I love Valentine’s Day because I always equate food with love. There are no better way to nourish the heart and spirit of a couple than by cooking together, or eating a meal to stimulate the senses while holding hands across the table, gazing into each others’ eyes over a flickering candle. — Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, A Taste of Celebration
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED FRUIT AND SUGARED GRAPES
Yield: 4 Servings
1 1/4 pounds chocolate, semisweet or white, chopped into 1/4-inch chunks, divided
1/2 pound fresh pineapple slices, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pint strawberries with stems, lightly rinsed and dried
3 kiwis, peeled and sliced
2-3 ounces marzipan, rolled into walnut-size balls
1/2 pound seedless grapes, still on their stems, at room temperature
2 large egg whites (or 1/4 cup pasteurized liquid egg whites)
3/4 superfine sugar
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Place 1/2 pound of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler and tightly cover with plastic wrap. Place the chocolate over 1-inch of water and heat over medium heat for 12 minutes.
2. Remove the chocolate from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes before removing the plastic wrap. With a rubber spatula or whisk, stir until smooth. Continue to stir until the temperature of the chocolate is reduced and a candy thermometer registers 90-degrees F.
3. With a fork, dip the pineapples pieces, one by one, 1/2 inch to 1-inch into the chocolate. Allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the double boiler, then place the fruit onto the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes, until the chocolate has hardened.
4. Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 with the remaining chocolate and fruit (holding the strawberries by their stems). Dip the marzipan balls into the chocolate so they are half coated. Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes, until the chocolate has hardened.
5. Arrange the chocolate-dipped strawberries, kiwis, and marzipan on the serving platter with the pineapples and return the platter to the refrigerator, covered, and keep chilled until 10 minutes before serving.
1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a wire rack over the pan. Use scissors to cut the bunch of grapes into clusters. Place the egg whites and 2 teaspoons water in a teacup and stir with a fork to blend. Holding a cluster by the stem, dip the grapes into the egg whites. With a small brush, paint any part of the grapes that did not get dipped into the whites.
2. Place the grape cluster on the wire rack and immediately sprinkle with sugar, turning the grapes in order to coat all sides. Pick up the cluster and gently shake off excess sugar. Repeat with remaining grapes. Vary the amount of sugar on some of the grapes to create the effect of the white powdery substance found on the skins of grapes.
3. Allow the grapes to dry completely at room temperature, about 2 hours. The sugared grapes will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days; do not cover.
NOTE: In addition to the fresh fruits suggested below for dipping, try using dried fruits such as slices of dried pineapples, peach, and pear. If you’re feeling in a playful mood, warm up any leftover chocolate and feed it your sweetheart on a spoon.