No Reservations (Valentine’s Day at Home)

Alyce’s Tuna with Marinara and Spinach with Onions*

To get you in the mood, kick off with Van Morrison’s “Moondance.”  
Or, if you’d rather, “Someone Like You.”
          Note: If you right click on the song title, you can open youtube in another window and keep the music playing…………………………………
If you’d rather just order pizza (I know you!) and watch a movie, stop here and look at the best movies of 2011 and call for delivery.   Wow, that was a short blog!   But…if you’re in the mood for food at home, read on.

Since everyone and their mother is now a food or wine writer, it’s a bit crazy to see just how many articles there are about cooking for Valentine’s Day or drinking for Valentine’s Day.   “I Wine You to Wine Me,” is out from Wine Spectator.  Phew.   The desserts, the bubblies…  It’s all somewhat odd, eh?  Because the word has always been that one goes OUT for Valentine’s Day–something I’ve seldom done.  Why?  Too crowded, too expensive, and rushed food.  Enough reasons?  I will admit, however, that if you have children of any age in the house, going out looks better and better.  Who wants to be searing a great piece of salmon while your loved one lights the candles only to be confronted with a dirty diaper, a bloody nose, a soccer practice, or a boyfriend crisis?

The only kids now at home sleep under the table!

 Because I’m a faithful person and because my (adult) children know I love them madly, I’ll admit I’ve been thrilled to cook at home on Valentine’s Day in the years since they left.  THANK YOU, GOD! And, truthfully, we were broke for a lot of years before that, so I cooked for a bunch of those, too.  Not only that, I  have always made Dave one of his favorite desserts for his Valentine’s Day present.   (What do you get a guy for Valentine’s Day??)  For us, it’s a bit simple. While embarrassing to admit, I cook better food than most restaurants serve (as do many people) and I can afford the wine in my cellar (or on my counter) because I bought it myself and it’s paid for.  So, the food and wine are both better…   I’ve saved a heap of money (even the loveliest filet at the butcher is $15 per in St. Paul), I can hear everything Dave says, and dinner can–and occasionally does–take all evening.   No one is standing at the entrance to the room eyeing our plates to see when we’ll be done.  No server is bringing dessert before I’ve finished my dinner.  If there’s any clanking in the kitchen, Dave and I are doing it.  And, in St. Paul, no doors are opening letting in the Arctic Circle.

I often plan a meal complete with music (you can get “Sarah Vaughn for Lovers,”  “Ella Fitzgerald for Lovers” or just put on Van Morrison’s “Moondance” and be done) and it may start in one room–maybe the kitchen– with a tiny appetizer and a sparkler, later moving into dining room for soup, main course, and salad–and end in the living room with cheese and dessert.  A spot of port.  While that’s possible in a restaurant, it’s not probable.   You don’t have to do all those things, of course; but they’re fun!

So if you can pawn off the kids elsewhere or pay them to stay upstairs… or if you have no kids… dream up something scrumptious and cook at home.  Leave the dishes rinsed in the sink for the next morning.

First,  you’ll have to decide about the gift dessert— I don’t know what I’m making Dave this year, but here are some of my favorites on More Time:

Hazelnut-Chocolate Cake

Apple pie...a great gift for Valentine’s Day

Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Cookies (good anytime)

 Lemon Scented Pear-Almond Crostata – Yes!

There are directions for making this crostata with apples, too, if you like.

One of my all-time favorite desserts is Brandied Fig Vanilla Pudding from Epicurious.  Almost done before you begin, this silky pudding is simple, subtle, supple, and topped with a bit of fig preserves mixed with a spoonful of brandy.  Sometimes I offer a tish of hot fudge and berries in placeof the figs, depending on the season.   Made on the stove in a few minutes, it can be done ahead or at the last minute.  It’s great warm if you’re running late!  One note:  Brandied Fig Vanilla Pudding is gorgeous in nice, heavy crystal on-the-rocks tumblers; you can see the pudding and the shining golden fig layer at top through the sparkling glass.

 Thing is, I think you can often cook as well as the folks in the restaurants, too.  You can cook to your own tastes and take your time.  You can make the dessert today and just serve a salad and steak tomorrow.   I mean, most of us work on Valentine’s Day, right?

Needn’t be a complex salad to be good.  In fact, the opposite is true.

Just for fun, I’ve looked around at a few available menus to see what exactly IS a romantic menu?  I’m not sure I know; so here are a couple I’ve seen around the net lately:

This one, off the Epicurious site, is called:

                                        ROMANTIC DINNER

  • Peach Royale
  • Smoked Salmon with Crispy Shallots and Dilled Cream
  • Seared Duck Breast with Cherries and Port Sauce
  • Penne with Hazelnut Gremolata and Roasted Broccolini
  • Sliced Strawberries with Grand Marnier Zabaglione
OR…you might like…
  • Flatbread with Fingerling Potatoes, Shitake Mushrooms, and Truffle Oil
  • Spice-Coated Rack of Lamb for Two with Arugula, Avocado, and Blood Orange Salad
  • Almond Cakes with Chocolate Passion-Fruit Sauce 

Other options are:


LAMB CHOPS AND ROASTED VEGETABLES FOR TWO  right here from More Time.  (pictured at top)
                           If you do make the lamb chops, you are wide open for both wine and dessert.  While a typical pairing for lamb is Cabernet Sauvignon, I like Syrah or Pinot Noir (California and Oregon, respectively, though I love CRISTOM Syrah, which is Oregon) with this meal to meet up and ring with with the sweet tones in the root vegetables.  In the post, there’s a simple bread pudding, but you might remember I just blogged another bread pudding that’s to die for.  Don’t want to make dessert?  Pick up two kinds of gelato or sorbet (I like Pistachio gelato with Raspberry sorbet) and some tiny Scots shortbread cookies or feast on a bit of the chocolate you bought.  Don’t skimp on the coffee; make sure it’s lovely.  It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s all in the details (and the laughter.)



While I’m just realizing this, one of my favorite meals to serve Dave or company, isn’t on the blog; the marinara, however, is on my other blog, Dinner Place, as is tuna with spinach and onions.
I think you can figure out how to put it all together from the photo; don’t forget Parmesan at the table. 

Whatever you do, enjoy. 

two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood

Last Friday Night’s Table

The other lovers.

On my kitchen window

Tucker–thinks he’s hiding.

Sing a new song on Valentine’s Day….

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