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Romantic Valentine's Day Brunch -- on a Budget!

NEW YORK -- If you're looking to impress that special someone for Valentine's Day, why not prepare a romantic meal yourself?

As the "Chef on a Shoestring" on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," noted New York chef John Fraser put together a perfect brunch for the occasion - and sought to do it on our paltry $40 budget.

"Early Show" Recipes Galore!
Vote on Next Week's "Shoestring" Main Course

John is the chef and owner of Dovetail. He's spent time on both coasts of the U.S. and both sides of the Atlantic building his reputation for his classical European technique and dedication to artisanal products and farm-fresh produce. When he returned to New York, he opened Snack Taverna and turned around the struggling restaurant, Compass. His latest endeavor, Dovetail, has been extremely well-received and even earned a three-star review from the New York Times, making John one of only 23 chefs in the area to be awarded such a coveted review.

John was automatically entered in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the "Shoestringer" with the lowest ingredients cost will be asked to return to take part in our year-end holiday extravaganza.

And you can play a role in next week's "Chef on a Shoestring" by voting by mobile phone for the main course you'd like to see prepared. Simply click here for the three choices, and the numbers to dial.

MENU
• Heart-Shaped Piquillo Pepper Frittata
• Bananas Foster French Toast
• Champagne and Pomegranate Cocktail

FOOD FACTS

Piquillo Pepper: The name piquillo means "little beak." Traditionally, piquillo peppers are grown in Northern Spain and are hand-picked, then roasted over open fires. The peppers are then peeled, all by hand then packed in jars or tins. The roasting of the pepper gives it a rich, spicy-sweet flavor. (Source: GourmetSleuth.com)

Frittata: An Italian OMELET that usually has the ingredients mixed with the eggs rather than being folded inside, as with a French omelet. It can be flipped or the top can be finished under a broiling unit. An omelet is cooked quickly over moderately high heat and, after folding, has a flat-sided half-oval shape. A frittata is firmer because it's cooked very slowly over low heat, and round because it isn't folded. (Source: Epicurious.com)

Bananas Foster: Created at New Orleans's Brennan's Restaurant in the 1950s, this dessert consists of lengthwise-sliced bananas quickly sautéed in a mixture of rum, brown sugar and banana liqueur and served with vanilla ice cream. It was named for Richard Foster, a regular Brennan's customer. (Source: Epicurious.com)

RECIPES

Heart-Shaped Piquillo Pepper Frittata

INGREDIENTS:
6 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
4 piquillo peppers
1 cup sliced scallions- whites for in frittata, green parts for on top
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup melted butter

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the green piquillo peppers, ricotta cheese, cheddar cheese, and melted butter. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce heat to 325°F, and continue baking for 25 minutes. Cool slightly, and cut into heart shapes!

To see John's other recipes, go to Page 2.

Bananas Foster French Toast

For the French toast
INGREDIENTS:
4 eggs
4 yolks
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
6 pieces thick cut French toast or challah bread

METHOD:
The night before- whisk all the ingredients except the butter in a mixing bowl till combined. Add the thick cut bread and let soak. The next morning over low heat in a nonstick sauté pan slowly brown both sides of the bread. Once brown place in a 325°F oven for 5 minutes, or until the bread starts to puff a bit.

For the bananas
INGREDIENTS:
1/8 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
1/8 cup dark rum

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a skillet with the maple syrup. Place over low heat and cook till the sugar dissolves. Add the bananas and cook till beginning to soften and take color. Add the rum and turn up the heat, tip the pan to burn out the alcohol. Serve immediately over the warm French toast.

Champagne and Pomegranate Cocktail

INGREDIENTS:
Champagne
Pomegranate Liqueur
1 pomegranate

METHOD
Mix equal parts PAMA and champagne in champagne flute, garnish with pomegranate seeds.

So, how did John wind up faring in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?

Heart-Shaped Frittata
eggs $1.77
piquillo peppers $4.95
scallions $0.66
ricotta $1.99
cheddar $1.99
total $11.36

Bananas Foster French Toast
syrup $2.50
bananas $0.90
rum $3.00
cream $2.29
butter $1.99
bread $1.99
total $12.67

Champagne Cocktail
champagne $8.99
pomegranate liquor $3.99
pomegranate $2.50
total $15.48

Grand total: $39.51

Our Leaders Board:

1. Michael Lomonaco $36.82
Porter House

2. Patti Jackson $38.52
I Trulli

3. Daniel Holzman & Michael Chernow $39.53
The Meatball Shop