BEYOND CHICKEN SOUP
I am easily enticed to try any new restaurant that has the word "bistro" in its title. Whether it is Joe's East Coast Bistro Cafe or Jean Pierre's Bistro Parisienne, the very word evokes images of elegantly comfortable interiors composed of dark woods and highly polished brass, where the food and atmosphere are highly spirited.
A bistro, in its original form, is a small neighborhood restaurant that serves unpretentious fare in generous portions at reasonable prices to a loyal clientele. The food is seasonal -- fragrant and earthy.
Given that definition, you can see how well bistro-style cooking moves right into entertaining from the home kitchen, and adapts easily for a cozy yet sophisticated dinner for friends.
I recently returned from Paris, where we dined only in small bistros. We chose not to eat in any "starred" restaurants, and instead wandered around the streets near our hotel until we found an inviting place to dine. They all fit the bistro definition, though the service varied.
Now, moving on to Valentine's Day, bistros locally are the place to be -- if you can still get a reservation.
If not, consider taking a fancy recipe and trying it at home, especially this sweet dinner ending that's bound to please couples in any stage of life's love dance.
A seemingly simple citrus tart holds a grand surprise -- a thin veneer of dark, rich chocolate lies hidden under the lush lemon-orange filling.
Lemon, Orange and Chocolate Tart
Tart Shell Ingredients:
11/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
10 Tbsps. margarine
1 egg, lightly beaten
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
juice and the grated zest of 1 medium orange
juice and the grated zest of 1 small lemon
4 Tbsps. margarine
To make the tart shell, combine the flour, salt and both zests. Cut in the margarine until mixture is crumbly. Stir in egg until mixture holds together. Form into flat disc. Wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight
Roll dough out to fit a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom.
With a fork, prick the dough in several places. Place in the freezer about 20 minutes.
Bake in preheated 450° oven for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350° and bake until light brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool on rack.
To make the filling, spread the melted chocolate on the bottom of the tart shell. Let chocolate harden while preparing the remaining filling.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the yolks and sugar over low heat.
Add the orange and lemon juice and zest.
Stir, adding the margarine a little bit at a time. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Let cool.
Fill the tart shell with the orange-lemon cream.
Place the tart in the refrigerator, about 1 hour, to firm up the filling.
Remove from the pan onto a serving plate.
Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.
Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. E-mail her at:email@example.com .