How to make a special Valentine's Day meal at home

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Valentine's Day is next Monday, and for many, going out to eat is still not an option, never mind the fact that it falls on a Monday night. But if you decide to stay home, can you still bring the whimsy and romance on a weeknight? Bryan Roof, executive food editor for Cook’s Country magazine and an on-screen test cook for Cook’s Country, joins us to share some quick and easy five ingredient meals to bring the magic to your Valentine's Monday.

Recipes featured in this segment:

Gnocchi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Ricotta, and Spinach
Serves 4 to 6   Total Time: 30 minutes

2 pounds vacuum-packed, refrigerated, or frozen gnocchi
1/2 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, patted dry and chopped, plus 1/4 cup tomato oil
8 ounces (8 cups) baby spinach
8 ounces (1 cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese, room temperature
Staple Ingredients: Extra-virgin olive oil Table salt Pepper

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add gnocchi and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until just cooked through. Reserve 11/2 cups cooking water, then drain gnocchi and set aside. Wipe pot dry with paper towels.

2. Meanwhile, toss panko with 1 tablespoon olive oil in bowl. Microwave panko, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, 1 to 4 minutes; set aside to cool.

3. Heat tomato oil in now-empty pot over medium heat until ­shimmering. Add sun-dried tomatoes and spinach, 1 handful at a time and cook, ­stirring constantly, until spinach is uniformly wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in cooked gnocchi and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water and toss to coat.

4. Off heat, stir in ricotta until well combined. Adjust consistency with remaining 1 cup reserved cooking water as needed and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle individual portions with toasted ­bread crumbs. Serve.

Roasted Salmon and Broccoli Rabe with Pistachio Gremolata
Serves 4   Total time: 25 minutes

1/4 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped fine
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedges for serving
1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into 11/2‑inch lengths
4 (6- to 8‑ounce) skinless salmon fillets, 1 inch thick
Staple Ingredients: Extra-virgin olive oil Table salt Pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine pistachios, parsley, and lemon zest in bowl; set gremolata aside until ready to serve.

2. Toss broccoli rabe with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in bowl. Arrange on half of rimmed baking sheet. Pat salmon dry with paper towels, rub with 2 teaspoons oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Arrange salmon skinned side down on empty half of sheet.

3. Roast until centers of salmon are still translucent when checked with tip of paring knife and register 125 degrees (for medium-rare) and ­broccoli rabe is tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle salmon with reserved gremolata and serve with lemon wedges.

Steak Tips with Ras el Hanout and Couscous
Serves 4   Total Time: 25 minutes

11/2 pounds sirloin steak tips, trimmed and cut into
2‑inch pieces 21/2 teaspoons ras el hanout, divided
3/4 cup couscous
2 ounces (2 cups) baby ­spinach, chopped
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Staple ingredients: Vegetable oil Table salt Pepper

1. Pat steak dry with paper towels and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons ras el hanout, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat 2 ­tablespoons vegetable oil in 12‑inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add steak and cook until well browned all over and meat registers 120 to 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 7 to 10 minutes, flipping as needed. Transfer to ­cutting board, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest while cooking couscous.

2. Add 11/4 cups water, couscous, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 ­teaspoon ras el hanout to now-empty skillet and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit until couscous is tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Fluff couscous with fork, stir in spinach and pomegranate seeds, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice steak thin and serve with couscous.

Chocolate Truffles
Makes 64 truffles          Time: 1 hour, 2 hours resting and 4 hours chilling

2 cups (12 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract Pinch salt
1 1⁄2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened

1 cup (3 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa
1⁄4 cup (1 ounce) confectioners' sugar

Before you begin:
In step 3, letting the chocolate to rest on the counter for 2 hours allows it to “cure”, and contributes to its creamy texture. In step 5, running your knife under hot water and wiping it dry makes cutting the chocolate easier. In addition to the related variations, the truffles can be flavored with 2 tablespoons of your favorite flavored liqueur. We recommend using one of the test kitchen’s favorite baking chocolates, Callebaut Intense Dark L-60- 40NV or Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar for this recipe. If giving the truffles as a gift, place each one in a 1 1/2-inch candy cup liner and then place the truffles in a gift box. Keep refrigerated until giving.

1. FOR THE GANACHE: Lightly coat 8-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Make parchment sling by folding 2 long sheets of parchment so that they are as wide as baking pan. Lay sheets of parchment in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra hanging over edges of pan. Push parchment into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing flush to pan.

2. Microwave chocolate in medium bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until mostly melted and few small chocolate pieces remain, 2 to 3 minutes; set aside. Microwave cream in measuring cup until warm to touch, about 30 seconds. Stir corn syrup, vanilla, and salt into cream and pour mixture over chocolate. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, set aside for 3 minutes, and then stir with wooden spoon to combine. Stir in butter, one piece at a time, until fully incorporated.

3. Using rubber spatula, transfer ganache to prepared pan and set aside at room temperature for 2 hours. Cover pan and transfer to refrigerator; chill for at least 2 hours. (Ganache can be stored, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.)

4. FOR THE COATING: Sift cocoa and sugar through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl. Sift again into large cake pan and set aside.

5 Gripping overhanging parchment, lift ganache from pan. Cut ganache into sixty-four 1-inch squares (8 rows by 8 rows). (If ganache cracks during slicing, let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes and then proceed.) Dust hands lightly with cocoa mixture to prevent ganache from sticking and roll each square into ball. Transfer balls to cake pan with cocoa mixture and roll to evenly coat. Lightly shake truffles in hand over pan to remove excess coating. Transfer coated truffles to airtight container and repeat until all ganache squares are rolled and coated. Cover container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. Let truffles sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Air Fryer Cheesecake
Serves 8 (Makes one 6-inch cake).   Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling, plus 3 hours cooling, plus 30 minutes standing.

6 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon plus 2⁄3 cup (42⁄3 ounces) sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch plus 1⁄4 teaspoon table salt 18 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature

1. Pulse cracker pieces in food processor to fine crumbs, about 20 pulses. Add melted butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, cinnamon, and pinch salt and pulse to combine, about 4 pulses. Sprinkle crumbs into 6-inch springform pan and press into even layer using bottom of dry measuring cup. Wipe out processor bowl.

2. Place springform pan into air-fryer basket and place basket into air fryer. Set temperature to 350 degrees and cook until crust is sets and turns light golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Let cool on wire rack while making filling.

3. Process cream cheese, vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 2/3 cup sugar in now-empty processor until combined, about 15 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add sour cream and eggs and process until just incorporated, about 15 seconds; do not overmix. Pour filling over crust in pan, smooth top, and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

3. Return pan to air-fryer basket and place basket into air fryer. Set temperature to 300 degrees and cook until tiny bubbles form in cream cheese mixture and edges begin to set, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until top is golden brown, center is slightly jiggly, and cheesecake registers 150 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off air fryer and let cake sit in basket for 30 minutes.

4. Transfer cheesecake to wire rack. Run small knife around edge of cake, and let cheesecake cool in pan to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.

5. About 30 minutes before serving, run small knife around edge of cheesecake. Remove sides of pan and slide cake onto serving platter. Serve.

This segment aired on February 10, 2022.

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