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Sweetheart Dinner Menu

Surprise your beloved with these recipes that are sure to spark romance any day of the week!

Celery Root and Apple Salad with Smoked Salmon

Serves 8

This recipe makes a beautiful starter course. Celery root is one of those underappreciated ingredients that deserves more love. Pick celery roots that are heavy for their size, which means there won’t be a hole in the center. Taste the celery root after cutting, and if it seems tough or too strongly flavored, then blanch it for a few seconds in salted boiling water followed by a dunk in ice water to retain its crunch. This is delicious with any Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay and something special to share.

1 medium celery root (1 to 1-1/2 pounds or so) 1 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup buttermilk 2 tablespoons each whole grain and smooth Dijon mustard, or to taste 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste 2 teaspoons sherry or brown rice vinegar Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 large Fuji or other tart-sweet apple peeled and cut into julienne 1 pound very thinly sliced cold smoked salmon 3 – 4 ounces fresh salmon caviar (or sturgeon caviar) Chervil or dill sprigs

Peel, thinly slice and chop the celery root into a thin julienne. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, mustards, lemon juice, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste until smooth. Stir in celery root and apple to evenly coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This is best done at least an hour ahead and chilled for the flavors to develop.

Mound the celery root mixture on plates and artfully arrange the salmon on top. Top with caviar and chervil sprigs and serve immediately.

Scrumptious Macaroni and Cheese:

 Serves 8 to 10

Properly made, macaroni and cheese can be transcendent. It should be delectable with a velvety sauce, and the pasta should be firm. There should be just enough toasted bread crumbs on top to add some crispiness.

Start with a béchamel sauce made by making a roux. Add milk, a little nutmeg, cayenne, dry mustard and a bay leaf. Cook this for 30 minutes to deepen the flavor. Then, add both a tangy cheddar and a nutty Gruyere. Pour it over cooked macaroni or shells that cup the cheese sauce.

Top with a judicious amount of panko bread crumbs mixed with some more cheese and then drizzle a little cream around the sides before the pan goes into the oven to ensure nicely crisp edges. What could be better than sharing decadent macaroni and cheese and a glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay with your sweetheart?

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 teaspoons melted butter and more for buttering dish 1/2 cup flour 5 cups milk 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 2 teaspoons salt or to taste 1 bay leaf 1/4 cup dry sherry 4 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided 3 cups shredded Swiss Gruyère cheese 1 pound large shells or elbow macaroni such as conchiglie, cooked al dente in salted water 1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oven to 350°. Toss the panko bread crumbs with the 2 teaspoons melted butter on a baking sheet. Toast the bread crumbs until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1/2 cup butter over medium heat then whisk in the flour. Stir until the mixture is smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk. Add the dry mustard, white and cayenne pepper, nutmeg, salt, bay leaf and sherry. Heat and stir to boiling, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning to your preference. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Stir in 3 cups of the cheddar and all the Gruyère until melted. Pour the sauce over the cooked macaroni in a large bowl, stirring until all of the macaroni is coated. Pour the macaroni into a well-buttered 9-by-13-inch casserole. Drizzle heavy cream around the edges of the casserole. Sprinkle on it the remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese, then the toasted bread crumbs.

Cover the casserole with aluminum foil. Bake 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered an additional 10 minutes. Put under a preheated broiler for 5 minutes to crisp and brown.

Bucatini with Pancetta and Pecorino

Serves 4

This dish exemplifies how just a few fine ingredients can create a superb dish. The key in this recipe is to use a quality pancetta or bacon. Bucatini is spaghetti-shaped, but a little thicker and hollow in the center. You could certainly use regular spaghetti of good quality, too. All kinds of variations are possible within this recipe; including the addition of finely chopped ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced and sautéed onions, tender spinach leaves. Pair with a glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir!

1 pound dried bucatini or thick spaghetti 6 ounces good quality thick sliced pancetta or bacon cut into matchsticks 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (4 ounces) Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring 3 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the bucatini and cook till just tender but firm to the bite (al dente).

While the pasta is cooking add the olive oil to a large sauté pan large enough to hold the pasta later on. Over moderately high heat, sauté the pancetta till browned and nearly crisp. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Quickly drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and add to the sauté pan. Using tongs, toss with the bacon. Add the parsley, zest and cheese and toss again adding the reserved pasta water. Cover and let rest for one minute on very low heat to allow pasta to absorb the flavors. Serve immediately in warm bowls with grindings of black pepper to taste.

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