Valentine's Day is a big day for cooking newbies. There are many romantics who decide to cook instead of go out, and they want to make something impressive, which only complicates the issue.
Cooking for one is relatively simple, but putting a big meal together can be challenging if you are new to it - it's not the cooking, but the dance of shopping, coordinating, timing, plus being relaxed and very romantically present to your sweetheart that makes it potentially hazardous.
Here is The Kitchn's guide to Valentine's dinner for, well, not dummies exactly, but cooks who want to impress without getting too flustered on the most romantic evening of the year. We give you a menu that can be done ahead, mostly, and simple dishes that are foolproof. Impressively delicious, too, which is perhaps the most important part...
How to make Valentine's dinner, 1-2-3, below...
The salad, bread, and dessert can all be done ahead. Finish the steaks just before dinner and light some candles - you are ready!
Easy Valentine's Menu
• Roasted Beets and Sauteed Greens - Made mostly with pre-cooked, peeled beets. These are available at Fairway for those of you in New York; for those of you in other regions, they are often found at Trader Joe's too. Pair with Humboldt Fog Chevre or another soft goat cheese. Skip the beet tops and substitute some spinach or bitter greens instead, toss with a little olive oil and vinegar, and some nuts. This is easy, sophisticated and impressive. It can be prepped hours in advance and put in salad dishes for instant serving. Their brilliant color makes them cheering and romantic.
• Good loaf of bread - Buy from your favorite bakery and heat in the oven slightly next to the broiling steaks. Serve with good butter, softened to room temperature.
• Broiled steaks for two - See our foolproof guide to broiling steaks!
• Spicy Boozy Mousse - A little cinnamon and spice to heat things up, and this mousse can be done well in advance. Spoon into pretty cups, dollop some whipped cream on top, and put in the fridge. When you're ready for dessert and coffee you can pull them out with no sweat.
• Vacuum-packed cooked beets
• Italian parsley
• Baby spinach or bitter greens like arugula
• Soft goats cheese
• Good butter, salted
• Whole milk
• Whipped cream
• 6 ounces good-quality semi-sweet dark chocolate
• Hazelnuts or macadamia nuts
• Loaf of good bread, like an excellent baguette
• 2 well-aged, expensive steaks (go for the best!)
Things you probably already have, but check just in case!
• White wine vinegar
• Olive oil
• Sea salt or kosher salt
• Rum or cognac
• Ancho or chipotle chili powder
(Tip: We just copy/paste our shopping lists into our email and send ourselves an email. Then we have it on our very handy iPhone - try it!)
(Image: Niman Ranch)