I can’t tell you the last time I went out for a Valentine’s Day. Crowded, price-gouging restaurants are not fun or romantic. Staying home, lighting a few candles, and making a sexy dinner is where it’s at…plus your bed is, like, right there. You can even get super fancy by creating an easy, stress-free, five-course dinner, that will not only knock your date’s socks off, but all of their other clothes as well. “But a fancy dinner sounds hard.” Well, it doesn’t have to be. It’s all about the prep. You don’t want to spend your entire evening in the kitchen, so by choosing the right types of dishes, and doing most of the work ahead of time, you can focus on your date and still wow them with your culinary creations.
Your standard five-course dinner starts with soup. It’s best to make this ahead of time. Soup is always better after being refrigerated for at least one day, if not more. The flavors are enhanced, and more balanced when allowed some time to marry. I prefer a smooth blended soup like a bisque for Valentine’s Day. Not only are they richer and more luscious, but they’re not as splashy as brothy soups. If a vegetable chunk or a noodle falls off of your spoon and splashes into your brothy soup, blam, now you’ve got soup on you. Unless of course, you wear a bib, like I do. It’s important to know your limitations. So make your blended soup – whether it be a tomato bisque, roasted cauliflower and fennel, or potato-leek – at least two days in advance, then simply reheat, re-season, and adjust thickness with additional broth at dinner time.
Salad doesn’t have to contain 10 ingredients to be special. Elegance is in simplicity. Choose a bag of pre-washed greens, like baby spinach or wild arugula, and toss with a simple vinaigrette that you make the day before. My super duper dressing-making tip is to keep a few empty glass spice jars handy. They make great shakers for mixing up a small portion of vinaigrette. Add 1 ½ teaspoons sherry vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon maple syrup, ¼ teaspoon dijon, and a pinch of salt. Shake it up until combined, then drop in a smashed garlic clove, and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, fish out the garlic, give it one last shake and dress your greens. Toss in some toasted pecans for texture, and you’ve just knocked out a whole course and didn’t have to chop a thing.
Appetizers can be easy too! A shared plate of marinated vegetables, fancy vegan cheese like Miyoko’s Kitchen, Treeline, or Kite Hill, and some toasted baguette is all you need. Two days before the big night, cut some button mushrooms in half, and place them in a zip top bag. Add a smashed garlic clove, and a couple whole sprigs of fresh thyme. Squeeze in the juice of a lemon, drizzle in some olive oil, add a couple healthy pinches of salt, and a pinch of chili flakes. Mix it up and marinate in the fridge for two days, turning the bag every so often. Take them out of the fridge an hour before serving, then simply fish out the thyme sprigs and garlic, toss with fresh chopped italian parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste.
The entree is the part where I like to add a little showmanship. This Valentine’s Day, look no further than a vegan filet mignon. But you say, “Vegan filet mignon? That’s not a thing.” Au contraire, it is a thing. The recipe is right here in my new microbook, Sexy’s Best, Vol. 3: Vegan Filet Mignon (LINK: http://bit.ly/veganfiletval). It will be the best $0.99 you spend all week! You can make the main part of the seitan and the sauce ahead of time, then save the flashy, sizzling part of the recipe for just before serving.
I’m not big on making dessert so I like to keep it easy. I’ll take a couple slices of one of those Daiya cheesecakes, spoon some apricot preserves over top, and call it a day. I guarantee that no one will complain that your dessert was made by just opening two different containers and putting the stuff from one container on top of the stuff from the other container. Besides, it’s getting late, and it’s time to move on from “dinner mode”, because remember…your bed is, like, right there.
Photos by Jackie Sobon from veganyackattack.com