Fall in Love with These Valentine’s Day Meal Ideas
Culinary pros offer tips and tricks for preparing dishes that woo
Toronto, Ont., January 30, 2018 – Wondering what to serve that special someone on Valentine’s Day? Certain foods lend themselves to a romantic meal better than others, says one of Canada’s top chefs.
According to John Morris, Executive Chef of the CN Tower, date night meals should be kept simple, light and mess-free. “Think short noodle cuts and lighter seasonal ingredients, such as seafood or vegetarian fare,” he said, adding that seasoning with pungent spices should be minimized.
Chef Morris shared his ideas for simple, creative date night dishes at a recent culinary speed dating event for journalists and bloggers at the top of the CN Tower, where 10 up-and-coming Toronto chefs wooed guests with their culinary skills. The chefs, graduating student chefs from Toronto’s leading George Brown Chef School, prepared a variety of noodle dishes and had seven minutes to impress each guest before their dishes were scored according to simplicity, creativity, personality, and taste.
The creators of the top three dishes each received a $2,000 scholarship prize for courses at George Brown Chef School, courtesy of event sponsor No Yolks® noodles.
Taking first place was Chef Lucas Hum, who created an “Eggless Bacon Carbonara” dish. Chef Kshitiz Sethi took second place with his “Royal Rose Pudding” dish and Chef Janikka Murray placed third with a recipe called “Mushroom and Bacon Stroganoff.”
Chef Morris explained that shortcut noodles, such as No Yolks, make an ideal date-night meal as they are quick and easy to prepare, light and great tasting. “Shortcut noodles go with just about any ingredient so it’s easy to be creative and have fun with a noodle dish, whether it’s with sauce or as the base for a noodle soup,” he said, adding that cooking together can enhance the overall mood on date night.
He also emphasized the importance of balance when preparing a dish. “Aim for a combination of noodles, protein, and vegetables to ensure an easy to digest yet satisfying meal, and of course save room for dessert,” he suggested.
Envisioning an ideal date night dish, Chef Morris created a Valentine’s Day recipe, called Saucy Shrimp Noodles with Lemon Fetish Goat Cheese, that features noodles combined with lemony-flavoured shrimp, wine, and cheese (see recipe below). “The combination of aromatic wine sauce-infused noodles and flavourful, light-tasting shrimp deliver an elegance to this dish that’s perfect for a romantic date night,” he said.
No Yolks® noodles sponsored the event to support up-and-coming Canadian chefs as part of its #BringHomeNoYolks campaign. As Canada’s only yolk-free, cholesterol-free and low-fat noodle brand, “No Yolks®noodles are a popular choice for daters of all ages, particularly among college students and young professionals who don’t have the time to cook, but still want a great-tasting meal that makes a good impression,” said Alistair Senn, No Yolks® Senior Brand Manager. “Our message is that No Yolks® noodles are light, simple and fail-proof to make, go with just about any ingredient and happen to be healthy to boot.”
Visit https://www.facebook.com/NoYolksCanada/ for recipe ideas.
Recipes, along with a summary of date night meal tips from Chef John Morris, Executive Chef of the CN Tower, follow below.
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Date Night Meal Tips from Chef John Morris:
- Use shorter cut noodles for neat and easy consumption.
- Cook noodles in a large pot to allow plenty of room for the noodles to move around and prevent sticking.
- Limit ingredients that linger after consumed, such as garlic, onions and pungent spices.
- Use light-tasting ingredients such as seafood, and limit heavier ingredients.
- Cut leafy and or larger ingredients (such as broccoli, kale, and spinach) into smaller pieces so they are easier to chew and do not get stuck in teeth.
- For impressive plating, top noodle dishes with a small ingredient such as shrimp, using an odd number of ingredients per dish (seven instead of six, for example) for more visual appeal.
- Pipe sauce artistically to create designs, such as a heart, on the plate.
- Warm serving plates in a 200oF oven before plating to keep food warmer longer and allow for extra time to plate for presentation.
Saucy Shrimp Noodles with Lemon Fetish Goat Cheese
By Chef John Morris, Executive Chef, CN Tower
Product: No Yolks® Broad Noodles
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
Tomato Basil Sauce
1 tsp (5 mL) olive oil
4 garlic cloves, halved
4 basil leaves, torn
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
4 cups (1 L) No Yolks® Broad Noodles
1/4 cup (50 mL) sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
1 tsp (5 mL) lemon juice (or to taste)
1 tsp (5 mL) finely grated lemon zest
6 fresh oregano leaves
1/2 lb (225 g) peeled and deveined frozen raw shrimp, thawed (about 24 large shrimp)
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (50 mL) crumbled Lemon Fetish goat cheese (can be substituted with Feta cheese, if desired)
Tomato Basil Sauce
Step 1: Heat olive oil in saucepot at medium heat.
