Sure you can make the infamous chocolate covered strawberries or if you go the risky route you can do a chocolate soufflé or any other aphrodisiac such as truffles with their mesmerizing scent of spices like vanilla and cardamom. Or try something lusciously rich such as pork belly or butter poached lobster or you can default to anything similar looking to a sexual organ like oysters or bananas – all right let’s stay focused here. Generally many of the fancy items are pretty much out of reach for the home cook unless you pull them together by mail order from different places. Put let’s face it takes a good amount of time and coordination besides a good amount of bucks to get your New England lobster, truffles from Oregon and some caviar possibly from a West coast supplier. For sure we are put under pressure and get reminded constantly by the daily advertisements and commercials to get that special something for the love of our lives starting several weeks before Valentine’s Day. The anticipation is build up more than a national holiday.
(a little red love in the arugula salad)
So you're one of those who doesn’t want to bother cooking at home. You certainly have the option to eat out in a restaurant as long as you were clever enough to book the table well in advance in a fancy restaurant. Yes Valentine’s Day is a rather busy day in a restaurant unless you choose a fast food joint. In a sit-down establishment you’ll likely encounter some sort of a chef’s menu. I admit I enjoyed cooking on Valentine’s Day. From a business perspective it’s pretty much a home run you’ll hear the cash register cha-ching-cha ching. Couples or two tops, this is what we call them in the restaurant - have their plus or minus 1h45 minute time slot to eat before the next couple gets the table and this happens ideally up to 4 times between the hours of 4 pm – midnight - definitely worthwhile from a business perspective.
(simple but delicious - Greek yogurt sauce)
More importantly, the exciting fact is that the kitchen crew gets to cook an interesting menu. I remember some past years’ menus designed around different themes such as flowers where paper thin fish strips were folded into a tulip shape, or flower essences such as rose petal water was used in a dressing and a salad was sprinkled with violets and a silky orange blossom cream for dessert made you close your eyes and dream and was a sure star of the evening. Another year the theme was togetherness, obviously. Small seductive lobster rolls were served as a duet for a palate teaser or a salsa dish (meaning dancing together) was served in a sweet and sour flavor balance and a crispy and soft textured composition made your tongue tingle. At dessert time a chocolate variation for two sure made plenty of fans and set the mood for more.
Hold the schmalz
This all sounds romantic which it should be but if you find yourself in a bind and didn’t get around to plan this whole Valentine’s thing and you can’t get a reservation in that special restaurant or a part of your new year’s resolution was to finally pay down that credit card debt. … then why not take charge of the evening! Set the table, light a candle and let I-tunes hit a soft note and get behind the stove.
Here are my menu suggestions, which include many common household items so your grocery list should be relatively short and not bank-breaking.
Valentine’s Day Menu
Baby Arugula & Strawberry Salad
Tea brined Chicken Tenders on a bed of Wilted Spinach with Creamy Yogurt Sauce
Cheese & Crackers with Honey
Grocery List (for the two of you)
Baby Arugula one clamshell/5oz
Strawberries ¼ lb
Extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons
Balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
Plain yogurt 3 tablespoons
Salt such as sea salt to taste
Pepper grindings to taste
Your favorite tea 2 tea bags
Chicken tenders 12 ounces
Baby Spinach one clamshell
Roquefort or Brie cheese 6 ounces
Toast 3 slices
Chef’s Tip: Consider trying a few half bottles of wine instead of a full bottle.
Rinse and dry salad and toss with quartered strawberries drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar/fresh lemon juice. Season the salad with a sprinkle of salt and grindings of fresh pepper. Serve salad in large pasta bowls.
Bonus add-ins: toasted nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews
Entrée - Chicken
1. Brew tea: choose your favorite tea such as black, green, herbal and brew 5 cups of water then steep 2 tea bags in it for 5 minutes. Throw out tea bags and put the liquid into the freezer to cool. Measure 2 cups of cold tea and mix with 1 teaspoon of sea salt then stir to dissolve.
2. Marinate chicken for 30 minutes in the brine – this is called brining. Throw brine out.
3. In a pot (2-quart sized) heat 2 cups of tea and cook marinated chicken for ten minutes on low flame setting
Chef’s Note: substitute ½-thick sliced beef filet or skinless, deboned fish fillet for chicken tenders
Yogurt Sauce: In a coffee cup combine 3 tablespoons plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon olive oil with 2 pinches of salt and fresh pepper and mix with a coffee spoon.
Bed of Spinach: Put 4 cups of baby spinach into a large ceramic bowl and cover with a plate. Microwave the spinach for one minute.
1. Place 6 ounces of room temperature soft cheese such as Roquefort or brie on a plate then drizzle with 1 teaspoon honey.
2.Toast 3 slices of bread and cut into wedges
(ok - this can be a suprise - no need to make just pick up at the store)