All of us occasionally need to do what I call the “Big Deal” dinner. Maybe the Boss is coming over to dinner, or the in-laws or future in-laws or anybody else that you’d like to impress with a special dinner. How about Valentine’s Day? Here’s an interesting menu for that occasion.

  • Grilled Wild Mushroom and Citrus Salad with Aged Goat Cheese
  • Radicchio Soup with Smoked Goat Cheese
  • Filet of Beef Wrapped in Parchment with Sauce Béarnaise
  • Floating Islands


Serves 6

Any wild or exotic cultivated mushroom such as oysters, trumpet royale, maitake, morel, chanterelle and the like could be used. I am suggesting using Redwood Hill Farm’s Bucheret in this recipe ( ) a soft-ripening goat cheese that I’m fond of. You can order it directly or substitute any other soft ripening cheese that you like. I’m also including peppered maple walnuts in this recipe. You could use just plain toasted, but these are very tasty plus you’ll have some leftover to serve with more cheese!

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons or so white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-pound wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thickly
2 quarts lightly packed savory greens such as a combination of frisee, arugula and cress
Walnut oil vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 cups orange, grapefruit, pommelo sections or a combination
1/2 cup or so peppered maple walnuts (recipe follows)
6 ounces Bucheret sliced into 6 wedges

Garnish: Savory sprouts such as daikon, corn, lentil or fenugreek, if desired.

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, shallots, thyme, salt and pepper. Brush the mushrooms with this mixture and grill over moderately hot coals on both sides until tender and lightly browned. Set aside.

Toss greens with the vinaigrette and arrange artfully on plates with the citrus, mushrooms, walnuts and cheese. Scatter sprouts over and serve immediately.

Toasted walnut oil vinaigrette

1/3 cup grapefruit juice
2 teaspoons honey, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1/3 cup toasted walnut oil
Drops of hot sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Add the grapefruit juice, honey and shallots to a blender. With motor running slowly add walnut oil to form an emulsion. Add drops of hot sauce and salt and pepper to your taste.

Peppered Maple Walnuts
Makes 3 cups or so

These are delicious as a little snack with cocktails, to add to salads or serve with a cheese plate. The first time you make these use 1 teaspoon pepper and if you like them spicy add more the next time.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 – 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper or in combination with pure chile powder
such as ancho
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons water
3/4-pound (3 cups) walnut halves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all the ingredients except the walnuts in a small saucepan, stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 3 minutes or so or until thickened. Place the walnuts in a large bowl and pour the butter mixture over, tossing them to evenly coat.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, foil or a silicon baking mat and spread the coated walnuts out in a single layer. Bake for 40 minutes stirring and turning the walnuts every 10 minutes or so. After 40 minutes, walnuts will appear dry.

Slide them off the tray onto a wire rack and let them cool. Resist the temptation to eat them at this point because they will be very hot! Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Get all of the recipes here!