real life test kitchen: heart of winter salad

valentines salad

This is the type of thing you should serve your sweetheart: instead of being filled with empty calories and saturated fat (I’m looking at you chocolate), this salad is filled with fiber, antioxidants, and yes, the secret ingredient of love. In addition to being visually appealing for Valentine’s dining, it’s a dish designed to help enhance romance! Fennel, beets, and honey are all reported to have an aphrodisiac effect, as well as tasting pretty darn delicious together. The earthiness of the beets and licorice-tinged crunch of the fennel are rounded out by tangy, jewel-like red and pink oranges and slightly bitter Belgian endive; while the crumbled goat cheese adds a creaminess that’s downright sexy. So bust out the champagne, the romantic music, and snuggle down in front of the fire with a big plate of salad! — Megan B.
click for the recipe, after the jump!

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kinda genius: magisso’s cake cutter and server

cakeserverwpiece

The worst part of baking a cake is serving it. It’s horrible! If left to my own devices, my expertly frosted and decorated dessert becomes a lump of mush on a plate. It still tastes the same but I would definitely be asked to pack up my knives if I served it to Padma and company on ‘Top Chef’. Perhaps there’s a secret way to slice and serve that leaves both the remaining cake and the cut up slices magazine-ready, but I haven’t found it. Enter Magisso’s Cake Cutter and Server (A+R store, $49.50). Scandinavian designer Maria Kivijarvi recreated a kitchen staple that not only cuts and serves perfect slices with one step, but also look like a gorgeous sculpture when not in use. The device is completely foolproof and makes serving your dessert, er, a piece of cake (sorry, guys- I couldn’t help myself!). — Katie D.

From our partners

real life test kitchen: perfect squash soup

squash

The truth is that this soup was a complete accident. I wanted to serve roasted squash for Thanksgiving. So, I sliced up a kabocha and an acorn squash I found at the farmer’s market, added parsnips and cippolini onions to the mix, concocted a vinaigrette to drizzle over the top, and tossed the whole thing on a platter. And it was a huge hit. After dinner, I wrapped up the leftovers, and no one touched them. So, after 3 days, rather than pitching the lot, I thought I’d just see what happened if I tried to turn the mix into soup. I added some stock we’d made from the turkey, threw it all in the blender, and…well, it was the best squash soup I’d ever tasted. The roasting gave the squash this wonderful, full flavor, and the sweet onions worked their magic too. The parsnips kept the flavor of the squash from being too monotonous, and the vinaigrette I’d whipped up at the last minute just made it magic. Really, how could you go wrong with sage fried in butter, with balsamic vinegar?

If I’d only known how good the leftovers were going to be, I’d have served the soup at Thanksgiving! –Becki S.
Click for more squash soup perfection, after the jump!

From our partners

help! what should I do with all of these lemons?

lemons

Of course the obvious choice would be lemonade, which, trust me, I’ve considered. But I’ve got 32 juicy lemons to work through. How did I end up with such a fine cache of citrus? A dear friend and recent Arizona transplant had to strip her tree to avert the impending frost, so a big priority box of fragrant desert sunshine arrived on my doorstep! I’ve been entertaining quite a few options: homemade Limoncello, for one, has been appealing to me; but I’m not patient enough to wait the month-plus it requires. I could whip up a monster batch of Lisa’s rosemary lemon simple syrup and make cocktails and sodas; but I’m really looking for something more substantial, maybe something savory. Readers, what should I make? The best suggestion just may end up featured here as a future real life test kitchen… — Megan B.

From our partners

turnin’ up the heat: the sriracha cookbook

Sriracha Cookbook

Sick of Valentine’s Day’s signature saccharine sweet treats? Spice things up with a hot recipe from the Sriracha Cookbook, $10, slated for release today on Amazon. With 50 recipes designed to highlight the flavor of the cult favorite “Rooster Sauce”, the book may be the perfect way to turn up the heat with the fire chaser on your love list. –Sarah C.

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