A dinner to love

Panna Cotta (for six)

Ricardo Scebba shows how easy it is to cook lobster pasta to impress that special person for Valentine’s Day.

Ricardo Scebba shows how easy it is to cook lobster pasta to impress that special person for Valentine’s Day.

Panna Cotta (for six)

2 ½ cups heavy cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup sugar

½ cup milk

1 pkg gelatin

In a bowl sprinkle gelatin over milk and let stand.

In a sauce pan combine cream, vanilla and sugar. Heat and dissolve sugar. Do not boil mixture. Slowly add cream mixture to milk mixture while stirring or whisking.

Pour mixture into 6 ramekins (5 oz.) or similar small serving cup. Refrigerate for at least two hours until set.

To remove panna cotta, place ramekin in shallow hot water bath while you circle edges with small paring knife. Turn upside down and wiggle out panna cotta onto serving dish.

Top with fresh fruit and/or fruit coulis. Enjoy!

Lobster Pasta (for two)

250g linguine noodles( ½ pack)

4-5 mushrooms sliced

1 bulb roast garlic, cut into cubes

butter (1 stick)

fresh asparagus spears

white wine(1oz.)

langostine Lobster meat (you can also use prawns)

extra virgin olive oil

parsley

chili flakes

salt and pepper

1 ripe roma tomato cubed

1 tbsp. parmesan cheese, grated

Cook noodles to al dente and set aside. In a pan add mushrooms, roast garlic, seafood and an oil drizzle. Sauté with wine. Add butter, asparagus, parsley, chili, s&p and sauté. Add noodles and toss with olive oil. Add fresh tomatoes, adjust with s&p, top with fresh parmesan, serve. Enjoy!

Seduction by dinner is a tradition with Sue Miller and Ricardo Scebba.

“He cooked whole lobster with drawn butter and we ate with our hands. I thought that was pretty erotic,” said Miller.

As she was smiling at the memory, Ricardo told the truth about the consequences of that evening.

“I proposed to her the next day, July 15, 1994,” he said.

The couple now owns Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen in Lake Country and they share their secrets about how less gifted cooks can make their own special, seductive meal for Valentine’s Day.

Scebba demonstrated in the compact, well-organized kitchen of the restaurant.

To a clueless cook like me, there was a lot to learn. For a quick meal like this, cook the pasta first, then prepare the ingredients for the sauce. He had everything measured out in containers, not that a top chef like Ricardo would forget an ingredient, but perfect for those of us who might.

He cooked the ingredients, adjusted the olive oil in the aglio/olio (garlic/olive oil), added the pasta, flipped the whole thing a couple of times and slid it into a bowl. Then he teased a few of the asparagus tips into an upright position, sprinkled on parsley and cheese and there it was — a picture-perfect and aromatic dish that anyone would be proud to serve, and eat. It was delicious.

Miller suggested having a merlot, chardonnay or pinot gris with the meal.

“Ricardo still cooks for me, the most romantic meals. When an Italian cooks for you, they are showing their love. Food is love for Italians. We like cooking for our family and friends on our days off. Italians always find a reason for a celebration,” she said.

They have both been in the restaurant business for 30 years so Valentine’s Day is always spent helping make a special memory for others. They have their Valentine’s Day at other restaurants on another day.

“It’s a time that can be stressful for couples because there are such high expectations. We try to provide the perfect setting here with fine food and wine, romantic live music and a red rose for the lady. All the couple has to do is dress up and be here. Men should remember that the gesture is very important to women,” said Miller.

“We’re really happy that there have been seven proposals, that we know about — the man going down on his knees — here in 10 years and they’re all still married. They come back for anniversaries and sometimes they bring their babies to show us.”

While I was talking to Miller and enjoying the pasta, Scebba whipped up an apple-pear strudel for the dessert that night and then he was ready to demonstrate how to make the panna cotta.

“People think this is hard to make but it’s really easy with few ingredients,” he said.

It certainly looked easy the way he did it: heat the cream, mix it with gelatin, pour it into moulds, Then when it’s chilled, decorate it with fruit, whipped cream and sauce. Yummy.

Miller and Scebba, who live in Coldstream, are proud to use as many local ingredients as they can and to be leading the way in a sustainable, green business.

They have an Appreciation Award from the Vernon Farmers’ Market for their patronage and have found other local and organic sources for products. Scebba’s parents grow some and dry mushrooms and peppers as well as preserving local vegetables and fruit.

“We are able to stay local year-round for some things. It’s important to us,” said Scebba. “I’m all about simple recipes. Italians love to make things very simple with perfect ingredients.”

That creed has earned Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen the only Okanagan spot in the Top 10 Greenest Small Businesses in B.C. and it is Green Table certified. Even the water left in diners’ glasses is recycled for the plants and fountain.

“It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to run a business in an environmental way if you do your research,” said Miller.

“And, as Ricardo says, simple can be very sophisticated if you do it right. We love food and when we travel, we are always trying new restaurants and talking to the chefs and getting ideas. Italians love to eat.”

The couple’s sons are working at the restaurant and there’s another love story there — their daughter met her husband there and the first grandchild and first great-grandchild in the family is due March 1. Surely an event for another big Italian celebration.

Vernon Morning Star