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Recipes for a Romantic Dinner

Instead of making restaurant reservations, prepare this delectable meal for two

Warm Spinach Salad Chinoise
Adapted from Healthy Cooking for Two
Serves 2
6-7 cups fresh spinach, stemmed
2 teaspoons sesame seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2/3 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
Red pepper flakes to taste

1. Wash and drain the spinach well.

2. Toast the sesame seeds (if using) in a heavy 10-inch nonstick skillet over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until they turn golden; shake the skillet occasionally to toast the seeds evenly.

3. Add the oil to the skillet, raise the heat to medium, and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and pepper flakes. Add the spinach and cook, turning the ingredients frequently with a wooden spoon, until the spinach is barely wilted, about 3 minutes. Discard any liquid. Serve hot.

Nutrients per serving: calories 151; protein 8g; carbohydrates 16g; dietary fiber 3g; fat 8g; cholesterol 0mg; sodium 446mg

Coriander-Crusted Lamb Chops
Serve these chops with steamed asparagus and roasted new potatoes.
Serves 2
4 lamb rib chops, cut 1 inch thick
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing the grill pan

1. Trim fat from chops and place them on a flat plate.

2. Combine all the other ingredients in a small bowl, then rub the mixture over the chops. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator about 30 minutes.

3. Heat a lightly oiled grill pan over high heat until almost smoking, then add the chops and sear for about 2 minutes. Flip the chops over and cook for another 3 minutes for medium rare or 3½ minutes for medium.

4. Allow the chops to rest 5 minutes before serving.

Steamed Asparagus
1/2 pound trimmed asparagus
Pinch of salt

1. Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus to the boiling water, then season with salt.

2. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender. Serve warm.

New Potatoes With Rosemary
1/2 pound diced red potatoes, with skin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Spread potatoes on roasting pan. Add olive oil and rosemary, then season with salt and pepper.

2. Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 to 45 minutes in a 400°F oven. Remove foil and broil for about 5 minutes or until the tops of the potatoes start to brown.

Nutrients per serving (includes 2 lamb chops, ¼ pound asparagus, and ¼ pound new potatoes): calories 615; protein 50g; carbohydrates 24g; dietary fiber 6g; fat 34g (saturated fat 10g); cholesterol 150mg; sodium 636mg

Chocolate Walnut Tortes
Adapted from Small-Batch Baking
These scrumptious chocolate desserts are cooked in empty soup cans—just be sure to wash them thoroughly before using. You'll need 3 cans.
Makes 3 tortes
2 ounces premium-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup walnut pieces
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the cans
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cream of tartar
Rich Ganache (recipe follows)

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease the insides of three soup cans. Place the cans on a piece of parchment paper and trace the circumference of each with a pencil. Cut out 3 rounds of parchment and line the bottom of each can with a round. Place the prepared cans on a baking sheet and set aside.

2. Place the chocolate in a small bowl and microwave on medium until the chocolate begins to melt, about 1 minute. Then stir until smooth. Let cool.

3. Place the walnuts and flour in a food processor and process until the walnuts are finely ground but not oily, about 10 to 15 seconds.

4. Place the butter and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla with the last yolk. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the melted chocolate until blended, 10 to 15 seconds. Using a wooden spatula, gently stir in the ground walnut mixture.

5. Wash the mixer beaters and dry them thoroughly. Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in a small bowl and beat on high until the whites hold stiff peaks, about 60 to 90 seconds. Fold the egg-white mixture thoroughly but gently into the chocolate mixture.

6. Spoon the batter into the prepared cans, dividing it evenly among them. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove the cans from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool.

7. When the cakes have cooled, invert the cans over the wire rack to release them. Peel off the parchment paper and place the cakes upright on the racks. Pour about 3 tablespoons of lukewarm ganache over each cake, using a spatula to smooth the icing all over. Let the cakes stand until the ganache is firm, about 1 hour. The tortes will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

Rich Ganache
Makes about ½ cup

      1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
      5 ounces imported bittersweet chocolate (such as Lindt), finely chopped

1. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate.

2. Let the mixture stand until the chocolate softens, about 1 minute, then stir with a whisk until the chocolate is melted.

3. Allow the ganache to cool slightly, then pour over cooled tortes.

Nutrients per serving (1 cake with 3 tablespoons ganache): calories 823; protein 13g; carbohydrates 64g; dietary fiber 6g; fat 60g; cholesterol 214mg; sodium 163mg

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