Home and Garden: Dine with Style

This Valentine’s Day, offer a gourmet experience that your significant other will never forget. Need a little advice from a professional chef? These cooking tips on seasonings, utensils and preparation can help you whip up a romantic Valentine’s Day meal.

“Don’t be intimidated by spices,” said Chef Shauna Petty. One sign of a good chef is the use of seasonings. As a highly-qualified chef with a degree in culinary arts from Oklahoma State University, she has worked in fine dining restaurants such as The Summit Club in Tulsa and Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse in Las Vegas.

“Learn to utilize a variety of spices in the correct portion. Try different combinations. Your range of dishes can expand by effectively using spices,” she explains. “It changes the flavor. Experiment with a neutral, forgiving food such as potato or chicken.”

For Valentine’s Day, think about using spices that are considered aphrodisiac, such as basil, curry, cinnamon, vanilla, rosemary, celery or cayenne pepper.

Thyme, rosemary and marjoram are better for meats like beef, veal and lamb, while tarragon, fennel and chervil are great with lighter fish and chicken dishes. Also for those light meats, thyme, dill or lemongrass can be used. Chives are great for adding an onion flavor to a dish while adding a little color.

The right cooking utensils are also important. Invest in good quality and your tools can last a lifetime. According to Chef Shauna, you will need a top quality whisk, wooden or metal cooking spoons, peeler, pastry brush, measuring cups, tongs and spatula. “I love the new, heat-resistant silicon spatulas; they will have a red handle.”

Quality knifes are an important element in any kitchen. “There are two top brands of ice-forged knifes, Wutshof and Henkel, both German knife makers,” she said. “For superior quality, the blade and handle should be all one piece for better balance and handling.”

There are a wide variety of knives in the market today and it can be difficult to determine the purpose of each. Serrated knives are typically used for slicing bread, while straight edge knives will do the remainder of your kitchen cutting, depending on the size and shape.

The most used knives are all-purpose chef knifes and paring knifes. Chef knives have a long blade and will handle your basic food preparation like chopping, slicing and mincing. While a paring knife’s blade is quite short and used for peeling and coring fruits and vegetables. A filet knife has a long, narrow blade and is handy when trimming fat from meat or skinning fish.

Choose an appropriate size knife for you. “Most women with small hands, like me, would use an 8-inch knife,” said Chef Shauna. “Hold the knife before you buy it to test for balance and handling. Always keep the knife sharpened (it’s safer) and never put an all-purpose knife into the dishwasher. It dulls it.” Knives should be washed by hand and wiped clean immediately after use to prevent discoloration.

Wood and polyethylene cutting boards create less resistance and should be used in place of plastic, ceramic or metal cutting boards. Knives should be stored in knife blocks whenever possible to prevent damage to their sharp blades.
Chef Shauna also offers tips for a perfect Valentine’s Day dinner. First, plan ahead. Go shopping for all the ingredients and prepare the food as much as possible the day before. Have a good execution plan, making sure everything will be ready at the same time and don’t forget to set the mood with special place settings.

Aphrodisiac foods include oysters, avocados, bananas and asparagus. Try the web for new recipes. “Don’t make it too heavy of a meal,” said Chef Shauna. “Do a couple of light courses, like a light salad or appetizer. Make smaller portions and more courses and rest before serving dessert.”

“Your meal can be healthy and yummy,” she said. “Keep it fun, light and special. After all, it’s said that food is the way to the heart.”

Chef Shauna teaches cooking classes in homes and can prepare a meal of your choice while teaching you professional tips and techniques in your own kitchen. These lessons are geared to help you become a better home cook. If you would like to hire a personal chef, or just impress that special someone, call 260-0476 or visit www.chefshauna.com

Guide to spices:

Chicken: Basil, chervil, cumin, fennel, tarragon
Beef:
Chili powder, marjoram, rosemary, thyme
Fish:
Celery seed, dill, lemongrass, sage, thyme

Chef Shauna's Banana's Foster
Ingredients:
¼ cup butter, unsalted
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp rum
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
3 bananas, sliced
Vanilla Ice Cream

Preparation:

In a sauté pan, combine the butter and brown sugar. Cook on medium high heat until bubbly and completely combined. Add the rum and light to flambé (optional). Cook off alcohol for 30 seconds. Add the bananas, vanilla, and cinnamon and mix well. Serve hot over 1 or 2 scoops of ice cream.

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