Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and everyone was talking, in real life and on the Internet, about their plans: whether it was reservations at a fancy restaurant or a romantic meal at home, or even just another chaotic family dinner. (Some of you may remember my guest post on The Naptime Chef entitled “The Case Against Family Dinner.” As my husband likes to say, family dinner makes the case against itself every time we actually have one.)
The most romantic Valentine’s Day gesture that I witnessed this year was from my dad. He is not driving right now due to illness, but he still managed to surprise my mom with long-stem yellow roses – the flower that she carried at their wedding. As it happened, Zuzu and I were visiting my parents this past weekend and while Zuzu and my mom were out, I drove my dad to the florist so he could pick out the roses. That’s how you stay married for forty-one years, folks.
Valentine’s Day is not a big occasion for me and my husband of only eight years – although sometimes it feels like forty — because February 13 is our special day. Our first date — and I’m going to go ahead and use the word “date” loosely here – was on February 13, 1999. Two years later, on February 13, 2001, my husband asked me to marry him. Our wedding anniverary is in May, and that is obviously the “real” anniversary, but we still like to celebrate our private anniversary every February 13. The celebration is low-key, as befits the occasion, and mostly consists of me making the same dinner that I made for us on February 13, 1999 during that date that started out as just two friends having dinner but at some point — about 2/3 into a bottle of wine, I would say – became a date.
Our annual February 13 dinner is definitely not my most sophisticated menu, but it’s not half-bad either, considering that in 1999, I was (1) in law school, (2) on a student budget and (3) working in a cramped rental apartment kitchen. Of course, the menu has been tweaked over the years. My law student budget did not permit me to use fresh herbs at the original dinner, but these days I like to add rosemary to my roasted potatoes. My law school apartment kitchen was not stocked with such fancy ingredients as sesame oil, but happily my current kitchen is, so now I add it to my steamed broccoli. As for dessert, that was not part of the original tradition. On the February 13 that my husband proposed, I had made an elaborate heart-shaped white chocolate-and-lime brownie for dessert, but there were two problems with that dish: one, my husband proposed before we got to dessert so it was kind of overshadowed and two, it turned out to be gross. (White chocolate and lime? What was I thinking?) So, dessert is whatever I fancy. This year, I made a caramelized pear bread pudding from the wonderful cookbook Rustic Fruit Desserts because my husband loves that dish. It’s labor-intensive, but very worthwhile.
I’m not saying that this menu will help you land your true love. But it worked for me!
Not Valentine’s Day Menu
Flank steak with Dijon Mustard
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Dessert of choice
1. Start with the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 425. Wash the potatoes — use a good roasting variety like Yukon Gold or Red Bliss – and cut them into bite sized pieces. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat nonstick cooking mat. Toss the potatoes with plenty of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp on the outside. To serve, sprinkle the roasted potatoes with chopped fresh rosemary and kosher salt.
2. Flank steak is a lean, inexpensive cut of meat. It cooks quickly on the grill or under the broiler. To prepare it indoors, I place the flank steak on my broiling pan. (Line the bottom of your broiling pan with foil for easier clean-up.) Slather each side with dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Preheat your oven’s broiler and place an oven rack on one of the top settings, so that when the broiler pan is placed on the rack, the meat is only a few inches from the heat. Broil the flank steak for 5-7 minutes a side for medium-rare. Allow the steak to rest for 5-10 miniutes before slicing it. Carve the meat against the grain into thin slices.
3. For the broccoli, trim off the florets and discard the stalks. I like to parboil the florets by microwaving them in a covered glass bowl with a few inches of water for two to three minutes. Drain. This step can obviously be done ahead of time. Then, while the meat is resting, saute the pre-cooked florets in 1-2 TB of sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Toss until heated through. Add a few teaspoons of sesame seeds and a splash of soy sauce. Cook for another for another minute or two.
Enjoy your meal with a favorite red wine, especially if you need the courage to hit on an old friend. Follow with a special dessert. Or a diamond ring.
Apparently, my husband and I are not the only couple with a special menu. A friend of mine told me recently that she and her spouse met at a dinner party where the entree was vegetarian lasagna from The Moosewood Cookbook. Now they and their three boys enjoy that same lasagna every year on the anniversary of that fateful first meeting. That’s pretty adorable.
Do you and your spouse or partner have a special meal that you associate with an anniversary or other meaningful occasion in your relationship? What is it?