By Karin Calloway

Karin Calloway is a working mom living in Augusta, Ga., with multiple freelance jobs and a ton of dirty dishes.

French Accent

French cuisine has a reputation for being sauce-laden, pastry wrapped and hyper-indulgent. And while most French chefs don't scrimp on butter or cream, there's a whole lot more than these high-fat ingredients in French cooking.

This month's menu offers up a French flavor just in time for a little Valentine's Day romance. Consider inviting friends over for a meal that starts with luscious Garlic Soup and crisp Gougeres. Follow with your favorite tossed salad, of try one of the salad recipes on the Viking site.

A main course of Pan-Roasted Salmon is served over a flavorful Lentil Ragout, an earthy combination your friends will love. Individual Raspberry-Almond Clafoutis are the finishing touch to this French-themed meal.

Many components of the menu can be prepared ahead. Make the soup, Lentil Ragout and Clafoutis the day before your dinner party and reheat before serving. The Gougeres can be made and frozen up to a month ahead. Just place the frozen pastries on a baking sheet and crisp in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes. And, you can brown the salmon an hour before your party and pop it into the oven to finish cooking while your guests enjoy their soup.


Recipes:

Winter Salad with Persimmons, Dates, Spiced Walnuts and Sherry Vinaigrette
If you thought most persimmons were too bitter to eat, you haven’t had a perfectly ripe and wonderfully sweet persimmon. Neither had I, until a recent trip to San Francisco’s Saturday farmer’s market at the Ferry Building.
Garlic Soup
Some people love garlic, others don’t. But few would pass on a creamy bowl of this delicious Garlic Soup. Yes, two cups of garlic is a lot. But the flavor of the garlic mellows as it simmers with leeks, onion and chicken broth.
Gougeres
Pate a Choux is a classic French preparation that’s used in everything from savory pastries to sweet éclairs. And, it is one of the simplest French pastries to master.
Individual Raspberry-Almond Clafoutis
Clafouti is a classic French dessert that is quite simple to prepare. Traditional clafouti is a thick, pancake batter-like custard baked in a pie plate with fruit, usually cherries.
Lentil Ragout
When looking for an accompaniment for roasted fish, leave the garlic mashed potatoes off the menu and consider legumes instead. The combination is not only healthful, but hearty and delicious.