Valentine Edition: Dinner and A Movie

​in Sage and Shallot Brown Butter on Arugula Salad

Beverage: Italian Prosecco or a French Sparkling Rosé

Get the rundown on the movie and the recipes after the jump.

Film Breakdown: What says love more than a film set in Paris? This film opens with a narrator introducing the characters and their pleasures. Discovering a child's item from decades past in her apartment, Amélie (Audrey Tautao) is inspired to perform random acts of kindness. Director Jean Pierre Jeunet takes us on a colorfully fanciful journey as we follow Amélie as she falls for a young man whose strange collection of photos she has found and seeks to return. Tautao is stunning as Amélie and Jeunet employs gets into the hearts and quirks of each character. In French with subtitles. Stream it through Netflix.

Make it a double feature: Stranger Than Fiction (2006) Will Farrell, Maggie Gyllanhal, 

​Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah. This quirky love story centers around an IRS employee caught in a novelist's plot. 


Salted Caramel Popcorn with Lavender Flowers and Dark Chocolate

For this one, we wanted to use lavender to enhance our Valentine theme. Lavender is an herb with calming properties and is often associated with relaxation. It has a light, floral flavor and is used in savory European herb mixes or in sweet or dark chocolate bars. We decided to Ask the Chef what the best application of lavender would be for our popcorn and consulted Chow Bella's resident chef Carol Blonder, who suggested pairing the delicate flower with dark chocolate and salted caramel. So we did. The mix is perfect for the film.

​1 cup of brown sugar
1 stick of salted butter (if you use unsalted, then just add an extra pinch or two of salt)
half cup of rice syrup (light corn syrup will also work)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of sea salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

dark chocolate cut into small pieces or nibs
dried lavender flower (Available at Whole Foods)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Layer a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Spread undressed popped corn on to it.

Place brown sugar, rice syrup, and butter in a heavy pot and heat until it melts together. Stir to prevent burning. After mixture has boiled, stir in vanilla. Cut the heat and add the baking soda. It will bubble up a bit. Using great caution (deny the urge to taste what is akin to molten lava) coat the popcorn. If desired, raising your arm to shoulder height, pinch a little sea salt over the popcorn, taking caution to not over salt. Place in oven for 10 minutes. Let cool before adding chocolate. Crush the lavender in your hands before adding a pinch to finish. Start with a little, then add more to taste. I found that the most pleasurable part of this flavor was how the floral scent of the lavender accentuates the bite of the dark chocolate, before the comfort of caramel sets in with its hint of salt; all the components of romance in a bite of popcorn.

1/2 gallon whole milk
1 pint buttermilk
pinch sea salt

Pour milk and buttermilk into heavy non-reactive stockpot. Add the salt. Heat at medium high heat until mixture registers at 175-180 degrees, stirring frequently, but not constantly. When you see it begin to separate start spooning it out into a fine mesh sieve or into a cheesecloth lined colander, careful not to break up the clumps (curd) as you remove them from the whey. Allow the ricotta to drain without pressing it.

Dessert Tip: Reserve some to eat with honey for a soft and sexy dessert, add a small touch of crushed lavender.

Garlic Sage Brown Butter

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 shallots, diced
1 stick of butter, quartered
2-3 leaves of fresh sage

Heat olive oil. Add shallots, then garlic. Cook until golden brown, almost crispy, and then add a quarter stick of butter. Once melted, add sage. Add butter quarter by quarter. Keep on very low heat as not to burn. Add another drizzle of olive oil if needed. Add a couple turns of the pepper mill, and a pinch of sea salt. Keep handy to coat cooked raviolis as you remove them from the water.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

1 butternut squash, cut lengthwise, seeded and cleaned
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 or 3 spoonfuls of ricotta

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub the squash generously with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place face down in baking dish. Toss the garlic cloves in the dish as well and roast for 30 minutes or until soft. Let cool a bit and then scoop into a bowl. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the husks and add to squash. Mix in a couple of spoonfuls of ricotta and salt and pepper to taste. Using an electric mixer will get a smoother finish, but a potato masher and a fork work nicely too.

Once mixed, use a knife or pizza cutter to cut squares of dough from the flat sheets. Place a spoonful of the filling in the center of the ravioli. Brush egg wash around the edges and the place a square of dough on top, pressing to seal.

Boil until they float, about four minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon or spider and place directly into the warm butter mixture.

Ricotta and Egg Yolk Ravioli on Arugula Salad

Baby Arugula tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt/pepper (put on plate first to make a nest for the ravioli)
Homemade Ricotta
Farm Fresh Egg, separated (separate before assembling Butternut Squash Ravioli in order to use whites to seal the ravioli)

If you have a pastry bag or piping tool, use it to pipe a ring large of ricotta enough to hold the egg yolk 

​on the bottom square of pasta. If you do not (I couldn't find mine), spoon a mound of ricotta in the center of the square (cut your squares to hold the size egg yolk you are using) and dig a little well big enough to hold the yolk. Work carefully to not break the yolk. Brush edges with egg wash and attach top square. Boil until it floats, but pull it out immediately. You want the yolk to still be runny, like an over medium egg. Carefully coat with butter mixture and place on arugula.

This is a rich, sensuous, yet playful dish, just right for Valentine's Day. For our meal, we served two Egg Yolk and Ricotta Raviolis and three Butternut Squash Raviolis, grated some fresh Romano (although Pecorino would rock mightily here), a twist of cracked pepper, and a sprig of sage.