For the love of cooking

By Chef Don Bingham

There are many ways of showing love and encouraging each other, and one of our favorites has always been through cooking. 

Since time began, the physical and emotional delight that is experienced around food has survived through the generations  and is, today, a vibrant way to say “I love you!”

Who doesn’t enjoy getting that package delivered to the front door from a friend who has prepared a special treat for us, or that covered dish during a difficult time? Many of us are currently in the process of shedding the extra weight gain “delight” from candy and cookie gifts during the holidays!

After a short rest, Valentine’s Day brings with it another season to give of oneself to lift the hearts and spirits of those around us. Admittedly, it takes time, energy, and a slight nod to a temporary increase in budget, but the rewards far outweigh the investment! With creations like the Valentine Charcuterie Board or the Chocolate Regal Heart Torte, the results will show the depth of one’s love and appreciation to the recipient. But it’s also rewarding to stop by the donut shop and purchase a dozen assorted delicacies to hand off to the bank teller, the podiatrist, the barber, the pastor, the widow or the best friend. 

One of my favorite quick gifts to give is a fresh loaf of sourdough bread from the local bakery, with an added small jar of jam and a stick of butter! Whether we create an enormous, decadent charcuterie board, or offer one simple cinnamon roll in a pastry bag, the joy is in the giving! It is equally rewarding to write a short card of admiration and thanksgiving to that special someone or group. 

For those who enjoy the world of the culinary arts, try your creative hand at the Charcuterie Board or the Chocolate Torte; it’s our pleasure to provide the recipes! May your Valentines be full of love–given and received!

Shrimp Pâté

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1 cup cold water

12 ounces of Braunschweiger (processed in blender) or 12 ounces cooked shrimp

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp. chopped onions

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water; place over low heat and stir well until gelatin dissolves. Remove; stir all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a 4-cup loaf pan. Serves 4-6.

Braunschweiger meat; boiled, peeled shrimp; cooked ham or a combination of all three may be used. The pâté mixture may be poured into a mold or loaf pan or divided into smaller units. Serve with baguettes, saltines or your bread or cracker of choice.

Chocolate Regal Heart Torte

2 heart-shaped pans

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 stick butter

1/2 cup shortening

3 Tbsp. cocoa

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp. soda

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Put butter, water, shortening and cocoa in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then pour over the flour mixture. Mix well. In another bowl, beat eggs. Add soda, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir well and add to the first mixture. Mix well. Bake in a greased and floured cookie sheet pan, round pans or a heart-shaped pan. The batter will fill one cookie-sheet-sized baking pan or two smaller round or heart-shaped pans. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cool before frosting.

Chocolate Icing

1 stick butter

3 Tbsp. cocoa

6 Tbsp. milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 box (16 oz.) powdered sugar, plus a few more Tbsp.

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Melt butter, then add cocoa, milk and vanilla. Bring to a boil, then add box of powdered sugar and nuts. Stir until smooth, then pour over the cake. Spread icing using additional powdered sugar to control consistency.

Are you tired of fighting restaurant crowds on Valentine’s Day? Are you searching for a romantic meal that assures your sweetie that you put some planning and effort into the evening? We suggest that you create The Passionately Pate Charcuterie Board. If pate is too daunting, replace it with another item that is yummy on crackers or crostini.

This lovely board includes shrimp and liver pate (recipe on p. 24) and cocktail shrimp arranged on a bed of lettuce and parsley; multi-grain rice crackers and fig and olive crisps; 3-inch deli pepperonis and 1- to 2-inch salamis rolled into the shape of roses*; blackberries, raspberries and strawberries sliced in half with a notch cut at the top to make them heart-shaped; and French macarons, chocolate truffles, heart-shaped chocolate mints and M&M’s.

*To create roses: 

1. Fold a slice of pepperoni or salami over the rim of a wine or shot glass so half is inside and half is outside the glass. Press and hold to crease each meat slice so it takes the shape of the glass. (The size of the glass chosen depends on the size of the rose you are making.)

2. Add the next slice so 1/4- to 1/2-inch overlaps the first and press firmly to crease. Repeat with 1-2 more overlapping slices until the rim of the glass is covered. (Each layer will have 3-4+ slices of salami or pepperoni.)

3. To start the second layer, place the next meat slice where 2 slices overlap and crease firmly. Add 2-4 more overlapping slices to complete the second layer.

4. Complete anywhere from 3-5 or more layers, until your pepperoni or salami rose is as full as you’d like. The smaller the hole in the middle of your flower gets, the fuller your meat flower will look when you flip it over!

5. When you’re done layering, gently palm the top of the glass, flip it over onto a flat surface, and lift the glass to reveal the rose.

6. If you’re prepping meat roses for a charcuterie board ahead of time, leave the glass in place after you flip to hold the flower together until you’re ready to serve. If you’re prepping them a few hours or days ahead of time, wrap everything in plastic and store in the fridge.

Don Bingham
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