St. Valentine’s Day Dinner for Two: A Perfect Date
There are a lot of things that you can do alone. You can sail solo around the world, enjoying sunrises and sunsets in the middle of blue salty nowhere. You can take a nap by yourself, enjoying a whole warm blanket and a big bed.
But what you can never do alone is dancing a tango, the dance of love. Because it takes two to tango. And even if you don’t dance, it still takes two – you and your second half – to love.
Have you already guessed the song quoted here? Written and published back in 1952 by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning, the song “Takes Two to Tango” owes its half century’s popularity to Pearl Bailey, Louis Armstrong, and Ray Charles, whose recordings still keep reminding us about the essence of true love.
True love always takes two.
Great! Now you have a wonderful musical accompaniment for your Valentine’s Day evening. Let’s cross it out from the checklist. What else do you need to turn the busy Thursday, February 14, into a memorable romantic holiday?
Heart-shaped balloons, heart-shaped chocolates, angels, candles, lovebirds, and flowers definitely go by default. By the way, speaking of flowers, roses aren’t the only eloquent option to express your true feelings. Get out of the box and decorate your love nest with tulips, orchids, or sunflowers, symbolizing admiration and adoration.
Yet, there is one more piece to finish a V-Day puzzle. It’s a dinner that you and your sweetheart can cook in duet. After all, it takes two to make a lovely Valentine’s Day meal and spend the evening like that couple in your favorite romance movie.
Put the Pork in the Oven
Start with a hearty dish that needs more time than other treats. While stuffed pork tenderloin is getting soft, subtle, and juicy in the oven, you have enough time for cooking a few appetizers and serving beverages.
Let’s check the ingredients:
- 1 1/4 lb. pork tenderloin
- 3/4 c. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1/3 c. sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
- 1/2 box frozen spinach, thawed, with excess water squeezed out (optional)
- 1 lb. small potatoes, cleaned and halved
- 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. Italian herbs
- 1tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- cooking spray
Here are the directions:
- Preheat the oven to 350-400°F. Line a sheet pan with foil. Coat with cooking spray.
- Cut a neat deep slit all the way down the length of the meat. But do not cut all the way through. Lay the meat open. Pound with a mallet until the meat becomes about 3/4 inch thick.
- Season with the herbs, salt and pepper. Layer the cheese, tomatoes, and spinach over one side of the meat.
- Roll the meat up and secure with kitchen twine. Tie each string about 2-3 inches apart.
- Season the meat with the salt and pepper. Place the roll on the sheet pan.
- In a bowl, toss the halved potatoes with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the potatoes around the pork on the sheet pan.
- Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 30-40 min., or until the potatoes get brownish and the temperature of the meat reaches 145-160°F on the meat thermometer.
- Turn off the oven and let the pork rest for 5-7 min. Before serving, remove the string and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve sliced and warm.
And here are a few interesting facts about the dish to add more V-Day symbolism to it.
The tomato, one of the ingredients, is also known as a “love apple.” Because of its red color, round shape, juicy texture, and many seeds, the tomato does look like a “sensual” plant. And because of this “sensuality” the Catholic church even disapproved tomato consumption in the 16th century, when the tomato was brought from Central America to Europe.
Among the herbs that perfectly pair with pork, there must be some rosemary which symbolizes love and fidelity. You may also add some oregano which stands for your appreciation of what and who you have.
Meanwhile, Cook Appetizers Four Hands
Now you have 30-40 minutes to prepare a few delectable starters for your best V-Day dinner. But to make the whole cooking process even more enjoyable, how about pecking at a scrumptious but very simple morsel?
Caviar with cream cheese and crackers looks like a prompt and tasty idea. Today, caviar is one of our first associations with a luxurious and satisfying lifestyle. But since ancient times, this delicacy has also symbolized fertility and has been believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
What else could perfectly heat up your and your sweetheart’s appetites?
Fried Ricotta and bacon hearts
You will need only 15-20 minutes to make this beautiful and simple hot appetizer. Crispy savory bacon harmoniously combines with tender creamy cheese, confirming the all-time true axiom: opposites attract.
- 1/2 lb. Ricotta cheese
- 3/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 egg, cracked
- 1/2 lb. bacon, sliced
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. lemon rind, grated finely
- 1 tsp. thyme leaves
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- salt, pepper and chili to taste
- tomato pesto (optional)
- toasted bread (optional)
- Preheat the skillet on a medium heat. Sprinkle with the oil. In a bowl, combine the Ricotta, Parmesan, egg, lemon rind, paprika, thyme, and seasonings. Mix well.
- Spoon the medley into heart-shaped rings or cutters. Fry for 10-15 min., until the cheese gets golden.
- Meanwhile, preheat the other skillet on a medium heat. Sprinkle with the oil. In the skillet, form the bacon strips into heart shapes. Make sure the strips overlap. Fry for 10-15 min., until the bacon gets brownish and crispy.
- Lift off the cheese and bacon hearts. Place them on plates.
- Serve warm with tomato pesto and toasts.
Two-heart palm and artichoke salad
This healthful and flavorful salad will be the right addition to the Valentine’s Day menu. Plus, it’s so simple that you will finish tossing it as soon as your dearest finishes cutting the ready pork tenderloin.
- 1 can palm hearts, rinsed and cut crosswise
- 1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered
- 2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into half moons
- 2 ripe avocados, sliced or cubed
- 1 tomato, cut into wedges
- 7-10 whole inner leaves of Romaine lettuce.
- 2 oz. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 5 tbsp. chicken broth
- 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare the dressing: whisk together the lemon juice, chicken broth, vinegar, oil, and seasonings.
- On individual plates, arrange the lettuce leaves. On top arrange the palm hearts, artichoke hearts, cucumbers, avocados, and tomatoes.
- Pour the dressing over.
- Sprinkle with the cheese.
- Serve chilled.
Surely, we can’t go without a pinch of holiday symbolism here. According to some ancient beliefs, the artichoke represents peace, hope, and prosperity. The avocado was the Aztec symbol of love and lust.
And if you don’t really care about the hidden meanings in your food, just note that the artichoke and avocado are powerhouses of many vitamins (with C, D, and E among them).
The Final Fruit Touch
Open your favorite sweet wine, grab some ice cream or chocolate (whatever you prefer), and make a generous fruit platter. Who knows why old myths and tales assign so many specific meanings to different fruits?
Probably, the nutritional value is not everything we should know about them.
- The fig represents peace and abundance in the Christian tradition. These chocolate fig bonbons will be a sumptuous sweet option for your V-Day dessert.
- The Caribbean people believed that the pineapple represented sincere hospitality.
- The pomegranate, praised for its healthfulness and sour sweetness, is a symbol of beauty, love, and marriage in many cultures.
- In ancient times, strawberries, which look like cute little hearts when cut into halves, were believed to bring good health. And the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote that strawberries grew along the path to the heaven.
The list of eatable and uneatable love symbols in our or any other nation is endless and full of the most unexpected meanings. (Are you surprised to find out that suddenly your all-time favorite food represents love?)
But still, it is not a symbol that gives any meaning to love. It is love that gives a meaning to any symbol.
May this year’s Valentine’s Day be meaningful and happy to you and your significant other!
Enjoy your romantic dinner, turn on your favorite music, light some candles, and keep believing in your love. Because true love always takes you two.