Step 2: Add garlic and cook until tender. Stir to avoid browning.
Step 3: Add basil and stir quickly for a few sections. Add tomatoes and reduce heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
Step 4: Season to taste with sea salt and cracked black pepper.
Step 1: Prepare noodles according to package directions.
Step 2: Meanwhile, bring the tomato basil sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, wine, lemon juice, lemon zest and oregano to a simmer in a large skillet set over medium heat. Stir in the shrimp and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until no pink remains. Season to taste with pepper.
Step 3: Serve the tomato sauce-shrimp mixture over the hot cooked noodles. Garnish each serving with Lemon Fetish goat cheese and microgreens.
Prepare tomato basil sauce in advance to save time on the day of cooking.
Eggless Bacon Carbonara
By Chef Lucas Hum, George Brown Chef School
Product: No Yolks® Dumpling Noodles
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes: 5 servings
1 lb (450 g) bacon, diced
4 cups (1 L) No Yolks® Dumpling Noodles
3 tbsp (45 mL) butter, unsalted
1 head garlic, roasted
1 cup (150 g) cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream, 35%
1/2 cup (65 g) parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: 1/4 cup leeks, finely sliced and 1/2 bunch basil, chiffonade
Step 1: Place diced bacon in a skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Cookout the fat, stirring occasionally until crispy, about 8 minutes.
Step 2: Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
Step 3: Remove crispy bacon bits and set aside. Drain remaining bacon grease on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon grease in the pan.
Step 4: Return the pan to medium heat and add the butter to melt. Add garlic and tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute.
Step 5: Stir in heavy cream, then add the cooked and drained noodles to the skillet and toss to coat. Stir in parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Step 6: Serve hot, topped with crispy bacon bits, leeks, and basil to garnish.
Consider frying the leeks in the bacon fat to create a crispy leek garnish to add texture.
Royal Rose Pudding
By Chef Kshitiz Sethi, George Brown Chef School
Product: NO YOLKS® Fine Noodles
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: 4-5 servings
6 tbsp (90 mL) mixed nuts (almonds, pistachio, cashews), chopped
4 cups (340g) NO YOLKS® Fine Noodles
1 cup (250 mL) khoya cheese or unsalted ricotta cheese
6 cups (1500 mL) whole milk
4 tbsp (60 mL) desi ghee butter or unsalted butter
4-5 pcs green cardamom and saffron, ground into a powder
10 tbsp (150 mL) sugar (or to taste)
Garnish chopped nuts of your choice and a sprinkle of rose water.
Step 1: In a pan on high heat, sauté nuts in butter for 2 minutes. Add noodles and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.
Step 2: Add the crumbled khoya or ricotta cheese and mix until it breaks down. Slowly add milk and bring to a boil. Continue to boil on medium high for about 15 minutes until it becomes thick or pale in colour.
Step 3: Add the cardamom/saffron powder and sugar and boil for 2 minutes.
Step 4: Finish with rose water and garnish with chopped nuts of your choice.
Add milk slowly to avoid lump formation and stir continuously to avoid sticking at the bottom.
You can skip the ricotta cheese or khoya and increase the amount of milk by 50% and boil to get the right consistency (ricotta cheese makes the cooking faster).
This dish can also be served cold, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with rose jelly and chocolate.
Mushroom and Bacon Stroganoff
By Chef Janikka Blair Murray, George Brown Chef School
Product: No Yolks® Extra Broad Noodles
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes: 2 servings
1 tsp (5 mL) olive oil
3 slices bacon, diced
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp (15 mL) flour
4 cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 black oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp (15 mL) champagne (any kind) or sparkling wine
1/2 cup (125 mL) mushroom stock or broth
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) thyme, dried
1 tbsp (15 mL) Greek yogurt
1 cup (250 mL) No Yolks® Extra Broad Noodles
1 tsp (5 mL) truffle oil (optional)
Garnish: Goat cheese crumble
Step 1: In a large pot, bring water to a boil.
Step 2: In a separate pot, heat olive oil on medium heat and cook bacon partially. Add the shallot and garlic cloves and cook until fragrant, approximately 3 minutes.
Step 3: Add flour and mix well for 1 minute or until well coated. Add two types of mushrooms and cook until softened. Add champagne and mix well for 2 minutes.
Step 4: Add mushroom stock, salt, pepper and thyme and bring to a boil.
Step 5: Turn heat down to medium low and stir in Greek yogurt. Once fully incorporated, remove from heat.
Step 6: Once water has boiled in the separate pot, add noodles and cook according to package instructions. Drain and mix noodles with mushroom sauce.
Step 7: Serve with truffle oil drizzle, if desired, and crumble goat cheese on top.
Use homemade or store bought stock. The taste of the stock will determine how much seasoning to add to the sauce.