Famed Chef Shehu Fitzgerald Shares Valentine’s Dining Tips and Recipes

Chef ShehuWell, the wait is almost over. Valentine’s Day 2015 arrives this weekend in all its heart-shaped, lace-frilled splendor. As such, renowned NYC native Chef Shehu Fitzgerald recently took a break from crafting outstanding food to share some inexpensive Valentine’s Day meal-planning tips for keepers of the romantic flame. Chef Shehu is a 20-year veteran of the New York restaurant industry, having honed his culinary talents in illustrious kitchens from the Ritz-Carlton to the Marriott Marquis, and developed a thriving line of signature cooking spices.

“This Valentine’s Day, turn up the romance and have more fun by cooking as a couple,” says the chef, “Cooking together will not only spur new conversation and create wonderful new memories, but couples who learn together—such as preparing new recipes—connect deeper.”

Chef Shehu aims Cupid’s arrows at these low-cost, high in taste Valentine’s Day ideas:

  • Add Some Candlelight: Set the mood with long-stemmed, unscented candles.
  • Take a Plunge with a Seafood Entrée: Fish, lobster, shrimp, oysters and scallops are very popular dishes on Valentine’s Day at most upscale restaurants.  This is because seafood has a well-known reputation of being a natural aphrodisiac.
  • Prepare Fondue for Two: Fondue is an excellent choice for a memorable dinner event.  In this instance, couples can relax and while intimately feeding each other savory or sweet fondues.
  • “Wine Down” with Your Partner: It is always romantic to share a bottle of wine with your significant other on Valentine’s Day. However, it is also equally important to properly pair wine with the right food to truly intensify the enjoyment of eating.  For example, grilled or pan-fried salmon pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Make Food Tastier with Music: The right background music can definitely enhance one’s dining experience.  Here’s a great link to some timeless love songs.

“A home-cooked meal is where the heart is on Valentine’s Day,” Chef Shehu states. The prolific ninth-season champion of Food Network’s Chopped also shared several recipes for a memorable Valentine’s Day feast. Opening the meal with a fresh, bacon-savory Mixed Green Salad, Chef Shehu takes us through preparing his Aged Cheddar Fondue, a Chile Lime Salmon accompanied by quinoa, black bean puree, and corn relish, and tops it all off with luscious Vanilla Pound Cake with lemon glaze. Learn more about Chef Shehu at his website, and be sure to check back here for details on an upcoming giveaway of some of Chef Shehu’s Spice Blends™.

Mixed Green Salad with Tomatoes and Bacon (Makes 4 servings)

photo1Ingredients:

  • 1 tomato
  • 6 oz baby spinach (rough chopped)
  • 1/4 head iceberg lettuce (shredded)
  • 2 oz arugula
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced in halves
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, medium diced
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Add the diced bacon to a sauté pan, then place over medium-low heat. Cook until the bacon is crispy and all the fat is rendered out. Remove bacon, drain on paper towels and set aside. In the same sauté pan, reduce heat to low. Add 1/2 of the lime juice along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove from heat and place in dish (dressing).
  2. Place avocado in bowl. Add another pinch of salt, pepper and the other half of lime juice. Mash with fork until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Add iceberg lettuce, spinach, arugula, 2/3 onion and 2/3 bacon in bowl and toss. Drizzle in 1/2 of the dressing.
  4. Place a dollop of avocado in the center of the plate (use spoon to pull it downwards). Place four pieces of sliced tomatoes on top of the avocado. Divide the salad mixture evenly between the four plates. Arrange on top of tomatoes. Garnish each plate with half of hard-boiled egg. Top each plate evenly with the extra bacon and onions. Drizzle remaining dressing over finished plates.

Aged Cheddar Fondue (Make 4 servings)

Aged Cheddar Fondue

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz aged sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 1 1/4 cups dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons of Chef Shehu’s Spice Blend™ #21
  • 1 pinch of Chef Shehu’s Spice Blend™ #49
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons of kirsch

Directions:

Combine cheese, wine, #21 and #49 together in medium saucepot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and mix until smooth. Add kirsch and cornstarch and stir into the melted cheese mixture to bind it. Pour finished product into fondue pot and serve with desired sides.

Suggested Fondue Dippers:

  • Lightly Steamed Vegetables
  • Crusty Bread Cubes
  • Crackers
  • Fresh Celery
  • Fresh Fruit (e.g. Apples, Pears or Seedless Grapes)
  • Diced cheese
  • Cured Meats
  • Carrots
  • Dried Fruit
  • Crispy Bacon
  • Breadsticks

Chile Lime Salmon
Served with Quinoa, Black Bean Purée and Sweet Corn Relish (Makes 4 servings)

Chile Lime Salmon with QuinoaBlack Bean Purée:

  • 1 16-oz. can black beans
  • 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon of lime zest
  • 1/8 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Put all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.

 

Spice Mix:

  • 1 tablespoon of Chef Shehu’s Spice Blend™ #21
  • 2 tablespoons of Chef Shehu’s Spice Blend™ #107
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon of lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil

Directions: Combine all of the spice ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

 

Quinoa:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium saucepan, combine quinoa, salt, pepper and butter. Add water and cook over medium heat until done (10-15 minutes).

 

Salmon:

  • 4 6-oz salmon fillets cut in half
  • Spice mix (recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil

Directions: Lightly coat the tops of the salmon fillets with Spice Mix. Heat oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lay the fish, seasoned-side down, in the pan and sear for two minutes. Transfer salmon to baking sheet, seasoned-side up, and bake in oven (350 degrees) for 7-8 minutes (or until done).

 

Corn Relish:

  • 4 oz frozen corn kernels (thawed)
  • 1 oz diced red peppers
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onions
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoon of celery leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley

Directions: In a small bowl, combine ingredients and set aside.

Plating Tips (see image)
1. Heat purée until warm in small saucepan.
2. Place spoonful of purée in center of the dinner plate.
3. Place spoonful of quinoa in the middle of the purée.
4. Stack two pieces of salmon on top of each other (in center of quinoa).
5. Add spoonful of corn relish on top of salmon.

Vanilla Pound Cake

Vanilla Pound Cake

Cake:

  • 16 tablespoons butter (½ pound)
  • 1 ½ cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 container chocolate frosting (room temperature)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, poppy seeds and salt. Melt butter in separate bowl and whisk to re-incorporate the butter solids.
  3. In a food processor, add sugar and lemon zest and beat until smooth. Add lemon juice, eggs, vanilla and mix until combined. With machine running, add melted butter and mix until combined. Transfer mixture to large bowl and add flour in three steps while whisking gently. Add mix to loaf pan. Place loaf pan in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until highly risen and golden brown. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn cake onto wire rack and brush on lemon glaze.
  4. Serve sliced pound cake with a dollop of chocolate frosting.

Lemon Glaze:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

Directions: Place ingredients into pot and whisk. Bring mixture to boil and reduce heat. Let simmer until thick.

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