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Our extra day might be perfect for a leap into romance | WHIDBEY RECIPES
What are you planning to do with your extra day today? Something special,
I hope. After all, it only comes our way once every four years and somehow it just shouldn’t be another routine, ho-hum day.
How many times during the past year or so have you said or thought to yourself, “Gosh, if only I had an extra day, I could get this done,” or maybe it was, “Boy, I sure could use a few extra hours about now.” Well, today’s the day, thanks to Julius Caesar.
Actually, Julius sort of “borrowed” the concept from the Egyptian calendar, but he was the one who first came up with the notion of adding an extra day from time to time (the Julian calendar) and some 1,500 years later, the Gregorian calendar added that extra day every four years, which is what we continue to do today.
From what I’ve read about Leap Year, it apparently all had to do with the time it takes our earth to revolve around the sun and making the calendar line up with that timing. If we didn’t add that one extra day every four years, we’d eventually be off track with the seasons of the year and crop planting and harvesting, and who knows what else might go awry over the space of a few hundred years or so. Yes, I know it’s far more complicated than that, but mathematical explanations are too complex (and boring) for this column.
When I was young, I always felt sorry for kids who were born on Feb. 29, only being able to celebrate their “real” birthday every four years and having to decide whether to have a birthday party on Feb. 28 or March 1.
As I grew older (and older), I thought how lucky those kids were to be able to say, if asked, “Why, I’m only 15, even though you may think I look more like 60.”
Babies born on Leap Day are called leapsters or leapers, and are considered by some to have special talents or characteristics. And, according to members of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, (yes, there is such an organization), we should all use Leap Day “to reflect on our lives and do something special.” Such as propose to your sweetie, perhaps?
One of the main traditions associated with Leap Year is role reversal in the romance department.
During Leap Year, and especially on Leap Day, it’s considered acceptable for a woman to propose marriage to the man of her choice, or for a young girl to ask a young man out on a date, and tradition has it that should the man say no, he’s in for big time trouble. Having just spent a week in the company of two 16-year-old girls, and an evening with the added company of two boyfriends, I can tell you that particular Leap Year tradition has little or no meaning for today’s teens.
So, have you decided what to do with your “extra” day? I’d be willing to bet that for most of us, Leap Day is just another day, which happens to fall this year on a Wednesday, and that we’ll do with it pretty much what we’d do with any other Wednesday. That is, unless you’ve been waiting for this opportunity to pop the question to some special guy.
If so, good luck with that, and happy Leap Day to all of you.
Because any special day is reason enough to have a special meal, here are some suggestions for quick and easy but elegant Leap Day treats.
½ lb. veal scallops
1 ½ T. butter
¼ cup chopped shallots
½ cup dry white wine
1 T. chopped fresh sage (or 1 t. dried rubbed sage)
1 t. Dijon mustard
Season the veal with salt and pepper. Melt ½ T. of the butter in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Add veal and sauté until cooked through and golden, about 1 min. per side or less, depending on thickness of veal. Use tongs to transfer veal to plate.
Add remaining T. of butter and shallots to skillet. Reduce heat to med.-low; cook shallots until softened and browned, stirring frequently, about 3 min. Whisk in wine, sage and mustard; simmer until sauce thickens slightly (about 3 min.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Return veal and any collected juices to skillet; simmer until just heated through (about 1 min.). Transfer veal to plates; spoon sauce over and serve. (Mashed garlic potatoes and a vegetable stir fry would go well with the veal). Serves 2 but is easily doubled.
How about something rich, delicious and different to drink on a chilly Leap Day evening?
HOT BRANDY CHOCOLATE
4 cups milk
4 oz. quality semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
2 T. sugar
5 T. brandy
6 T. whipping cream (for topping)
4 T. unsweetened cocoa, sifted
Pour milk into a small pan and bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Put chocolate in a small pan and add 2 T. of the hot milk. Stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted. Stir chocolate mixture back into the hot milk; add sugar. Stir in the brandy and pour into heatproof glasses. Top each with a swirl of whipped cream and sprinkle with a dust of sifted cocoa. Serves 4.
Here’s one unusual but delicious dish that will make an outstanding Leap Day supper for any of your favorite vegetarians. The ingredients may sound weird, but it’s a very popular winter supper dish in northern Europe and in many pasta restaurants here, especially in the east.
CHOCOLATE NUT PASTA
12 oz. dried tagliatelle or fettucine pasta
1 t. butter (for greasing the baking dish)
6-7 T. fresh white breadcrumbs, divided (see instructions)
Salt, for the pasta water
For the sauce: 6 T. butter
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup ground roasted hazelnuts
3 oz. quality semisweet chocolate, grated
½ t. ground cinnamon
Finely grated rind of ½ lemon
Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook for 6 min., or according to pkg. instructions, until tender but still firm to the bite (al dente). Drain and rinse under cold water; set aside.
Beat together the butter, half the sugar and egg yolks until frothy. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and remaining sugar until stiff, then fold them into the butter mixture. In another bowl, mix the hazelnuts, grated chocolate, 4 T. of the breadcrumbs, cinnamon and lemon rind; stir this into the egg mixture. Add the pasta and stir gently to mix.
Grease an ovenproof dish with the teaspoon of butter and sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs (2-3 T.), tapping dish lightly to coat the bottom and sides. Tip out any excess. Spoon the pasta mixture into the dish and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 25-30 min. Serve immediately, with a tomato salad, a fresh fruit salad, or salad of choice. Serves 4.