Morrisville, N.C. — With Valentine’s Day swiftly approaching couples are frantically searching for a unique way to impress their loved ones. Some will buy chocolate, some will go to the movies, and some will test their kitchen skills, creating a homemade meal for their significant other.
If you’re one of the brave individuals tying up your aprons and digging through search engines for recipes this Valentine’s Day, look no further than these unique and flavorful dishes compiled by the students at The Chef’s Academy in Morrisville.
Last month, the students set out to recreate the eclectic flavors of South America. This cuisine is perfect for your Valentine’s meal, offering sensual and luscious flavors that are complex to the palate and simple to create. Island spices and produce add a unique flair to recognizable dishes, such as grilled flank steak and white beans. You will win your partner’s heart and stomach when they see the beautiful colors and smell the fragrant aroma of these delicious island-inspired dishes.
This South American menu hails from all over the continent, including Brazil, Guatemala, and Ecuador. Students researched each country and its cuisine before preparing the chosen selection of recipes. Each dish contains one or more unique ingredients that are not common to American cuisine, however most large grocers now offer an international isle where these uncommon ingredients can be found.
Salada de Xuxu – This refreshing salad features a unique island squash called chayote. Other ingredients include grapefruit, red onion, mint, and lime juice, all simple and inexpensive ingredients that can be found at any local grocer. With a simple assembly (just toss to incorporate!) this dish is a perfect start to an island spread.
Vatapa – For those seafood lovers, this fish stew is a perfect main course for you and your lover. Students selected this dish as their favorite, one student saying “it’s so simple to put together and yet the flavor tastes like it took all day!” This dish features several unique ingredients including coconut milk, peanuts, bread, and palm oil. The most complicated part of this dish is the preparation, but once it gets going it does the rest of the work on its own.
Matambre with Chimichurri – This dish is a beautiful main course, requiring just a bit of effort but resulting in a luxurious and flavorful ensemble. Students agreed that the ingredients are an unexpected combination, yet play together wonderfully on the palate. Flank steak marinated in a light vinaigrette before it is rolled around in a filling of spinach, herbs and hard boiled eggs, then grilled until medium-well and served with a refreshing chimichurri sauce, which is simply a blend of parsley, cilantro, oregano, onion, lime juice, olive oil and garlic.
Side dishes were Brazilian white beans (cooked in saltless water until tender then mixed with red and green peppers and red onions and tossed in a citrus vinaigrette) and Guatemalan rice, both very simple dishes that are jazzed up with South American flavors common throughout the meal.
For dessert, the class created a pineapple flan, a perfectly refreshing end to a delicious and satisfying meal. To make the flan blend sugar, water, pineapple juice, milk, eggs, rum and cornstarch over heat until thick. Then bake in flan dish.
The students at the Chef’s Academy showed the simplicity behind such complex flavors and proved that these dishes are perfect candidates for your Valentine’s Day meal. If you’re curious about these dishes or wish to find recipes check out www.food.com/recipes/south-american or feel free to email Chef Jamie Brown at brownjam10@.stu.aii.edu!