Cooking a great meal surely makes for a romantic Valentine's Day, and if you're looking for good ideas, I've got a couple. Whether you plan to share, or your affair is between you and your kitchen, these dishes are for lovers.
Burritos for breakfast lovers
Maybe you're considering celebrating early with a brunch Sunday. Bacon and eggs, toast and coffee is a bit fussy - hovering over the stove waiting for things to come together, then a greasy cleanup that could ruin your mood. These will start the day in a spicy way. As an added bonus, you can make them the night before and heat in the oven just before serving.
4 hot Italian sausages (or breakfast sausages)
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 tbsp. coffee cream
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup salsa - as hot as you like
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 large flour tortillas
Remove casings and fry sausages in a nonstick pan until done, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Discard any fat in the pan. Add onion and cook until soft. Add green pepper and cook another minute; set aside. Whisk together eggs, cream, pepper and salt and pour into frying pan. Stir gently as you would for scrambled eggs, pushing your spatula through the middle and around the sides gently to form large, flowing curds. If you overcook scrambled eggs, they will weep and the burritos won't be nearly as good, so take them out of the frying pan when they are barely set and still very moist. Combine cooked sausage, onion-pepper mixture, eggs, cheese, salsa and cilantro and divide among tortillas. Roll up tightly, tucking in the ends. I wrap each one in foil to create an individual serving take-out like package, but you can just place them in a single layer in a covered baking dish if you prefer. Bake at 400 F for about 15 minutes, or until hot through the centre. Serve with sour cream and lots of fresh orange juice.
Baked rotini with chicken and mushrooms for pasta lovers
If your love affair is with pasta, this one is for you. It's not difficult, but using fresh ingredients is key in this recipe. Select a mixture of mushrooms for the best possible result. This dish isn't for calorie counters, unless you are making an exception for the occasion. Serves 4 to 6.
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper (divided)
4 tbsp. olive oil (divided)
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
4 cups sliced mixed fresh mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1 lb. rotini, cooked according to package instructions for al dente pasta and drained
1 big bunch fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and season with about half the salt and pepper. Brown - and I mean really brown - in half the olive oil combined with half the butter. Remove from pan before chicken is cooked completely through and set aside. Add remaining oil and butter to pan and fry mushrooms until they release their moisture and it has all evaporated. Add remaining salt and pepper and allow the mushrooms to brown thoroughly. Add garlic and cook another minute. Return chicken to pan and add thyme and wine. Simmer uncovered until chicken is cooked through and wine has all but evaporated. Remove from heat and discard thyme stalks. Stir in cream, half the Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, cooked rotini and parsley. Pour into a well-greased casserole dish and bake at 425 F for 10 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake another five minutes or so, until bubbling hot and the cheese on top is starting to take on some colour. Serve with crispy toasts and a green salad.
Glazed lemon ginger bundt cake for dessert Lovers
Buttery and rich, this cake is a perfect ending to either the simplest or the fanciest, most romantic meal you can imagine. It is wonderful as is with a cup of coffee, and delicious sliced and lightly toasted in a hot oven with fresh fruit and whipped cream. You can buy crystallized ginger in specialty stores and many groceries these days. If you can't find it, the cake is still delicious.
1 cup soft unsalted butter (no other)
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp. grated lemon rind
1 tsp. grated fresh gingerroot (optional)
2 tsp. vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. each baking powder and baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
3/4 cup icing sugar
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Cream butter and sugar until light in colour and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in lemon rind, gingerroot and vanilla. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, starting and ending with dry ingredients - three dry to two wet will be fine. Add crystallized ginger, stirring just until mixed through. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 325 F for 50 minutes or until a tester in the middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack. Combine icing sugar and lemon juice and pour slowly over warm cake.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, N.L., A1E 4N1