These recipes originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of HomeLife Magazine.
Set the table of your dreams.
I’m fairly certain I’ve shared with you my penchant for movies that feature a culinary theme. Fortunately, every now and then one comes along that I can watch over and over again. In this case it’s Nora Ephron’s “Julie & Julia.” I love it so much it makes me wish time travel were real and I could teleport back to 1948 Paris to witness Julia Child as she began her budding culinary career. Or at least be in a little apartment above a pizzeria in Queens where Julie teaches herself to cook by night. After countless replays, I’ve come to the realization as to why I give myself grace to watch this movie again and again — both women host enviable dinner parties, and I find myself daydreaming about being a guest at both of them.
One frosty February morning while this daydream was still spinning in my head, my cousin Kim called. Our conversation soon turned to food and sharing recipes as it often does. She told me about the most special dinner party she’d ever attended and details of how the table was set with fine china, water goblets, and linens. Candles were lit and flowers arranged down the length of the table. She also said that for this occasion the men wore tuxedos and the wives wore long dresses. Posh! It was a Valentine’s Day dinner for a tight-knit circle of friends — and my mind was spinning once again.
The guys, she explained, were thrilled with the invitation as they were off the hook to secure a reservation at a suitable restaurant on the busiest night of the year. Her girlfriends confided that they would use this as an opportunity to shop for new dresses before researching recipes for the most lavish dish to bring.
Kim shared, in spite of all the finery of the evening, the most special aspect was a little something her host had planned ahead of time. Between each of the four courses (appetizer, salad, main course, and dessert), the host posed a question to each guest. In return, their answers made for great dinner conversation.
How did you and your spouse meet?
What drew you to one another?
What is your favorite characteristic of your spouse?
What is your favorite memory together?
Wrapping up our conversation, Kim left me with this statement: “It was just a really sweet way to learn more about our friends.”
You know how things typically come in threes? One, having just watched the movie followed by, two, my chat with Kim, I felt inspired to move from merely witnessing truly great gatherings from the fly-on-the-wall perspective to, three, hosting a Valentine’s Day dinner for my closest friends.
If you’re a daydreamer like me and tired of waiting for the invention of teleportation, make it come true this month. I hope these recipes help to inspire your event.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Burrata Cheese Crostini | Makes 8 servings
16 oz. container burrata filling (BelGioioso®)
2 small baguettes (8-9 inches long)
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
6 oz. grape or heirloom tomatoes (halved)
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced basil
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 heaping tsp. red onion (minced)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 oz. arugula
1 Tbsp. lemon basil vinaigrette
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice baguette into one-inch rounds and place on a cookie sheet. Melt butter and combine with garlic powder. Spread mixture evenly on each round. Bake for seven or eight minutes, or until slightly golden brown. Set aside and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Turn the oven to broil setting. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, oil, basil, vinegar, fresh garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. Pour onto a small cookie sheet and place in the oven for two minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to blister. Remove from heat and pour tomato mixture into a small serving bowl. Place the chilled burrata filling in a small serving bowl. In a medium serving bowl, toss the arugula with vinaigrette. Place all three bowls on a plate. Arrange toasted crostini rounds on the platter next to the dressed arugula. Add a cheese knife to the platter for spreading and a spoon and small tongs for your guests to assemble the appetizer in this order: toasted crostini, cheese, tomatoes, and arugula.
For a twist, you could also use honey-flavored goat cheese. It pairs well with the toppings! — Tip from Laura
Beef Tenderloin | Makes 8 servings
1 large whole beef tenderloin
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Unwrap whole beef tenderloin from packaging and rinse under cool water. Pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper generously on all sides. Position beef in a roasting pan and place into the oven for six to eight minutes. Turn temperature down to 350 degrees and cook for about 10-12 minutes. Pull beef from the oven when internal temperature reaches no higher than 115-120 degrees. Cover beef with an aluminum foil tent and let beef rest for 10-15 minutes. With a sharp knife, slice beef into three-inch rounds before serving.
“If you like the flavor of rosemary, create a paste with salt, pepper, rosemary, and olive oil. Spread evenly over the meat before cooking.” — Laura
Tiramisu | Makes 9 servings
6 egg yolks
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2/3 c. milk
1 lb. mascarpone cheese
1-1/4 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. strong coffee or espresso (chilled)
1/8 tsp. non-alcoholic rum flavoring
6–7 oz. package lady fingers
Unsweetened cocoa powder (for dusting)
In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the yolk mixture gently boils (one minute). Remove from heat and pour into a small bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the yolk mixture and refrigerate for about an hour. Remove mascarpone cheese from refrigerator to soften while the yolk mixture chills. Once the yolk mixture is fully chilled, transfer to a large bowl and whisk together with the mascarpone cheese until smooth. With an electric mixer, beat heavy cream and vanilla until stiff peaks form. In a small bowl, combine chilled coffee (or espresso), rum flavoring, and two tablespoons of water. Split the lady fingers in half lengthwise and arrange a single layer in the bottom of the ungreased 7-inch-by-11-inch baking dish. Drizzle with half the coffee mixture. Spread half the mascarpone mixture over the top of the lady fingers followed by half of the whipped cream. Repeat this layer again: lady fingers, drizzle, mascarpone, whipped cream. Dust the top with cocoa powder. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours before serving.
Laura Schupp is the author of Our Newlywed Kitchen: The Art of Cooking, Gathering & Creating Traditions. Learn more about Laura at OurNewlywedKitchen.com.