepared cheese and scatter over the prepared vegetables and salad greens. Place a small bunch of sprouts on top of the cheese.
Pepper the salads and pour the vinaigrette over the two salads. Serve at once.
Hint: Plate the salads, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate ahead of time. Pour the vinaigrette over just prior to serving.
SPICED STRAWBERRIES (Serves 2):
The dried unripe berry of a tree grown in Jamaica and Indonesia, allspice has an aromatic flavor that blends cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, creating a unique flavor.
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice or sugar
- ½ vanilla bean, split or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 whole clove
- 4 allspice berries, crushed
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1/3 cup sweet late harvest wine
- 1 pint fresh strawberries
- Mint leaves
Place the water, evaporated cane juice, vanilla bean, clove, allspice, and nutmeg in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If using vanilla extract, add it now.
Wash and cap the strawberries. Drain well and place in a small bowl.
Mix the sweet wine into the syrup, taste and adjust seasonings, and strain over the strawberries. Allow the strawberries to marinate 1 hour in the refrigerator before serving. Garnish with mint leaves before serving.
Chef Jacques is one of America’s most respected and innovative culinary personalities. Continuing in his father’s footsteps, Jacques loves to create and serve contemporary French fare at his restaurant, L’Auberge Chez François, in Great Falls, Virginia. His menus feature reinterpreted Alsatian and French cuisine for American palates. When he isn’t in the kitchen, he can be found teaching his popular gourmet cooking classes. Jacques is often asked to author magazine articles, cook up recipes at culinary events, and to be a guest on television and radio shows across the country.
Jacques is the author of “Two for Tonight,” a collection of recipes that inspire romance through food and togetherness, and the “Chez François Cookbook,” the bible of classic Alsatian cuisine featuring some of the restaurant’s most popular recipes. He lives in Northern Virginia and is currently working on a new cookbook and television show.
“Tradition Lives on at L’Auberge Chez Francois” — The Washington Post features L’Auberge Chez François in their Spring 2010 Dining Guide (http://tinyurl.com/2fymvxy/). And for a video visit of the restaurant, go to: http://tinyurl.com/33wta6l .
For more information on L’Auberge Chez François, Chef Jacques, and his books and cooking classes, visit him online at www.ChefJacques.com , Facebook @JacquesHaeringer, and Twitter @ChefJacquesH.
L’Auberge Chez François
332 Springvale Road • Great Falls, VA 22066
Photo courtesy L’Auberge Chez François; recipes Copyright Chef Jacques Haeringer from ‘Two for Tonight,’ Bartleby Press; $26.95; ISBN: 0-910155-43-7