Thursday, February 17, 2011

a valentine's supper

Completely out of character for me, I made a big (ish) deal out of Valentine's Day this year. Normally all those hearts and lovey-doviness is enough to turn my stomach (no offence to my beloved D) but smaltsy really isn't our scene. I blame it on having a preschooler in the house. At preschool they celebrate everything. So minutes after T was wandering around the house singing " a Chinese dragon has lots of feet" for Chinese New Year, his school and daycare were awash in pink and red hearts. We got a notice on the protocol for sending Valentines to preschool along with the sign-up sheet for the party treats. I sourced mini cupcake tins (thanks K!) and made dozens of tiny chocolate cupcakes with red sprinkles, bought Cars valentines for T to give to his friends and found a goofy card for D. Then I found this recipe for heart stuffed shells and thought why not make a valentine's dinner for D - artichoke hearts are one of his favorite foods. And it came to be - heart stuffed pasta shells, hearts of romaine salad (which sounds deliberate but was a total fluke) and peach crumble for dessert. It was pretty good if I do say so myself. Of course, being me, I lost my printout of the recipe and had to run back and forth from the computer to the kitchen and ended up missing some steps in the stuffed shells recipe but it all worked. I used less onion and more artichoke hearts, and as I couldn't find frozen artichoke hearts, I used canned marinated ones. Also I missed the step about adding the wine but we liked the result so I would make it again my way.

Heart Stuffed Shells
adapted from Deb Perelman's recipe at bon

1/2 box large shell pasta (~32 shells from my box)

3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cans marinated artichoke hearts, drained (~ 1 lb)
2 large egg yolks
1 c grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

4 tbsp butter
1/4 c flour
2 c milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c ricotta cheese
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

 Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside.

Melt 3 tbsp of butter over medium high heat until brown and bubbly, stirring in the solids as they separate. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and mix well, then add the onion and saute until they are light brown, about 5 minutes. Add the artichoke hearts and cook them until they are softened a bit, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the lemon juice, cheese, egg yolks and salt and pepper and pulse until well mixed and chopped.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tbsp butter. Add the flour and milk and whisk well to blend. Add the garlic and bring to a boil. Once boiling and thickened, add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper and turn down the heat to medium.

Pour about half of the sauce into the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking dish and spread evenly over the bottom. Stuff the shell with about 1 tbsp of the artichoke mixture and lay into the sauce. Continue until all the shells are filled and nestled into a single layer in the baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the filled shells.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle with basil or parsley if desired and serve.

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