Red Velvet Cake is the ultimate Valentine’s Day dessert. (PHOTO / TNS)
Red is the color of love.
It's the color of the heart. It's the color of blood. But most important, it's the color of passion.
So it is fitting that for Valentine's Day, we are making food that is all red. A meal for your lover should taste as lovely as it looks.
There are plenty of options for red foods, but now is not the best time of year for most of them. Cherries and rhubarb are not available at all; strawberries and tomatoes are available, but only in bland and pallid versions of their midsummer glory. You can find raspberries, but they are expensive, and I don't like pomegranates.
That basically leaves us with beets and red peppers - and red food coloring.
Don't scoff at red food coloring. Without it, Red Velvet Cake is just Velvet Cake. And Red Velvet Cake is the ultimate Valentine's Day dessert because it combines two of the day's most essential elements, the color red and chocolate.
Plus, there is a third element: It is a little harder to make than some other cakes. So when you present it on Valentine's Day, your sweetheart will know you made it with love.
Red Velvet Cake is gorgeous (it takes one full ounce of coloring, which is why it is so delectably vibrant) and luscious, but what makes this version stand out the most is its frosting. Most recipes call for a cream cheese frosting, or perhaps one with buttermilk.
This cake uses an ermine frosting, an old-fashioned recipe that, some say, was the original topping for Red Velvet Cake. First, you cook and reduce a mixture of flour and milk. Add a little vanilla, and then you beat it into creamed butter and sugar. The result is fluffy and sweet, like whipped cream without the fragility.
For a red appetizer, I turned to Italy and made Roasted Red Pepper Involtini. These are roasted red peppers (bright red) wrapped around a mixture of ricotta cheese, chives and bits of a plum tomato.
With the contrast between the sturdy, lightly smoky peppers and the smooth, creamy cheese, they taste like heaven. Best of all, they are a terrific finger food, and every Valentine's Day meal should include finger food.
What is more romantic than feeding your loved one something with your fingers?
Perhaps the reddest red of all came from a dish of Penne Pasta in a Roasted Beet Sauce. This one is a brilliant blending of flavors - who knew that beets go so well with pasta? But they do, their slightly sweet earthiness bringing out the best in the penne as well as any tomato sauce. The hot pasta absorbs both the flavor and the spectacular color of the beets, which are modestly tempered by a shot of balsamic vinegar, a dash of vermouth and a couple of splashes of milk.
It's a hearty dish and deeply satisfying. You'll want to eat it any day of the year.
Tribune News Service