Valentine’s Day — synonymous with hearts and the color red.
It has a long history, steeped in blood.
Blood that runs through your veins, pumps from your heart, through your body, quickening your pulse, as your heart flutters and your skin becomes heated, flushed pink– maybe red, in anticipation of the touch of your loved one.
My favorite love poem is by Pablo Neruda.
I share it with you today, not only because it is utterly beautiful but because it speaks to the heart of the dish I have created for you this Valentine’s Day.
Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
This is the root of my dish. The deepest hues of red found in nature, imbue this dish with its ruddy stain and yet — I didn’t wish it to be sweet. Even with citrus and sugared beet and pomegranate, I wanted this dish to be like love — deep, sensual, sometimes dark, with a bit of a bite but paired always with the purity of something creamy, soft and pale in juxtaposition — like joy, like a new baby’s fragrant flesh, like the naiveté of a young lover’s first kiss.
As I thought about the flavor palette for this Intermezzo, I chose beet root for its earthy, dark taste, with just a hint of sweetness; blood orange for its fragrance and hue but also its citric zing; pomegranate for its sour as well as sweet qualities; and then I decided on thyme. Rosemary seemed too obvious and might just overpower, stealing the show but thyme — thyme is a gracious herb, yielding and harmonious, it nurtures and supports other flavors with its warm, aromatics. And thyme fittingly, originates from the Greek word thymon, meaning “courage.” The kind of courage one must muster to declare your love for the first time — thyme is also long considered an aphrodisiac.
But we were still in danger of being a little too sweet. It lacked ardor, it needed something stronger, like that bite on the neck at the height of passion, to take it over the edge — radish. Sharp, spicy, could turn bitter if used in the wrong proportions. It was risky, like love — radish was perfect.
Pairing it with a creamy, but tart and earthen scented goat cheese, sprinkled with thyme leaves and crushed almonds would ensure a rich, silken mouth-feel, with neither flavor (sorbet nor cheese) becoming overbearing. The almonds would lend the dish some much-needed texture and crunch to round out the experience.
The result was divine.
My husband raved and devoured it.
I ate each bite slowly, luxuriating in the flavor play and textural balance.
A small serving goes a long way.This dish is meant to whet the appetite for a richer meal and the promise of what comes after. . .
Pair it with the drink created especially for it by Otis’ from Taste on The N8tion, or with a slim glass of dry champagne to cleanse the palate.
But whatever you do — enjoy!
Savory Pomegranate, Beet Root and Blood Orange Sorbet
- 1 1/2 lbs red beets, trimmed, peeled and cut into four
- 3 large or 4 med radishes, cleaned, trimmed and cut in two (leave the peel in tact)
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
- 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed blood orange juice
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 3 sprigs of thyme leaves removed and crushed between your fingers
- 1/4 tsp salt
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cover the beets with just enough water to completely submerge them and boil until they are fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Halfway through cooking time, add the radishes and cook until fork tender as well.
Drain the water.
Process the hot beets and radishes in a food processor or blender with the remaining ingredients, until smooth puree is formed.
Chill the mixture for an hour, finish with an ice cream maker as directed by manufacturer or freeze in an airtight container for another 2 to 4 hours before removing to serve. Let thaw 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with creamy chèvre , topped with a sprinkle of fresh thyme and crushed almonds.