Perfect Valentine Breakfast In Bed

Serving your loved one breakfast in bed is a great way to usher in Valentine's Day.

The Early Show and specialty home furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma are teaming up for "The Perfect Valentine's Day" -- a special, three-part series. And it begins -- at the beginning, with recipes for a to start your day of romance.

The series is chock full of ideas to make the day –- perfect.

The segments originate from the Williams-Sonoma flagship store at Columbus Circle in New York City.

They're hosted by The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. She's joined by culinary expert Tori Ritchie, a San Francisco-based food writer, cooking teacher and host of the long-running "Ultimate Kitchens" on the Food Network. Her latest cookbook is "Party Appetizers: Small Bites, Big Flavors" (Chronicle Books, Fall 2004).

Since Valentine's Day deserves more than cold cereal and toast, Ritchie developed a menu she calls "indulgent, without being predictable."

It includes mango smoothies, ham and egg breakfast tarts, lemon ricotta pancakes with raspberry sauce, and broiled grapefruit.

The menu is fairly simple to prepare.

And, if kids want to help serve Mom or Dad with breakfast in bed, there are several ways they can help.

Of course, you don't have to serve all the above items Ritchie suggests for your Valentine breakfast. She encourages people to mix and match, to create a meal that's right for them.

For instance, for a lighter meal, try the smoothies and the grapefruit. Or maybe you just want to make your kids a big pile of pancakes.

All these dishes are so good, you can't go wrong with any combination!

Ritchie says her mango smoothies are good for the heart, in more ways than one, since they're healthy. Basically, you throw all ingredients into the blender, blend and serve. If your family doesn't like mangos, you can substitute another fruit of your choice -- strawberries would be another excellent pick.

Her ham and egg tarts are like an easy version of quiche. Although the recipe calls for making your own dough/crust, you can also buy the crust. Make the shells the night before, and quickly assemble the rest in the morning. The egg is cracked on top of the tart, so it's sunny-side up -- very, very cute.

Adding ricotta to your pancake batter makes the cakes even fluffier, and the flavor sets them apart from traditional pancakes, making them a special treat for the holiday. And of course, the raspberry sauce -- easily made in a blender -- ties in beautifully with the Valentine theme. Ritchie uses Williams-Sonoma pancake molds to make heart-shaped pancakes, adding a fun touch. If you choose to use similar molds, remember that you have to grease them first.

Ritchie is a big fan of her broiled grapefruit, another healthy addition to breakfast. The sugar broiled on top balances out the sourness of the grapefruit. She explains that it's important to distribute the sugar mixture equally across the top of the grapefruit.

No matter what you serve for breakfast in bed, Ritchie says presentation is important. Adding a single flower in a bud vase and a nicely-folded cloth napkin to the breakfast tray makes the meal even more special.

FOOD FACTS

Mango: Originally from India, mangoes are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. The fruit's skin is green and, as it ripens, it becomes yellow with red mottling. When buying mango, look for unblemished yellow skin blushed with red. Mangoes have a huge flat seed in their middles, and the fruit must be carefully carved away from the seed with a sharp knife.

Ricotta: While we commonly see ricotta cheese in lasagna and manicotti, it's also popular in Italian desserts. That's because it's a cheese with a slightly sweet flavor. The rich cheese is slightly grainy but smoother than cottage cheese.

RECIPES

Mango Smoothies
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and cut into 1-inch dice
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 banana, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Place the mangoes in a plastic bag and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour.
Just before serving, in a blender, combine the frozen mangoes, yogurt, milk, banana, lemon juice and vanilla.
Blend until very smooth.
Pour into chilled glasses and serve immediately.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Outdoors Series,Beach House Cooking,by Charles Pierce (Time-Life Books, 1999).

Ham and Egg Breakfast Tarts
Serves 6

Note: The empty tart shells can be baked the night before you serve them. Cover loosely with a towel or parchment paper and let stand at room temperature. The next morning, fill the shells as directed and bake.

Ingredients:
1 batch basic quiche and tart dough (see related recipe), divided into 6 pieces
4 1/2 oz. ham, cut into 1/2-inch strips
2 Tbs. chopped green onions, green portion only
6 eggs
2 Tbs. heavy cream
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Press the dough into six 4-inch tart pans. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat an oven to 400°F.
Line the tart shells with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until the shells are set and the paper does not stick when lifted, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and continue baking until the shells are golden, 5 to 7 minutes more.
Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 20 minutes.
Line the bottom of each tart shell with 3/4 oz. ham and sprinkle with 1 tsp. green onions.
Crack an egg into the center, pour 1 tsp. cream over the egg and sprinkle with 2 tsp. cheese.
Bake until the whites are set and the yolks are cooked, about 15 minutes.
Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 3 minutes.
Using a pot holder, carefully turn each pan over and tap the bottom to release the tart. Set the tarts on individual plates. Garnish each tart with a pinch of pepper and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Basic Quiche and Tart Dough
Makes enough dough for one 9-inch quiche or tart shell.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3 to 4 Tbs. cold water

In a bowl, stir together the flour and salt.
Add the butter and shortening and, using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut them in until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.
Sprinkle in the water, 1 Tbs. at a time, stirring gently with a fork after each addition and adding only enough of the water to form a rough mass.
Using floured hands, pat the dough into a smooth, flattened disk.
Use immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series,Breakfasts & Brunches,by Norman Kolpas (Time-Life Books, 1997).

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
Makes 12-14 pancakes

Ingredients:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup milk
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, milk, egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and juice until smooth.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and 1⁄8 tsp. of the salt over the ricotta mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
In another large bowl, using a whisk, beat the egg whites until frothy.
Add the remaining 1⁄8 tsp. salt and continue beating until soft peaks form.
Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites into the ricotta mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites.
Preheat a griddle over medium heat. Spray the griddle with nonstick cooking spray.
Ladle 1⁄3 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake.
Cook until bubbles form on top and the pancakes are golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes.
Flip the pancakes and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a warmed plate. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Raspberry Sauce

Note: When finely ground, granulated sugar becomes superfine sugar. It dissolves rapidly, so it's preferred for mixed drinks and other cold recipes, such as this raspberry sauce. To make your own superfine sugar, simply whirl granulated sugar in a blender or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups fresh raspberries or thawed frozen unsweetened raspberries
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup framboise or other raspberry-flavored liqueur (optional)

Place the raspberries, superfine sugar and framboise in a blender or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and puree until smooth. If you prefer a seedless sauce, pass the puree through a fine-mesh sieve.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Chocolate, by Laura Brody (Time-Life Books, 1993).

Broiled Grapefruit
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 large grapefruits, well chilled
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 small fresh mint sprigs

Preheat a broiler.
Cut each grapefruit in half crosswise. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each half, if necessary, so that it will stand upright.
Using a serrated grapefruit knife or a small, sharp knife, loosen the grapefruit segments in each half by first carefully cutting between the fruit and the peel and then by cutting along either side of each segment to free it from the membrane. Leave all the segments in their shells.
Place the halves upright in a baking dish.
In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Using your fingers, sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the grapefruit halves.
Slip under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source and broil until the sugar is uniformly bubbly, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer each grapefruit half to an individual dish and garnish with a mint sprig. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series,Breakfasts & Brunches,by Norman Kolpas (Time-Life Books, 1997).
  • Brian Dakss

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