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Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day: Dine Out this week or host a Union Square Café Dinner Party a la “Fearless Cook” Bill Dorn

Just so we’re clear, everyone in Fallbrook will try to eat out at a local restaurant or buy a Valentine’s dinner at Major Market….that’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, munch or dinner this weekend!

The restaurants and markets need your money so they can keep going in this tough time, keep their employees employed and be there for you when the economy turns around.

Meanwhile, plan a dinner party for sometime in the near future and, perhaps, use this menu from “The Union Square Café Cookbook” (Harper Collins, publishers) as a template.

You may be as fearless as Bill Doan, a friend in the Midwest, who made this whole meal without trying a single recipe first. I’ve dubbed him “Fearless Bill.” He is an experienced cook who once owned a restaurant in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks. He has competence born of experiences… and courage. When quizzed about this culinary feat, he simply shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said that he simply knew they would work. He shared these with me, noting that “The Union Square Café Cookbook” isn’t new, just very good, simple and reliable. I say, what other recommendation does one need?

Grilled Lamb Chops

“Scotta Dita”

(Union Square Café Cookbook)

3 tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. minced garlic

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

½ tsp. kosher salt

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup julienne-cut fresh basil*

12 1½-inch thick rib lamb chops

or 6 loin chops, trimmed of excess fat

1. In a non-reactive bowl, combine the Dijon mustard, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper with 2 tsp. water. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to form a creamy mixture. Stir in the cut basil.

2. Add the chops to the marinade and toss to coat evenly. Marinate the chops for 1 to 3 hours, covered and refrigerated.

3. Preheat a grill, grill pan or barbecue to very hot. Shake the excess marinade from the chops and grill 4 to 5 minutes a side for medium rare or slightly longer for more well done. Transfer to a warm platter and serve.

* To cut basil into julienne, stack several basil leaves together. Roll tightly. Cut into very thin strips.

“Ugly” Potatoes

(Basil Mashed Potatoes

a la Union Square Café)

2 tbsp. pine nuts

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 medium garlic cloves, peeled

and sliced

½ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 cups basil leaves, washed and

dried (2 ounces)

4 cups mashed potatoes

1. In a blender, combine the pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Puree. With the motor running, add the basil leaves and continue to puree until smooth.

2. Add the basil puree to the warm mashed potatoes and, over low heat, stir with a wooden spoon until the puree is completely incorporated and the mixture is piping hot. Serves 4.

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds

and Lemon

(Union Square Café Cookbook)

1 lb. brussels sprouts (fresh) or

frozen, thawed

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 tbsp. poppy seeds

¼ cup white wine

¼ tsp. kosher salt

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut the stems from the brussels sprouts and halve each one lengthwise. Slice each half into thin slices, about 1/8-inch thick, and toss with the lemon juice in a large bowl.

2. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat almost to the smoking point. Stir in the hashed sprouts with the garlic and poppy seeds. Add the white wine and continue stirring for about 3 minutes until the sprouts are bright green and barely crunchy. Reduce the heat to low, season with salt and pepper and cook for l additional minute. Transfer to a warm bowl and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Red Oakleaf and Bibb Salad with Gruyere,

Garlic Croutons and

Dijon Vinaigrette

(Union Square Café Cookbook)


1/8 tsp. kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp. water

1 tsp. minced shallots

4 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. fresh red wine vinegar

½ cup grapeseed oil or vegetable oil


1 cup ½-inch bread cubes

1 garlic clove, unpeeled and smashed

2 heads Bibb lettuce, washed, dried

and gently torn into 2-inch pieces

(about 3 cups)

5 ounces red oakleaf lettuce, stems

cut away, washed and dried

½ cup shredded Gruyere cheese

(2 ounces)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees for the croutons.

2. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar, close tightly with a lid and shake vigorously until the mixture develops a creamy consistency.

3. Spread the bread cubes on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. When done, flavor the hot croutons by tossing in a bowl with the smashed garlic clove.

4. To assemble the salad, pour the vinaigrette into a large bowl. Add the lettuce, half the shredded Gruyere and the croutons. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Mix thoroughly. Garnish with the remaining Gruyere and serve. Serves 4.

Pumpkin tastes good all year, not just at Thanksgiving. This flan is subtle and delicious. It bakes, as many flans do, in a bain-marie (water bath… literally Marie’s bath).

Pumpkin Flan

(Union Square Café Cookbook)


1 ½ cups sugar

½ cup water


1 cup sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

¼ tsp. ground ginger

6 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 12-oz. can evaporated milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup water

1. To prepare the caramel, combine the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat without stirring until it caramelizes into a rich amber color, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately to stop the cooking. If the sugar begins to color unevenly, you may swirl the pan, if necessary, to assure thorough caramelization.

2. Pour equal amounts of the liquid caramel into eight 1-cup crème caramel ramekins or into a 9-inch cake or pie pan. Set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, combine the sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and ginger. Begin mixing at moderate speed and add the eggs. When the eggs are well mixed, about 1 minute, add the pumpkin puree. Continue mixing for 30 seconds until the eggs and puree are incorporated. With the mixer running, add the evaporated milk, vanilla, and water; continue blending for an additional 1 minute until you have a smooth, homogenous mass.

5. Divide the pumpkin flan mixture evenly among the ramekins or pour it all into the cake pan.

6. Place the filled ramekins or cake pan in a deep-sided roasting pan and pour in hot tap water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins to make a bain-marie. Cover the roasting pan with foil and carefully transfer to the middle shelf of the oven. Bake the filled ramekins for 30 to 40 minutes until the flan is just firm and set. (If you use a cake pan, increase the baking time to 60 to 75 minutes.) The cooked flan should jiggle slightly when shaken and a paring knife will come out clean when inserted in the center. Remove the ramekins or pan from the bain-marie and set aside to cool. Once cooked, refrigerate the flan until well chilled to allow it to set.

7. To serve, unmold the flan by running the point of a small paring knife along the side of the ramekins or pan. Cover each ramekin or the pan with a chilled plate and invert. The caramel should spill out to form a sauce for the flan. Serve garnished with cinnamon-flavored whipped cream, if desired. Serves 8.


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