I t's anybody's guess when the first human being felt a twinge of that feeling we call love, but I it was the ancient Greeks who conceived of that little devil Cupid who from then on wreaked havoc on the hearts of us mortals with his bow and arrow.
Medieval people believed that one fell in love with the eyes (perhaps they were right), but at least since the Renaissance it is the heart that has been considered the symbolic playground of love and passion.
So it is hearts we think of and see in shop windows each year as Valentine's Day approaches. And it is hearts we suggest that you serve to your loved one(s) for dinner tomorrow: THE MENU Appetizer: Hearts of Palm Salad Main Course: Chicken with Artichoke Hearts and Peppers Side Dishes: Timbales of Potato and Hearts of Celery and/or Hominy (Hearts of Corn) and Cheese Casserole Dessert: Chocolate Shortbread Hearts HEARTS OF PALM SALAD (6 to 8 servings)
This recipe is from Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz' "Latin American Cooking" (Vintage, $5.95). 2 16-ounce cans hearts of palm 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice, or to taste 1 tablespoon dijon mustard Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 1/4 cup vegetable oil
Thoroughly drain the hearts of palm and cut them into 1/2-inch slices. Set aside. In a bowl, beat together the lime or lemon juice with the mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Gradually beat in the oil. Pour the dressing over the palm-heart slices, and toss until lightly coated. Serve immediately. CHICKEN WITH ARTICHOKE HEARTS AND PEPPERS (6 to 8 servings)
Dr. Andrew Boorde said of artichokes in 1567: ". . . They both increase nature and doth provoke a man to veneryous actes." So what could be more suitable to Valentine's Day dinner than this robust stew, adapted from "Cooking Great Meals Every Day," by Richard Sax with David Ricketts (Random House, $15.95). 2 chickens (about 3 pounds each), cut into 8 pieces, excess skin, fat, wing tips trimmed 1 cup flour, or as needed 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled 3 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed 4 medium red peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped seeded hot green peppers 2 9-ounce packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and wiped dry 4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced 3/4 cup dry white wine 1 1/3 cups chicken broth, or more as needed 24 to 36 oil-cured black olives, halved and pitted 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled
Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine flour, 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and thyme in shallow dish. Toss chicken pieces in seasoned flour to coat, shaking off excess.
Select pan large enough to hold chicken in one layer. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add chicken pieces; saute', shaking pan occasionally, until pieces are deep brown, 12 minutes. Turn pieces over; saute', shaking pan occasionally, another 12 minutes, or until meat is nearly firm. Steam, covered, 3 minutes. Remove pieces to paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
Discard all but 3 tablespoons of the excess fat. Add red and green peppers to pan; saute', tossing, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and garlic; toss until lightly golden, another 4 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits from bottom and sides of skillet. Reduce by one half, 3 to 4 minutes. Add broth and the 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Reduce slightly. Arrange chicken pieces in pan, placing breasts, skin-side up, on top. Add more broth if necessary, so level comes halfway up chicken. Simmer, covered, until dark meat is tender when poked with a knife, about 10 minutes.
Add black olives; baste chicken. Simmer covered, until heated through. Add additional black pepper to taste, parsley and basil. Spoon juices over chicken. Correct seasonings. Serve hot. This dish reheats well. TIMBALES OF POTATO AND HEARTS OF CELERY (6 servings)
If you don't own six 3/4-cup timbales or custard cups, you can make this delicate side dish in a generously buttered pie plate. The recipe is from "The Gold and Fizdale Cookbook," by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale (Random House, $19.95). 1 cup minced hearts of celery 5 tablespoons butter 1/4 cup minced shallots Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered 1/2 cup light cream or half-and-half 5 egg yolks 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Saute' the celery in 2 tablespoons of the butter until tender. Stir in the shallots and saute' for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside in the pan.
Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain them thoroughly. Heat the cream but do not let it boil. Mash the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of butter, then gradually stir in the hot cream. When it is absorbed, beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the celery and shallots with the butter in the pan. Stir in the cheese.
Grease the molds generously with the remaining butter. Fill them to within 1/4 inch of the top. Place them in a fairly deep baking pan and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the molds. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the molds comes out clean. Run a knife around the edges of the molds and unmold onto a serving platter. Serve with roast meat or baked fish. BAKED GRITS AND CHEESE CASSEROLE (6 servings)
Hominy is what's left of the corn kernel after the hull has been removed. Grits are coarsely ground hominy, or to put it another way, they are crushed hearts. Here is a tasty way of preparing grits from Nathalie Dupree's "Cooking of the South" (Irena Chalmers Cookbooks, $5.95). 8 tablespoons (1 stick butter), plus extra for casserole 6 cups water 1 1/2 cups grits 3 eggs 2 teaspoons salt 1 to 2 garlic cloves, crushed 1 teaspoon paprika Dash hot pepper sauce 1 pound sharp cheese, grated Butter a 2-quart casserole. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan; then stir the grits into the boiling water, stirring constantly until they are completely mixed. Cook, stirring, until thickened. Mix the eggs slightly and add a small amount of grits to the eggs, stirring constantly to prevent overcooking of the eggs, and add back into the grits. Add seasonings, cheese and stick of butter, mixing well. Pour the grits mixture into the buttered casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Grits may be cooked in advance and reheated. CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD HEARTS (Makes 4 to 5 dozen 3-inch hearts)
Attractively boxed, these hearts make lovely Valentine's gifts: sweet hearts for sweethearts. The recipe is from Lisa Yockelson's "Glorious Gifts From Your Kitchen" (Dutton, $16.95). 4 cups all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached) 1 cup Dutch-process cocoa 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 cups unsalted sweet butter, softened at room temperature 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper; set aside. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until light on moderately high speed, about 3 to 4 minutes. On low speed, blend in the confectioners' sugar in 2 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Blend in the vanilla extract. Still on low speed, beat in the sifted flour mixture in 3 additions, beating just until the flour particles have been absorbed before adding the next batch. By hand, stir in the chopped walnuts.
Divide the dough in half. Roll out each portion of dough between sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Refrigerate the waxed paper-wrapped slabs of dough on a tray for about 5 hours, or until very firm. (The dough may be rolled and stored for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. To do so, wrap the firmed-up dough again in sheets of aluminum foil.)
To bake the shortbread: Stamp out hearts of dough about 2 1/2-3 inches in diameter and place the hearts about 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Prick the middle of the hearts 3 times with the tines of a fork, to make the traditional shortbread pattern, if desired. Reroll the scraps of dough and stamp out more cookies. Chill the cookies on the sheets for 10 minutes.
Bake the shortbread, a sheet at a time, on the middle-level rack of a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until firm to the touch. With a wide metal spatula remove the cookies to a rack. When cooled, store in an airtight container.