Love has many incarnations — torrid romance, enduring companionship, parental love, affection between friends, to name a few — and we celebrate them all with food on Valentine’s Day.
We choose the foods carefully: rich chocolates to woo a lover, gourmet dinner to delight a spouse, cookies to share in the classroom, dainty cakes to nibble with guests.
While being healthy and relatively easy to prepare, this salmon dish makes a special entrée for a Valentine’s dinner.
You can find phyllo pastry in the freezer section of large grocery stores. Keep the sheets, or leaves, of phyllo moist by covering with a damp towel until you are ready to use them. Rose Reisman has limited the amount of saturated fat and total fat in this recipe by using cooking spray rather than the traditional melted butter to coat the sheets of phyllo.
and Wrapped in Phyllo
adapted from Reisman, Rose: “Weekday Wonders: Healthy Light meals for Every Day”
75 mL (1/3 cup) smooth light ricotta cheese
30 g (1 oz) light cream cheese, softened
10 mL (2 tsp) fresh lemon juice
10 mL (2 tsp) light mayonnaise
2 mL (½ tsp) minced garlic
15 mL (1 tbsp) fresh dill
30 g (1 oz) smoked salmon
4 skinless salmon fillets (about 225 g/ 8 oz each)
6 sheets phyllo pastry
Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Spray rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
To make filling: In a food processor or in a bowl, mix cheeses, juice, mayonnaise, and garlic until smooth; Stir in dill and smoked salmon. Make a slit down the centre of each salmon fillet to within 1 cm (1/2 inch) of either end, being careful not to cut right through the flesh. Fill the slit with cheese mixture.
On work surface, place 3 sheets of phyllo, one on top of the other, spraying between sheets with cooking spray.
Cut in half lengthwise. Place a stuffed salmon fillet, slit side down, in the middle of each strip of phyllo.
Wrap phyllo over salmon to fully enclose. Place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo and salmon.
Spray bundles with cooking spray.
Bake in centre of oven for 10 to 15 minutes or just until internal temperature of fish reaches 60 C (140 F) on a meat thermometer or until a knife inserted in the centre of the fish comes out warm.
Cut phyllo packets in half diagonally before serving.
It is fun to choose special foods for Valentine’s Day, but I think it is actually more important to consider how food is prepared and served.
Making or serving delicious food, no matter how humble, is one of many ways to reflect the love that one person feels for another.
Shouldn’t all food served in the home reflect and express love — the love involved in preparing and serving meals that will bring health and pleasure?
It is an idealistic thought, for people can be preoccupied with many responsibilities, hampered by limited resources, or just wanting to do something else at the time.
Some people who live alone are ambivalent about cooking. Many of them, especially people who previously cooked for a spouse or a family, feel that it is not worthwhile to prepare a nice meal for just themselves.
For them, the pleasure of food preparation is directed outward.
The joy is in sharing the meal with someone else. It is easy to preach about the need to love and care for oneself, but instead, you could make and share a simple meal with someone living alone, instead of dropping off a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.
Many authors encourage people to do things mindfully.
To me, being mindful means giving the task at hand the attention it deserves, rather than doing it mechanically while allowing your mind to be distracted by something else.
It is difficult to be mindful of cooking when you are mentally replaying a meeting you just had, your children are demanding attention or the pesky telemarketers are phoning.
But if you can eke out enough time — by doing some pre-preparation, turning off the phone or having children help with dinner or play outdoors — to make even the simplest dish carefully and serve it attractively, the results will show.
Here are examples that come to mind when I think of cooking mindfully.
Think about the colours and shapes as you chop vegetables. Remember to take the broccoli off the burner while the colour is bright and the texture just tender and still a little crisp.
Think before automatically tossing a spoonful of salt into the soup.
Ask yourself if that’s what your family really needs. Have a taste from the end of a spoon. Try a squeeze of lemon to bring out the flavours.
One of the things that I have to keep reminding myself is to serve food with care.
When food looks good in a serving dish or on a plate, it is more appealing. It sounds trite, but I can easily overlook it when I am hurrying.
Spoon foods carefully onto a plate, and brighten it up, if necessary, with some extra colour from a dusting of paprika, a wedge of citrus or a sprinkle of herbs.
This Valentine’s Day, be sure to cook your food with attention, serve it with finesse and share it with love.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, writes this column for The Guardian every week. She welcomes comments from readers at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.