By: Michele Wolfson
The days are cold and short this time of year, but at least we have one bright and exciting occasion to look forward to in this dark month: Valentine’s Day. But with Valentine’s Day as commercialized as it is, there is a good chance that if you dine out, the joint will be packed like sardines with couples trying to enjoy a romantic dinner.
Another reason to avoid going to a restaurant is because often eateries will forgo their usual options for a choice between two or three courses, which means that unless you’re going to a specialty vegan/vegetarian restaurant, you’re almost certain to find mainly meat or dairy products on every menu. So, just forget about it and impress your loved one by cooking! Besides, a home-cooked meal is much more romantic and you can choose whatever veg dishes your vegetarian-influenced little heart desires.
If you’re having a hard time coming up with ideas (or if you just started dating a vegetarian and are completely lost), fear no more: we’ve got you covered. We are featuring a 3-Part Series for the perfect vegetarian V-Day menu. Below is course #1. Stay tuned for courses 2 and 3!
Appetizer: Creamy Mushroom Soup with Sauteed Wild Mushrooms Recipe
If you ever find yourself in Gloucester, Massachusetts, have a meal at Duckworth Bistrot for amazing, locally grown eats. The reason I mention this is because they also serve the best mushroom soup drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. The decadent, rich, and sexy soup served at this restaurant inspires the recipe below.
Need another reason to use mushrooms for a vegetarian Valentine’s Day meal? The Greeks and Romans thought mushrooms to be an aphrodisiac, and Chinese herbalists have used them for centuries to promote health and virility. The earthiness of the mushrooms paired with the tanginess of the Pecorino Romano and balanced by the sweetness of the wine makes this the perfect vegetarian Valentine’s Day starter.
Adapted from marthastewart.com
2 ounces each dried porcini, and dried morel mushrooms
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds wild mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Madeira wine, or cognac
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, freshly shaved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Place porcini and morels in a medium bowl, and pour in 6 cups boiling water. Let stand until the mushrooms are softened, about 15 minutes.
- Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon, chop, and set aside.
- Pour the mushroom liquid through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, leaving behind solids and any sand in the bottom; reserve the liquid.
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the wild and reserved mushrooms, in two batches if necessary, and cook, tossing occasionally, until they have released all of their juices and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add Madeira, and cook, deglazing or scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes.
- Sprinkle the mixture with flour, and stir to coat.
- Stir in reserved mushroom liquid; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally to allow flavors to blend, about 30 minutes. Remove 1 cup mushrooms with a slotted spoon, and toss with parsley; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
- Pour remaining soup in small batches into bowl of a food processor; carefully puree until smooth, and return to saucepan. Stir in cream; season with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with the reserved mushrooms, pecorino cheese and serve hot.
Michele Wolfson is a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute and is passionate about all areas of food, from writing about it, to photographing, growing, cooking, and consuming it. A vegetarian since she was seven years old, Michele knows the ins and outs of enjoying a healthy vegetarian lifestyle in Manhattan, which she writes about for Examiner.com as its Manhattan Vegetarian Examiner.
For more on Valentine’s Day, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)