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Celebrate Amore with a Heart-Healthy Valentine's Dinner

This year, on this annual celebration of love, I've been looking across the Atlantic to a country that has love, health, and good living down to a science: Italy. The Mediterranean diet has long been celebrated for its positive impact on heart heath, and its power to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. But that isn't all that Italy has to teach us about well-being. With its strong sense of community and deep personal connections, Italians benefit from the life-lengthening effects of positive emotions and relationships. Love, friendship, and belonging does indeed improve health, lengthen lifespan, and make life that much more enjoyable. So let's take our cue from the Italians and grab our loved ones, raise a toast to amore, and start cooking these Mediterranean-influenced dishes!

Valentine's Day Dinner Menu
All recipes serve 6

Appetizers
White Bean & Artichoke Dip
Citrus Salad with Arugula, Pomegranate, Walnuts & Avocado

Entrée
Herb-Crusted Salmon
Sautéed Broccoli Rabe Roasted Cauliflower Puree

Dessert
Vegan Chocolate Mousse


White Bean & Artichoke Dip

  • 1 can cannellini beans
    1 bag frozen artichokes
    1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1–2 tsp lemon zest
    Fresh basil to taste (optional)
    Sea salt & pepper
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1 cup grated Romano cheese

1) Rinse beans, drain, and place in food processor with defrosted artichokes, grated lemon zest, lemon juice, and basil leaves. Blend.
2) Add salt and pepper to taste.
3) Drizzle in olive oil and blend gently for a few seconds.
4) Add cheese and blend gently for a few seconds. Chill before serving.


Citrus Salad with Arugula, Pomegranate, Walnuts & Avocado

  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 tsp Dijon mustard
    3 tbsp olive oil
    1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
    2 ruby grapefruits, peel and pith removed
    1 large avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
    6 cups baby arugula
    1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

1) Cut each segment of grapefruit in half.
2) Whisk Dijon mustard and lemon juice together, and then whisk in olive oil.
3) Toss arugula with 4 tbsp dressing and place on a serving platter or bowl.
4) Heap sliced grapefruit and avocado chunks on top of arugula.
5) Drizzle with remaining dressing and sprinkle with chopped walnuts and pomegranate seeds.


Herb-Crusted Salmon

  • 1/4 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
    1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
    1 tbsp chopped dill, tarragon, or chives
    1 tbsp avocado oil
    3 lb fillet of wild-caught salmon with skin
    1/4 cup Dijon mustard
    Sea salt & pepper
    Lemons (for garnish)

1) Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
2) Mix Panko with chopped parsley, fresh herbs, and avocado oil.
3) Place salmon skin-down on parchment-lined baking sheet.
4) Spread mustard evenly on salmon and season with salt, pepper, and Panko herb mixture.
5) Roast salmon till flaky, about 15–20 minutes.
6) Remove from oven. Using a spatula, loosen salmon from skin and transfer to serving plate. Garnish with sliced lemon.


Sauteed Broccoli Rabe

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
    3–4 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
    1.5 bunches broccoli rabe
    1/2– 1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

1) Trim woody stems from broccoli rabe.
2) Blanch broccoli rabe in large pot of boiling salted water for about 1 minute. Reserve 1/4 cup of cooking liquid.
3) Transfer broccoli rabe to a bowl of iced water. Strain and set aside.
4) Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
5) Reduce heat to medium-low, add broccoli rabe, and toss to coat with oil.
6) Add reserved cooking liquid and cook for about 4 minutes.
7) Transfer to serving bowl, top with lemon zest, and serve.


Roasted Cauliflower Puree

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets
    1/4 cup olive oil
    4 cloves garlic, peeled
    Sea salt & pepper

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Arrange cauliflower and garlic cloves in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast until browned and cooked through but not too soft, about 20–25 minutes.
3) Transfer roasted cauliflower and garlic into a food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then process to a course puree.


No-Bake Vegan Chocolate Mousse

  • 3 large ripe avocados
    1/2 cup organic raw cacao powder (or more to taste)
    1/2 cup agave nectar (or more to taste)
    1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
    1.5 tsp almond extract
    1/2 pint fresh raspberries or other berry
    Mint leaves (for garnish)

1) Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits.
2) Spoon the avocado meat into a blender and pulse until blended.
3) Add cocoa powder, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and almond extract and blend for 1 to 2 minutes.
4) Portion into martini glasses and refrigerate overnight.
5) Top with raspberries and garnish with mint leaves before serving.

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