A few months ago, I was asked to write an article and create four recipes, using wines from the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail wineries, that would be sent out with the February VA Wine Lovers e-newsletter. I got to work on both very quickly and soon had an upbeat article to accompany my recipes (AND photos) of food suggestions for a soup, salad, dinner, and dessert to make for Valentine’s Day. Imagine my disappointment when the e-newsletter was posted without the article… and missing an important piece of one of the recipes. Sheesh! In light of this frustration, I decided to simply post my efforts here, for all to enjoy.
Let’s face it… it’s easy to go to a store to pick up chocolates and a card for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day. It’s what many people will do this February 14th. A more personal idea is to make a meal for your special one instead… and here are some suggestions, using wines from the wineries on the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail.
Start with a deliciously wintery soup…. a Butternut Squash Crab Bisque. Even if you delete the crab, this bisque has a delicate, slightly sweet flavor that combines well with the James River Cellars Vidal Blanc wine used in this recipe.
For your main course, I suggest making a light Salad and an Italian Pot Roast. A simple salad of chopped romaine, dried cranberries, and toasted slivered almonds compliments the white wine vinaigrette, using Lake Anna Totally White wine and becomes the perfect introduction to a simple dinner. If you cannot find Lake Anna’s wine, any dry or semi-sweet white wine will do. Something crisp will pair well with the mixture of berries and nuts, so I’d suggest James River Cellars Chardonnay (or even a grocery store brand). The Italian Pot Roast is hearty and homey… a meal that can be made in the oven OR crock pot. This one pairs well with mashed potatoes to warm you up from the inside out, using Grayhaven Sojourn wine. I’ve made this recipe with James River Cellars’ Cabernet Franc and it’s equally good with a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Mertitage (word rhymes with “heritage”). Any dry, heavy red wine will do.
Plan to end your special evening with a wonderfully decadent dessert. Cooper Vineyard makes a Noche wine that yields a lovely reduction which you can make days ahead to top a light cake and make it incredibly special. Pictured is a sponge cake, topped with fresh berries and drizzled with this richly sweet treat. A sprinkle of powdered sugar just adds a touch of “snow” to this Valentine dessert. I’ve also made this sponge cake and topped the berries with Cool Whip before drizzling the reduction to make the effect that much more dramatic. It’s absolutely stunning. Add some chocolates and you’ve got the perfect meal.
Since you’ve been so kind as to read all this, I’ll also include the recipes here. I hope you enjoy trying these simple and timeless recipes as much as I did creating them. As Julia Child would have said… “Bon Appetit!”
Butternut Squash Crab Bisque (with James River Cellars Vidal Blanc wine)
½ onion, diced
1t olive oil
1 ½ c Vidal Blanc (semi-dry white wine)
1 ½ c chicken or vegetable stock (or water with 2 bouillon packets)
1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed, approximately 4 cups)
1t dried marjoram
1 t Old Bay seasonings
Cracked black pepper, to taste
½ recipe Crab Dip **
- In large saucepan, sauté onions in oil until translucent. Add liquid, squash and seasonings to onions. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes or until squash is very tender.
- Puree squash in pan with stick blender (can also use blender or food processor in batches) until smooth.
- Add crab dip and heat through but do not allow to boil.
Note: This recipe can be a tad sweet. Feel free to add more Old Bay or some Tabasco for a bit of heat.
**Crab Dip Recipe:
1 block cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 lb crab meat (I prefer lump crabmeat)
1t Old Bay seasoning (to taste)
Melt in butter and cream cheese in double boiler, add remaining ingredients and serve warm with crackers. I like to heat this in the oven for 20 minutes to get it a bit bubbly.
White Wine Vinaigrette (with Lake Anna Totally White Wine)
2T Semi-dry White Wine (suggested: Lake Anna Totally White)
2T lemon juice
½ t honey
1 T agave nectar
½ t mustard
½ t salt
¼ t freshly ground pepper
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
Mix all ingredients together and serve over a salad of crisp romaine, craisins, and toasted slivered almonds.
Italian Pot Roast (with Grayhaven Sojourn wine)
2 ½-pound London broil
1 t salt
½ t pepper
1 t extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced or chopped
½ -pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1t dried basil
½ cup dry red wine (Suggested: Grayhaven Sojourn, a blend of Touriga and Cabernet Franc)
- Cut beef into large chunks, then sprinkle with ½ t salt and ¼ t pepper. Heat oil in large stock pot over medium high heat and cook until browned, about 6 minutes.
- Remove beef. Add onions, mushrooms and garlic to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables begin to brown and soften, about 6-7 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil and wine along with remaining salt and pepper. Cook until mixture begins to thicken, about 5-6 minutes. Replace the beef in the stock pot and place in oven, at 250 degrees. Cook for 4-5 hours.
- Remove beef once fork-tender and keep warm. Cook all remaining ingredients on stovetop until thickened, 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve beef and sauce with mashed potatoes and a crisp, green salad.
Note: Can use Crock pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours OR on low for 6-8 hours
Noche Chocolate Reduction (with Cooper’s Noche wine)
Bottle of Cooper’s Vineyard Noche Chocolate wine
1/8-1/4 c sugar
Simmer wine in a saucepan over medium low heat until reduced by half. Add sugar and butter and allow to reduce again. You’ll know it’s reduced enough when the spatula leaves a slight wake when drawn across the bottom of the saucepan.
This is lovely when served with a sponge cake topped with fruit. Would also be yummy over ice cream.