Dear Barbara: I am planning a romantic dinner for my boyfriend and me for Valentine’s Day. I thought it would be fun (and romantic) to have a chocolate fondue for dessert. I have a recipe, but after that I am lost. Do you have any tips for fondue? I don’t even know what to dip. All I can think of is strawberries, but I would like to have a nice variety. Thanks. — Taylor from Thornton
Dear Taylor: What a nice romantic surprise you have in mind for your boyfriend! I do have a few tips for you. When doing a chocolate fondue — or any fondue — you should prepare it in a double boiler on the stove first, and then pour it into the fondue pot. If you are doing a chocolate fondue for dessert, be sure the cocoa solid content is more than 50 percent; that information is usually printed on the outer wrapper. The best quality chocolate makes the best fondue.
Fondue pots are to keep the fondue warm, not to cook it. For cheese and dessert fondue, a ceramic or enamel cast iron pot works best. You need very little heat to keep chocolate fondue melted. A tea candle works very well.
Whatever you decide to dip, be sure you pat it very dry first. Moisture can make the chocolate “seize up,” and then you have a real problem on your hands because the chocolate is no longer usable. If you are dipping fruit, chill it thoroughly and then pat it dry. Chilling fruits help the chocolate to stick.
Most firm fruits are good for dipping. Orange segments (leave the membrane intact), apples and banana slices are good but you need to slice bananas immediately before serving them or they will oxidize and turn slightly brown. The same applies to apples. Cake is good for fondue dipping. Cube pieces of pound cake or angel food cake. Just let your imagination go and you’ll come up with a hundred ideas!
Dear Barbara: My husband and I occasionally like a glass of wine with dinner. The problem is there is always leftover wine and I don’t know how long you should keep it. It always seems to get poured down the sink. What can I use it for, and how long will it keep? — Karen from Lodi
Dear Karen: There are many people who share your dilemma, and it makes you feel like you are throwing money away.
Years ago, I worked in the tasting room of a winery. I was told that red wine should be used the same day it is opened, and that white wine should be kept no longer than three days after opening. That’s not much time to use it up. You definitely can cook with it. You should always cook with the same wine you are serving.
If you can’t use it in the recommended time, you can freeze it in ice cube trays to be used at a later time in sauces, soups, stews, and casseroles as part of the liquid. That also makes it nice when a recipe only calls for a small amount of wine that you don’t have to open a whole bottle just for that quarter cup.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.