Devising a Special Valentine’s Day Prix Fixe Menu

It is very fun working in a small, local restaurant, especially around holidays.

For something new and different this coming Valentine’s Day at Salaam, Hilarie came up with the idea of offering a prix fixe menu that included special appetizers, soup, salad, a choice of two main courses, and a dessert. The Django Reinhardt tribute band, the Coolville Hotclub will be playing gypsy jazz with guest singer Emily Burhans, whose whisky-smooth voice slithers sensually through love songs like a silk dress over a woman’s hip.

Considering the intimate, cozy dining room, the ambiance created by the band, and the general Silk-Road theme of Salaam, I had a great time coming up with a series of courses to beguile and entice our guests.

The appetizers will be lebni, which is a cheese spread made from strained yogurt, walnuts, dill and spices, muhammara which is just the sexiest dip ever conceived by humanity, and feta stuffed Spanish olives marinated in preserved lemons, herbs, olive oil and Aleppo pepper, all served with a side of toasted pita triangles.

Then, we will have a cream of Asparagus soup with chives and Indian spices, garnished with asparagus spears.

Next is a salad of caramelized pears over mixed greens with fried chevre and almonds, dressed with pomegranate salad dressing.

The entree choices are Moroccan roasted leg of lamb with roasted vegetables or salmon steaks baked over rice and tomatoes with green chutney. (We are also doing a vegetarian option of a sweet pepper stuffed with rice, lentils, golden raisins and almonds with bechamel sauce and feta cheese on top for vegetarians who call ahead.)

The dessert is the show-stopper–chai creme brulee. I developed the recipe using Anthony Bourdain’s basic creme brulee recipe from his Les Halles Cookbook which I fiddled with to give the the rich custard the delicate flavor of spiced tea, without making it taste–well, like some very nasty cremes brulees I have had in the past at other restaurants.

The menu will be a bit of a challenge to serve considering how tiny our kitchen is, but the staff we have to work with is amazing, so I am confident that all will go well. I spent most of today prepping appetizers (remind me never to suggest stuffing olives with feta cheese again–yeah, it tastes great, especially after they are marinated, but geez, Louise, is it a royal pain in the hind end), and making on the chutney for the fish, the caramelized pears, and the creme brulee. Well, I made the custard today, after letting the flavorings steep in the cream overnight. The burnt sugar topping won’t get made until service tomorrow–I don’t like burning the sugar and sticking it in the fridge–I like the contrast between the cold custard and a crisp, warm sugar crust.

Tomorrow, I need to go in early and make the soup, prep the garnishes and the cheese, which will be fried at service.

It should be fun.

I promise to post pictures either tomorrow night or Friday morning!


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  1. Are there still reservations to be had for this meal for those of us blessed to be in Athens?? Inquiring minds and hungry bellies want to know!

    Comment by Tammy — February 13, 2008 #

  2. Tammy, as I understand it, there are a few reservations left–mostly after 8pm. Give folks a call tonight at 594-3800 sooner rather than later to make a reservation.

    For the special dinner, we are breaking with our usual reservation policy (normally we only take reservations for parties of five or more) and allowing reservations for any size if you get the prix fixe dinner.

    I hope to see you there!

    Comment by Barbara — February 13, 2008 #

  3. *sob* That sounds magnificent! Are you able/willing to share recipes, even after the big day?

    Comment by damedini — February 13, 2008 #

  4. Next is a salad of caramelized pears over mixed greens with fried chevre and almonds, dressed with pomegranate salad dressing.

    Can I come? I just ate dinner and this description is making me hungry!

    Comment by Alexis — February 13, 2008 #

  5. Some of the recipes I will share, damedini–the soup, for example, and the olives. I’ve already given my recipes for the Salmon in Green Chutney, and the muhammara, so those are given.

    The lamb is Hilarie’s recipe, so whether it gets shared or not is up to her.

    As for the Chai Creme Brulee–I will do a post on the making of creme brulee, but the chai part–that is my secret, mostly because it is probably destined to become a signature Salaam dessert.

    It’s kind of like the Zuppa Salaam which I developed–that is a signature Salaam recipe which I will not share. Not that I wouldn’t like to share it, but well, every chef, every restaurant, and face it, every woman -must- have a few secrets of our own!

    Alexis–we have a few reservations open at five-thirty and a few at eight thirty–if you can get here, you are welcome!

    Comment by Barbara — February 13, 2008 #

  6. Mmmm… it’s making me hungry reading about this and I helped devise the menu! I just wanted to correct the phone number so Tammy has a chance of getting a reservation: the Salaam number is actually 740-594-3800.
    Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

    Comment by Hilarie — February 13, 2008 #

  7. Thanks, Hilarie–I feel like a doof, now.

    Although the number I gave would have eventually gotten Tammy in contact with the restaurant, just in a roundabout way.

    I am so embarrassed.

    At least I didn’t just dyslexic-it-up the way I often do. Then, who knows who Tammy would have called? Some poor confused person, no doubt.

    Anyway, I edit the comment to give the correct number, so no one would get confused.

    Comment by Barbara — February 14, 2008 #

  8. Dang! Hold a table, I’m flying across the pond NOW! I don’t care if my other half works late and the whole time zone thing messes up his schedule, I’ll come on my own if I have to:P And can I have two portions of dessert please?:-)

    Comment by Mamlambo — February 14, 2008 #

  9. I just realized that for people working in a restaurant V-Day and Mother’s Day are like working in retail for Gift-Mass.

    Good wishes for your busy day!!

    Comment by wwjudith — February 14, 2008 #

  10. Your menu sounds absolutely delicious. And your comment sounds like a cartoon I saw years ago of a group of chefs standing around a plate of tiny round specks. The blurb was “Whose big idea was it to have stuffed capers as an hors d’oeuvre?”

    Comment by aja — February 14, 2008 #

  11. I missed it this time – but I hope some of these recipes will make their way back to the menu in the future!

    Comment by Tammy — February 15, 2008 #

  12. Tammy–Hilarie makes the lamb now and again, and it is always delicious. (I just hope there is some left over when I get to work tonight so I can get some–I don’t eat while I am working a fast shift like last night. I ate a bowl of soup before I started cooking yesterday and that was it until I got home late. It was hearty soup, but…

    The muhammara, if I can standardize the recipe, which means I need to write it down in the quantities I use to make a metric buttload of it for work, will probably become a standard menu item, as folks really like it. Until then, I will make it every other week or so as an app special. The creme brulee will become pretty standard, too–every other week or so as a regular dessert. I just wanted to debut it on Valentine’s day.

    The asparagus soup, by popular demand, will return, as will the caramelized pears and fried chevre, either as a salad or an appetizer. Folks really liked that, too.

    And the salmon with chutney comes up now and again, as do stuffed peppers. I make those about every other month or so, or every five weeks, something like that. Whenever we have lots of peppers and I am in the mood for making them.

    I am lucky. I have a cushy job–Hilarie and Mark are pretty much okay with whatever I feel like cooking within reason–and since I have had food cost beaten into my head for umpteen bazillion years, most of my ideas are well within reason. So, I pretty much get to cook what I like and to experiment in the kitchen.

    It’s fun.

    Comment by Barbara — February 15, 2008 #

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