| How to love your friends with food

Friends with Food

What? A very friendly Valentine’s Day dinner

How much? The whole meal evened out to a little less than $10 per person

Why? Because we use any holiday as an excuse to make new and exciting foods for friends

With the Hallmark holiday of love coming up, we thought it would be nice to look at the various ways that Valentine’s Day can be celebrated. These are a few dishes that you can make either for you and your significant other or for a group of friends. February 14 doesn’t have to be about celebrating your love for one specific person. It can be a general celebration of love – we, for instance, made this meal for 15 of our lovely friends. So go on, love your friends, love yourself, love the world, and, most importantly, love chocolate.

Here we’ve put together a three-course meal, but check out our blog on mcgilldaily.com to get some ideas on how to do fun things with chocolate, our favourite reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day. (Think of the chocolate covered strawberries.)

Tips: So that you can enjoy eating the meal with your friends, you can make most of this ahead of time and then heat it up. Make the chocolate lava cakes earlier on in the day (or even the night before). You can also make the soup ahead of time and then heat it up when it’s time to eat. For the fish, you could sear it as people arrive and then stick it in the oven while your guests are enjoying the soup.


14 Carrot Soup – Good as Gold

Serves 4-6 as a meal, up to 15 when served as a course

• 2 tbsp olive oil

• 2 tbsp butter

• 2 onions, sliced

• 1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 pinch dried thyme

• 14 carrots, peeled and sliced (about 6 cups)

• 6 cups vegetable broth

• salt and pepper

Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. When the butter is melted, add the onions and thyme. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden.

Add the carrots, 1/2 tbsp salt, and 1/4 tbsp pepper, and continue to cook for about 5 minutes to build the flavour. Add broth and bring to a near boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Adjust the seasoning as you like, with more salt and pepper to taste.

Puree. You can press the soup through a sieve to get an elegant, velvety texture, or just use a blender for a delicious, thick, “14-carrot good” soup.

Optional garnishes: Créme fraîche or sour cream; fresh herbs, such as chives, tarragon, or parsley.


Rainbow Trout with Pesto*

Depending on how many people you are serving we would recommend one rainbow trout for every two people

• Rainbow trout!

• 1 container of baby tomatoes, halved

• Olive oil

• Parmesan cheese

• Salt and pepper

Rub the skin of the fish with olive oil, salt and pepper; make sure to coat the surface, and don’t worry about putting too much on.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear each piece of fish by browning each side for a few minutes on the hot skillet.

Layer all of the seared pieces of fish in a baking dish, slather it in pesto, and scatter the baby tomatoes on top. Set the oven to broil and stick the dish in for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it – if it looks like the top is about to burn, just turn the oven to bake at 345°F. The fish should remain rare.

For beautiful presentation, we served the fish on a bed of fresh spinach. Next to that was a small serving of fettuccini and black pasta mix, gently tossed in olive oil. We added a dollop of cold pesto, a few halved baby tomatoes from the fish, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Find a recipe for pesto on our blog, at mcgilldaily.com.

Tips: Fish is delicious, healthy, and not too hard to make, but it is also highly controversial when it comes to sustainable eating. To pick a fish that was not only pink and tasty, but also environmentally friendly, we looked to montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx and checked out their section on seafood watch. Not only do they divide various fish into three categories – best choices, good alternatives, or ones to avoid – but you can also look into regional guides and learn about various issues concerning seafood.


Chocolate Lava Cakes

Serves 4. These can be made in individual servings in ramekins or in muffin tins

• 6 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate (or use your favourite 70 per cent dark chocolate bar)

• 6 oz. butter (diced, room temperature)

• 3 eggs

• 1/2 cup granulated sugar

• 1/3 cup flour

• Extra butter for ramekins

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt the chocolate on the stove-top on low heat in a double boiler. When melted, stir in diced butter.

In another bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture starts to whiten. Add this to the melted chocolate. Then add the flour.

Butter 4 individual ramekins (or muffin tins), and pour the chocolate batter in each to about 2/3 full.

Bake for about 10 minutes. Et voilà!

Serve in the ramekins, or remove them from the muffin tins and put on a small plate. Serve with fresh whipped cream or ice cream. Delish!

Tips: You can prepare your chocolate lava cake recipe ahead of time, and then bake them about 10 minutes before you want to serve dessert. You will also want to butter the ramekins from the bottom first, then moving up the sides – it helps the chocolate rise. In terms of baking time: well, it depends on how “lava-y” you want your cakes, but the cakes are usually perfect when the top first cracks.