If you’ve made reservations at a swanky restaurant for you and your lover this Valentine’s Day, you might want to instead consider booking a table at a much more familiar joint — your home.
In fact, surprising someone you love with a home-cooked meal or even inviting them to join in on the preparation can provide a Valentine’s experience that no restaurant can.
“You don’t have to deal with reservations, high prices and the anxiety of getting the right place,” says Tom Fillipou, executive chef for Loblaws Cooking Schools. “At home you can relax, take your time and put together a great meal.”
Fillipou says that for culinary beginners, making a meal together with your date can be easy if you do a little prep work in advance.
“If you plan your evening out and you’ve got your groceries there, it’s a lot of fun,” he says.
Begin by designing your meal around a main course. Consulting cookbooks, the Internet, or kitchen-savvy friends are all great ways to get recipes. Then head out to the grocery store a couple of days in advance to pick up the necessary ingredients.
For budget-minded shoppers, Great Cooks co-owner and executive chef Maggie McKeown suggests buying seasonal ingredients and only buying the exact amount of food needed.
“Also, colour is always a really dominant theme,” says McKeown. “You think of red, pink, chocolate and aphrodisiacs.”
McKeown will be teaching a sold-out couples cooking class today in the Great Cooks studio. On the menu are decadent dishes such as beef tenderloin with cherry pinot noir sauce, and a passion fruit vinaigrette salad. She says recipes like these are all designed to be easy for couples to replicate at home.
“And if you’re doing it at home, you can create your own atmosphere by lighting candles and choosing the music that you want,” says McKeown, who also says that significant others will appreciate the cooking gesture.
“You’re actually putting effort into something and giving it to someone and that is pretty special,” she adds.
Cooking up a Valentine’s feast isn’t just for lovers either. This year, celebrity chef Todd English partnered with online dating company Lavalife to create do-it-yourself menus for a couple’s night in and for a “Single and Lovin’ It” soirée.
“Both couples and singles should enjoy Valentine’s Day,” says English. “It is a day to appreciate your loved one and also a day to look for a new potential love interest.”
Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
• 5 red peppers, cleaned
• 1 large onion, sliced
• 3 cloves garlic, whole
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• salt and pepper to taste
• 2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
• 1 box PC Blue Menu Omega 3 or Whole Wheat Spaghetti
• 1/2 medium eggplant, diced
• 2 zucchini, diced
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1/3 cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, grated
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Core peppers and chop into large pieces. In a large bowl, combine peppers, onion slices and garlic; arrange in single layer on baking sheet. Roast in oven for approximately 30 minutes or until desired level of caramelization has occurred.
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta to package directions.
3. Remove peppers from oven and scrape contents into food processor or blender. Puree, strain and pour into large sauce pan. Season to taste, add fresh thyme and simmer to reduce by 1/4 volume.
4. While sauce is simmering, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add eggplant and zucchini and sauté until soft.
5. Drain pasta and place in large bowl. Add desired amount of red pepper sauce and mix well. Add zucchini, eggplant and cheese, and mix well. Serves 4-6.
– recipe courtesy of Loblaws
Baked Oysters, for two
• 10 each Wellfleet oysters
• kosher salt, as needed
• 4 oz. mascarpone
• 2 tbsp shredded radicchio
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp chopped scallions
• 1 oz. heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Shuck the oysters, opening each one; discard the top half of the shell and keep the oysters on the half shell.
2. Layer the bottom of a baking pan heavily with kosher salt. Place the oysters on the salt, pressing them down so they are sturdy. Put aside and start the stuffing.
3. Place the mascarpone, radicchio, balsamic vinegar, scallions, and cream in a mixing bowl. Mix ingredients together well. Evenly place all of the filling on the oysters.
4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the top is brown. Remove from the baking pan and serve immediately.
– Todd English recipe