When you think about it, restaurants are a terrible place to spend Valentine’s Day. They’re crowded, expensive, noisy – basically, the opposite of a romantic setting.
But there’s a perfect place to host a special dinner, and it’s guaranteed to have your favorite table available. That place is home.
It’s really kind of brilliant when you think about it. You can control everything from the mood to the menu. So with that in mind, we reached out to some experts for dishes that promise to please.
Start with a French Kiss, a libation from Romantic Cocktails: Craft Cocktail Recipes for Couples, Crushes, and Star-Crossed Lovers.
Author Clair McLafferty states:
“For me, romance is all in the details. When someone takes the time to learn your preferences with food [or] drink, they can make predictions about things you'll love… Though candles and fancy food can help set the mood, making someone a gift or drink based on knowing someone well is the sexiest thing I can think of.”
Recipe: French Kiss Cocktail (Serves 1)
- 1 ounce Chambord
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1 ounce crème de cacao
- 1/2 ounce Cointreau
- 1 ounce half-and-half
- 1 chocolate kiss for garnish, optional
- 1 chocolate-dipped raspberry, optional
Combine Chambord, vodka, crème de cacao, Cointreau, and half-and-half in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously until chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a chocolate kiss and raspberry if desired. Either drop the chocolate kiss into the glass or cut a notch and perch on the rim of the glass.
(At my house, we’ll be serving the French Kiss cocktail with smoked almonds.)
[Related Event: WFAEats CHOCOLATE Tasting Event]
Next, present a colorful plate of Beets and Goat Cheese with Horseradish Sauce. We found this recipe in a truly unusual place: a new book titled The Bloated Belly Whisperer: See Results Within a Week and Tame Digestive Distress Once and for All by registered dietician Tamara Duker Freuman.
Sure, go ahead and laugh. But won’t it be nice to know this dish will prevent any heartburn on V-Day?
Recipe: Beets and Goat Cheese with Horseradish Sauce (Serves 4)
- 12 ounces green beans, trimmed
- 5 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon horseradish
- 1 tablespoon kefir, nonfat or low-fat milk, or milk substitute of your choice
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 1-1/2 tablespoons (about) minced fresh dill
- 1 8-ounce package steamed and peeled baby beets, drained and sliced into rounds
Cook the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain well and let cool.
Combine the goat cheese, horseradish, kefir, vinegar, and sugar in a small bowl or mini–food processor.
Beat with a handheld beater or process until the sauce is smooth.
Divide the beans among 4 small plates. Drizzle about 1/2 tablespoon sauce over each serving and sprinkle each generously with dill. Fan the beets over the center of the beans. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon sauce over each. Sprinkle each generously with dill.
For the main course, Maple Glazed Salmon is simple and foolproof. I know because I’ve made it more times than I can count since publishing the recipe in my very own cookbook, Hungry for Home: Stories of Food from Across the Carolinas. Pair this with Jeera Rice, fragrant with cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon. It’s one of the lovely recipes from chef and novelist Nandita Godbole’s book, Ten Thousand Tongues: the Companion Cookbook.
Recipe: Maple Ginger Salmon (Serves 2)
- 1/4 cup candied crystallized ginger
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon chili oil, more or less to taste
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- Salmon filet, 3/4 to 1 pound
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking dish and set aside. Finely slice the ginger. In a small bowl, combine it with the maple syrup, brown sugar, chili oil and rice vinegar. Blend well.
Rinse the fish and pat dry; place in the dish and pour the sauce over it. Cover with foil and bake about 25 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes or so, until the fish is translucent and flakes easily with a fork.
Recipe: Jeera Rice
- 1 teaspoon ghee
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 2” cinnamon stick
- 1 Indian bay leaf
- 2 cups raw Basmati rice
- 4 cups water, boiling hot
- Salt, to taste
Rinse out the rice in a large bowl and remove all water. Boil the 4 cups of water and keep it on a low simmer until ready to use. Heat the ghee in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan. Add cumin seeds and stir in using a flat spatula. Quickly add cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Carefully add the rinsed rice and stir to coat all the grains with the ghee. Take care to do this step carefully as to not break the rice grains. If there is any water in the rice, let it cook through.
Using extreme care, pour the hot water into the rice. Stir it in so that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add salt to taste. Allow this to boil and cook uncovered for 10-12 minutes. When the water has reduced to half or when it is just above the level of the rice, turn the heat down to low and cover the saucepan. Allow the rice to finish cooking for another 10-12 minutes on low heat. Check for doneness; the grains should be fully cooked. If the water has evaporated but the grains are uncooked, pour a quarter cup of water or less evenly over the mixture (do not stir in), cover and continue to cook for another two minutes on low. Serve warm.
And what about dessert? With all the makers of pies, cakes, and handmade sweets in our area, it’s impossible to pick a favorite. If you can’t decide, here’s what to do: Put your favorite sorbet or gelato in a pretty dish, grate a bit of orange rind or bittersweet chocolate over the top, and add a splash of brandy if you like.
After that, the rest is up to you. Happy Valentine’s Day!