Valentine’s Day Dinner Recipes: Save your energy for after dinner
It’s that time of year. Valentine’s Day is less than a week away. If you haven’t made reservations already, what were you thinking??? Not to worry. You can always stay in and cook for that special someone. I know that cooking can be stressful for some, especially if you’re in a new relationship, have never cooked for your significant other before, or are unsure about your prowess in the . . . kitchen.
I’ve put together a stress free Italian-themed meal that will address all the major concerns: it’s easy; it’s light, but satisfying; and it ends with a hit of espresso to keep your energy levels up.
Start with an antipasti platter. There is no one recipe for this. Usually, it includes cheese, cured meats, and extras like vegetables, olives, and/or nuts. When I put a platter together, I like to choose two cheeses – one that is soft and gooey (e.g., brie) and one that is harder (e.g., manchego). I add two cured meats like salami and prosciutto. Instead of serving the prosciutto in a nice heaping mound, try this alternative: lightly dress some arugula with salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar (note: I would use a 3-to-1 oil-to-vinegar ratio). Wrap a slice of prosciutto around a bite-size bunch of arugula and secure it with a toothpick. Make a little extra dressing to drizzle over the finished bundles. Finish off the platter with some crackers and olives or marinated artichoke hearts.
For the main course and dessert, I suggest shrimp scampi and affogato (recipes after the jump). Some of you may think that shrimp scampi is boring, but I love its simplicity and the contrast between the heat of the red pepper flakes and the brightness of the lemon and fresh parsley. Affogato, which literally means drowned in Italian, is simply hot espresso poured over ice cream or gelato and topped with whipped cream.
Full recipes after the jump.
1/2 lb of shrimp (16/20 size), peeled and deveined
8 oz of linguine (fresh or dry)
1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for garnish)
1 clove garlic, minced (go light on the garlic!)
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a few big pinches of salt to the water and then add the pasta. Stir to prevent pasta from sticking together. Depending on the type of pasta you use, try to time the pasta so that it is ready around the same time as you’re ready to drop it into the saucepan filled with the shrimp mixture described below. Cooking tip: When the pasta is somewhere between chewy and mushy, it’s ready. Drain the pasta, but reserve about half a cup of the cooking water.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp and sauté for a few minutes until you see a hint of pink (2 minutes). Season with salt and add the minced garlic, butter, parsley and red pepper flakes. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan (i.e. scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan) and continue cooking until shrimp are completely pink. Add the cooked pasta, lemon zest and lemon juice to the saucepan. Stir to combine and cook for about a minute longer so the pasta absorbs the pan sauce. If the pan is too dry right after you add the pasta, add a tablespoon or two of the pasta water to the pan.
Divide the pasta and shrimp between two plates and top with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.
1 pint of vanilla ice cream or gelato
1/2 c hot water
1 tbsp instant espresso
1/3 cup heavy cream (or store-bought whipped cream)
2-3 tbsp sliced almonds or a few amaretti cookies, crushed
Add the espresso to the hot water and mix until completely dissolved. In a bowl beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. In two dessert bowls or glasses, place one or two scoops or ice cream (or gelato). Pour 2 tbsp or a shot of espresso over the ice cream in each bowl. Top each with sliced almonds or crushed amaretti. Serve immediately. Buon appetito!