Valentine's day is special for me. That wasn't always the case, but it is now.
Eleven years ago, my husband and I, young and poor though we were, hopped on a flight to Amsterdam, and eloped. I was never much for romanticism, but somehow in the mix of falling in love, and falling deeper in love every day that I can wake up next to him, that's changed. And, each day, I wake up and think that I couldn't possibly love him more than I do today, and then my heart swells, and I love him all the more.
And then we had a baby, and I fell in love with my child and fell even more deeply in love with my husband. Now, ten years later, I find myself stunned and awed and so, so grateful to learn that we're expecting another child later this year. I get to fall in love all over again.
For me, cooking is an expression of love. It's a way to say, "I love you. I want you to be healthy. I want you to feel satisfied. I want you to enjoy yourself." And every year for Valentine's Day, I dream up something special - sweet and lovely - to share with him.
One year I made Mayan Chocolate Truffles because they reminded me of eloping, another it was Chocolate Custard. This year I wanted something special: rich and comforting but bright and tart and vividly colored.
Coconut and Blood Orange Mousse
I settled on a rich coconut and blood orange mousse: vibrant and vivid colors with the deep, dark purple of the orange contrasting with the angelic white of the coconut mousse. The perfumed tartness of blood orange balances nicely with the sweet, smooth coconut cream, and a good dollop of gelatin helps to set it all together.
Honeyed Coconut and Blood Orange Mousse
Blood Orange Jelly
Toasted Coconut Sprinkles
- ¼ cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes
- Set the cans of coconut milk in the fridge at least two hours so that the cream separates easily from the milk, rises to the top and hardens. Open up the cans of coconut milk, and scoop out the cream, storing it in a lidded bowl in the fridge while you prepare the other ingredients for the coconut mousse. Pour the remaining coconut milk into a deep saute pan, and then whisk in the honey. Bring to a boil over medium heat and reduce it to a half-cup of thick, caramel-like syrup.
- Spoon a tablespoon of gelatin into a small bowl, and cover with three tablespoons of cold water until it softens and takes on the texture of applesauce, about a minute. Whisk the soften gelatin into the coconut milk caramel, taking care to incorporate it thoroughly so that no lumps remain.
- Bring the chilled coconut cream out of the fridge, and dump it into the basin of your stand mixer. Toss in the finely grated orange peel and the vanilla, and, using the whisk attachment, beat it together at high speed until the coconut cream fluffs up, is uniform in texture with no lumps remaining, and can hold stiff peaks.
- Fold half of the reduced coconut milk into the coconut cream, and when it's incorporated fully, fold in the remaining coconut milk and honey.
- Pour equal amounts of the coconut mousse into each of four individual serving dishes, and then set them in the fridge to set at least two hours.
- Once the mousse has set for a few hours, prepare the Blood Orange Jelly. First, pour the blood orange juice into a saucepan, stir in ⅓ cup honey and warm them over medium-high heat until the honey melts into the juice and they begin to simmer together. Continue simmering them together until the liquid is reduced to one cup. Turn off the heat.
- Soften 1 ½ teaspoons gelatin into 1 tablespoon cold water, until it takes on the texture of applesauce. Whisk the softened gelatin, orange extract and rosewater into the blood orange and honey syrup, ensuring that the gelatin melts completely and no lumps remain. Let the syrup cool about 5 minutes so that it pours easily, but is not hot.
- Pull the dishes of coconut mousse out of the fridge and pour equal amounts of the blood orange and honey syrup over the mousse, then return them to the fridge to continue setting another two hours.
- Set a stainless steel skillet over medium heat, and toss in the coconut flakes. Stir them frequently, and pull them off of the stove when they take on the color of lightly toasted bread. Sprinkle the toasted coconut evenly over each dish of coconut mousse and blood orange jelly, and then serve.