With a favorite restaurant closed, husband makes anniversary dinner, dessert to remember
The coronavirus has forced the cancellation not only of crowd pleasers like March Madness and Oktoberfest, but of personal events like funerals, birthday celebrations and family gatherings.
In my case, a wedding anniversary tradition had to change this year.
Usually we go out for dinner to Trattoria Romagnola, one of Darmstadt, Germany’s best Italian restaurants, and where we celebrated our wedding years ago.
With it closed and takeout not quite setting the tone for an anniversary, it looked like dinner at home was the right choice.
Fortunately, besides going out to eat, I do like to cook. So for this special date, I tied on the old chef’s apron and whipped up a magical meal for my wife. If you’re in a similar situation, feel free to borrow a few of my ideas.
After a glass of champagne as an aperitif (and something to toast with), we had salmon tartare as an appetizer.
The chef mixed chopped avocado and salmon with creme fraiche, lemon zest and dill, then topped it with more salmon marinated in lemon juice, spices and dill. Quite exquisite.
Germans consider asparagus the “queen of vegetables,” so with it being in season, it was on the menu.
In Germany, most of the asparagus is white, unlike the green version known to most Americans. It remains white because it is grown underground in long mounds of earth. Green asparagus grows above ground. And unlike the green variety, it must be peeled.
The asparagus was served with boiled new potatoes and a broiled filet. Many people like asparagus with hollandaise sauce, but we prefer just melted butter with a squirt of lemon juice and dill.
While we could have chosen a different wine with each course, we settled for a nice dry rosé from Germany’s Pfalz region for the whole meal.
Although the chef is known for his delicious tiramisu, we opted for something more out of the ordinary — strawberries with balsamic vinegar, mascarpone, mint and black pepper.
It sounds a little strange, but the tartness of the balsamic, the sweetness of the strawberries, the freshness of the mint, the smoothness of the mascarpone and the bite of the pepper made for a perfect finish to the meal — followed by an espresso and a digestif, of course.
When things get back to normal, we will probably enjoy a makeup dinner at the Trattoria. At least then we won’t have to do the dishes.
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BALSAMICO STRAWBERRIES About 10 minutes, plus 4 hours marinating in refrigerator
Makes 4 servings
1 pound fresh strawberries
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 oz. mascarpone (we used a 250 ml container)
8-10 mint leaves chopped
Fresh ground black pepper
Lemon zest (optional)
Hull the strawberries and slice them in half lengthwise into a bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar and grind black pepper over the mixture. Stir carefully until all the berries have been coated, then cover and refrigerate four hours.
Shortly before serving, mix in the mint.
If using, stir lemon zest into mascarpone. Spoon and spread mascarpone onto individual dishes, top with strawberry-balsamic mixture, add a grind of pepper and decorate with a mint leaf. Serve and enjoy.
My advice: never skimp on the quality of your balsamic vinegar. It makes a big difference for this recipe.