And privacy is at a minimum -- just picture yourself in the middle of a whispered sweet nothing when the waiter arrives announcing his name and the specials of the evening. Lingering over that last sip of champagne is not encouraged because your table has to be turned over to the next pair of ravenous lovers.
Don't get me wrong -- restaurants are doing their job in offering this option for a night away from the kitchen. Still, I would much rather sacrifice the fancy fare in a room filled with strangers for a more simple meal that I can plan with all the romantic stereotypes -- candlelight, roaring fire, soft music, fragrant flowers.
Sure, it does take more time than making a reservation, but not a whole lot more.
This year, Valentine's day falls on a Saturday, which, due to Shabbat, presents us with the challenge of creating a fabulous menu with most of the work done ahead of time, The flip side is that, with just a little assembling and reheating, there's less to do before that first kiss.
The pale-green and pastel-pink heart of Romaine salad can be assembled, covered and chilled overnight. Dress and toss just before serving.
The sauce for the luxurious linguini and salmon dish can be reheated at the same time you're cooking the pasta. The puff-pastry cinnamon hearts can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Light the candles, select your favorite song, and get ready to woo your sweetie!
Creamy, Dreamy Tomato Soup
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. thyme
11/2 cups vegetable stock or water
3 Tbsps. rice
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsps. crème fraîche or sour cream
In a medium pot, heat the oil.
Add the onions and garlic, and cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, thyme and stock.
Bring to a boil and add rice. Simmer, partially covered about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender.
Purée in food processor or with a stick blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper.
Serve with a swirl of crème fraîche or sour cream.
Linguini With Salmon and Wild Mushrooms
2 Tbsps. butter
1 tsp. chopped shallots
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps cut into strips
4 oz. golden chanterelles, sliced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup fish or chicken stock
2 tsps. fresh tarragon leaves, chopped or 1 tsp. dried
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb. fresh, cooked salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 oz. smoked salmon, cut into strips
3 Tbsps. golden or black caviar for garnish (optional)
8 oz. freshly cooked linguini
In large sauté pan or skillet, heat the butter.
Cook the shallots and mushrooms until the mushrooms become brown around the edges.
Stir in the tomato paste, wine and stock.
Bring to a boil and let cook until liquid is reduce by half.
Stir in the tarragon and cream. Cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Add the fish and cook until done.
Add salt and pepper, if needed.
Toss with the linguini and garnish with caviar.
Hearts of Romaine and Parmesan Salad
1 Tbsp. minced parsley leaves
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsps. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
heart of 1 head of Romaine lettuce (the pale-green interior leaves)
1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese
Combine dressing ingredients until well-blended.
Tear Romaine into bite-sized pieces and toss with slivers of cheese.
Toss with dressing just before serving.
Cinnamon Hearts on a Bed of Raspberries
1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups fresh raspberries
1 Tbsp. Chambord, eau de vie, or any other fruit liqueur
2 Tbsps. powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.
Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface until it measures about 11x14-inches.
With 4-inch heart-shaped cookie-cutters, cut out hearts.
Place the hearts on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and bake about 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden-brown and puffed.
Let cool and store in airtight container if not using that day.
Sprinkle the berries with liqueur, and let marinate at least 2 hours or overnight.
To Assemble: Just before serving, divide the berries among two flat dessert dishes.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and arrange 2 cinnamon hearts over each serving. Pass extra cinnamon hearts around.
Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer.