This Valentine's Day we were treated to an evening with friends, celebrating marriage, and being reminded of who we fell in love with when we married each other in the first place! It is such a special evening every year that we would never want to miss out.
The past couple of years, I have had the privilege of preparing a simple, but elegant meal for the group to enjoy. This year we enjoyed fresh farmer's market produce, including the salad that starred (my favorite) Shepherd's Farms mixed greens, as well as Root's Farms beets, avocados and (store-bought) goat cheese, all tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. For the entree, we had a light, but filling manicotti with homemade pasta and a homemade ricotta filling with fresh farmer's market asparagus and garlic scallions. Finally, for dessert...we had a large group, so I served up Ina Garten's Mocha Icebox cake that layers a mocha whipped cream/mascarpone with chocolate chip cookies. The second dessert was my Daring Baker's challenge:
The February 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.
For Valentine's Day, I decided to do the classic paring of chocolate and raspberries...how can you go wrong? The panna cotta was delicately layered with raspberry puree and topped with chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries. Instead of using the Nestle recipe, I decided to go with another Giada inspired recipe for the florentines that features slivered almonds with orange zest and was then dipped in chocolate.
It was fairly simple and highly recommended. Panna cotta is delicious on its own without layering the flavors, as I did. It could be enjoyed with a simple topping of fruit and a drizzle of honey or a berry coulis or whatever sounds delicious to you! Here is the recipe if you are interested.