Pillbox

Recipes for romance

Create an appetizing spread just for the two of you. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create an appetizing spread just for the two of you. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create a tasty homemade meal for you and your date. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create a tasty homemade meal for you and your date. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create a tasty homemade meal for you and your date. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create a tasty homemade meal for you and your date. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create a tasty homemade meal for you and your date. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create a tasty homemade meal for you and your date. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create a tasty homemade meal for you and your date. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create a tasty homemade meal for you and your date. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create a tasty homemade meal for you and your date. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Create a tasty homemade meal for you and your date. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff)

For your date this Valentine’s Day, there are a number of great restaurant options available. Try Silk Elephant on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill for an elegant Thai dinner in silk-draped shade, or Girasole on Copeland Street in Shadyside for rustic, full-flavored Italian food. But even with all these great places to go to, there’s always the homely couch in your own living room for a cozy private dinner.

This V-Day, surprise your loved one with a home-cooked meal. Show off your inner culinary skill or your newly learned kitchen talent with a menu that could look something like this:

Appetizer: fresh mozzarella and tomato salad
Main Course: broiled soy sauce and honey glazed salmon with jasmine rice and vegetables
Dessert: mascarpone cheese with chocolate cookies and baked peach
Drink: Sparkling juice, or water or soda with lemon

This date can be modified in different ways, from changing the menu to altering the atmosphere. You can tell your date to dress nicely and have dinner on a table by the windows, or come in sweats to dine on the coffee table next to the couch. A few ways to make the ambience romantic and exciting are by baking cinnamon in the oven, as this makes the room smell great, or by lighting candles round the sofa; candlelight has a beautiful glow effect. Turn on some good jazz music, such as Madeleine Peyroux, Stan Getz, or Marin Taylor from Pandora, or get some ideas for what music to play from the article on page 14.

For your dinner menu, try to keep every dish as simple as possible. You want to have a proper date with quality time at the dinner table, not half of the time spent slaving away in the kitchen. In this particular menu, each dish is very easy to assemble and cook from scratch. The three courses are simple, elegant, and delicious without using any canned or boxed product.

As for the appetizer, keep it light and simple. You want to enjoy the dish, but an appetizer should not be too filling. Aside from fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, try substituting prosciutto and melon (from the Nov. 24, 2008 issue), baked brie with fresh apple and caramelized honey, or a simple salad with some fresh fruit and poached shrimp.

For the fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, you will need:

2 large fresh tomatoes
2 fresh mozzarella balls, approximately 1 inch in diameter. Fresh mozzarella can be found in the cheese area and it is usually suspended in a water solution. It comes in various sizes. Aim for an equal amount of mozzarella and tomatoes.
A pinch of salt
A pinch of pepper, freshly ground if possible.
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
5–10 leaves of fresh basil

As with any other salad, this is a cut-up-and-put-them-together dish. Start by slicing the tomatoes and the fresh mozzarella crosswise so that they are a quarter-inch thick. On your serving plate, arrange the tomatoes, a leaf of basil and the mozzarella alternately on top of each other. You can arrange them so that tomatoes and fresh mozzarella overlap slightly, forming a line, or stacking them on top of each other. Drizzle the plate with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. As a last touch, sprinkle some ripped basil leaves on top and serve immediately.

This salad can be prepared ahead of time by storing sliced-up fresh mozzarella and tomatoes in a covered container separately. Only assemble the salad before serving.

For the main course, fish is a really good option because of its soft and flaky meat texture. The great thing about fish is that you don’t need a steak knife to slice through it, nor do you have to swirl your fork through tangled pasta. Avoid fried food at all costs for a romantic at-home date because your room will smell like a cafeteria. Broiling, baking, and steaming are more forgiving to the atmosphere.

For the broiled soy sauce and honey-glazed salmon with jasmine rice and vegetables, you’ll need:

2 boneless salmon fillets, approximately ¼ lb each
¼ cup of soy sauce. Fish sauce is not a substitute for this.
1 tablespoon of honey. If you don’t have honey, golden syrup or brown sugar works as well. Only use white sugar as a last resort.
1 tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro.
1 teaspoon of sesame oil. This is not necessary, but sesame oil gives this dish an extra punch.

Make sure your rice is cooked ahead of time and keep it warm. You can pick any vegetables you want: Think broccoli, bok choy, carrots, or even mixed greens.

To prepare your salmon, mix together soy sauce, honey, cilantro, and sesame oil and pour it over your salmon fillet. Marinate the fillet in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes and at most half an hour. Then, put the fish in the oven, set at 350ºF, for 5–7 minutes and in the broiler for another 3–4 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your fillet.

The honey will help to caramelize the salmon fillets, and the sesame oil will help prevent the fish from drying. Be careful not to bake the fillet for too long, as the fish will continue cooking from the heat even after it is out of the oven.

There are several options to prepare your greens, from blanching them in hot water and drizzling them with melted butter or hoisin sauce to stir-frying the bok choy or broccoli with peanut oil and a pinch of salt.

Serve your fish on top of the rice with your choice of vegetables on the side. If you have spring onions, you can chop them up and sprinkle them on top of the fish.

For dessert, ordering a Valentine’s Day cupcake from Dozen’s bakeshop will make any girl smile. Or you can try a really easy dessert that is delicious.

For mascarpone cheese with chocolate cookies and baked peaches, you will need:

At least 4 oz. of mascarpone cheese. The amount of cheese is your preference.
Your chocolate cookies should be at least 3 inches in diameter.
A peach, an orange, or another fruit ranging from the freshest berries on the market on that day to a pomegranate.
1 tablespoon of butter
1–2 tablespoons of brown sugar

Run your knife lengthwise along the length of the peach all the way around the peach, then twist the two halves around the pit. This will cause half the peach to fall off. Place the peach on a baking sheet and cut it along the side, facing up. Butter the cut surface and sprinkle some brown sugar over your peach. Bake it in the oven at 350ºF for 40 minutes. If you have some ground cinnamon, sprinkle a pinch over each half before you put them in the oven.

To assemble this dessert, stir up the mascarpone cheese with a fork so that it is light and fluffy. If you choose fresh fruit instead of baked peach for this dessert, have your sweetheart help cutting the fruit and assemble the dessert together. Then, either in a fancy plate or just a cup, place a scoop of as much mascarpone cheese as you’d like with the baked peach on the side. As a last touch, smash up some cookies and sprinkle them over your cheese and baked peach.

While eating dessert, make things romantic by placing the cheese and peach on one plate and sharing with your Valentine.