Before I get to the sweet treats of Valentine’s Day, let’s consider its savory side. As in gooey mounds of cheese, golden caramelized onions, and smokey bacon, cloaked in creamy custard. That’s right, quiche. Or, in honor of today’s theme, a Sweetheart Tart. Who wouldn’t want chocolate AND a “quiche” on a day set aside for romance.
I learned at an early age how appreciative people are with a home-cooked meal. In fact, in the world of love, food must be the primary language (OK, secondary).
Part of it is the time factor. Folks realize that cooking takes time. And giving up even a little of such a precious commodity always turns heads.
Of course, some things require more time than others. Like the first quiche I ever made for the family. It was at the ripe old age of 12. This particular recipe was a spin-off from the traditional Quiche Lorraine in Julia Child's "Mastering The Art of French Cooking," and the part that piqued my interest had to do with the onions. In my limited experience at that time, onions were typically relegated to supporting cast status, worthy of little fuss. But in Julia's recipe, there was a full paragraph devoted to exactly how long and at what temperature the huge mountain of thinly sliced yellow onions sitting on my cutting board should be cooked. The directions were specific: "Cook the onions in a very heavy skillet with the oil and butter over very low heat, stirring occasionally until they are extremely tender and a golden yellow. This will take about an hour."
Imagine that! Devoting so much burner time to plain old onions. What effect could time and temperature possibly have on such a pungent vegetable? In spite of my skepticism, I managed to stick with the directions long enough to be rewarded with the answer. How amazing that this stalwart companion of beer batter and sinus-stompin’ chili mellowed under the right conditions to a smooth sweetness, with a sublime depth of flavor I had never before experienced. It was magical.
The following recipe, which I've adapted from "Mastering The Art of French Cooking," is a close match to the one I had that day in the wine country bistro.
Of course, another way to nudge good times into being at some point today is with chocolate. Because there’s little time to waste today, let’s go with something straightforward and simply delicious: Mrs. Field’s Monster Chocolate Chunk cookies. You can be reassured that lovingly prepared food always charms the socks off folks.
Which is always a great start on Valentine’s Day!