Valentine’s Day is almost here and with it can come feelings of dread, expectation, or a whole hell of a lot of ambivalence. If you’re dating or in a relationship, the pressure might be on to show the one you’re with how you feel. And if you’re not with someone, anybody passing by with flowers or candy could get tackled as you battle cry “I hate Valentine’s Day!”
It’s easy to forget that love (to quote a tiny independent film that almost never gets shown especially around Christmas or Valentine’s Day) is all around us. So, this week at The Union, we’re all about love, in all the forms it can take. You and the contents of your closet. You and a special someone. You and your dreams. We could all use some good loving.
One love that endures for me (no matter where I am or how many people are present) is cooking. The alchemy that has to occur for a few simple ingredients, say some oil, garlic, broccoli, crushed red pepper, and salt, to become the deliciousness of roasted broccoli, is artful and can’t often be duplicated in other forms of creativity with the same immediacy. Or even when the mixture is far more complicated like in a gorgeous pot of gumbo.
When I get home from work, I’m often too tired to cook, but when I do–when I can muster up the energy to chop some vegetables and put a pot of water on for rice or pasta–I’m rewarded by something I’ve created, something to nourish me, and hopefully something delicious.
On Sunday, I’m not sure what I’ll be eating, but with my Valentine or even if just for myself, here’s a few dishes that feel like love on a plate to me.
It’s basically eggs and bacon over a load of carbs, but how could bacon and eggs and a load of carbs not make your heart sing? And with a glass of red alongside it, I can make believe I’m seated at a rather nice restaurant while still on my couch watching Netflix. Vegetarians feel free to omit the pork. Vegans, I can’t really help you.
Strictly for the meat eaters! I’m not one to often cook red meat at home, but when I do, a skirt steak will do quite nicely and get me some iron too. Rub some olive oil on it, sprinkle with some nice coarse kosher or sea salt and sear that baby in a nice, hot pan. And for the love of tender meat, take it out when it’s medium, let it rest, and enjoy. This is also a moment to get a little fancy with your sides, I’ve developed an obsession with farro because Trader Joe’s has a version that cooks in 10 minutes and because it’s healthful and hearty. That mixed with arugula perhaps? Or a dish that could stand on its own. Garlic whipped potatoes maybe? Haricots verts? Coconut rice? A fancy salad that has dandelion greens or kale? Go crazy.
Shrimp anything (or mushroom anything)
I don’t know what it is, but putting shrimp in a dish instantly makes it fancy for me. I channel the 14 year-old girl in me who thought Red Lobster was the best restaurant in the world and not in the grown up way she’s talking about. Salad? Put shrimp in it. Pasta? Put shrimp in it. Rice? Sweet Jesus, yes, put shrimp in it. If they’re cooked in butter and white wine with a touch of salt, there’s no way to go wrong. Ditto for mushrooms, the poor woman’s meat.
Pasta in a cream sauce
I know vegans, I know. Maybe you should look away or go back to what I said about farro. A cream sauce on some pasta though? Heaven. I make a sausage and kale pasta in a cream sauce that always feels a bit too decadent to me in the best way. Protein and a vegetable in a cream sauce is a never fail combination. And then maybe a glass of something sparkling to cut that richness? Sounds like love to me.
So no matter what your V-Day plans, I hope it brings some richness (because of too much butter or lots of delectable conversation with your girlfriends), some satisfaction (in the heartiness of a well-cooked protein or with a sexy Valentine), and some sweetness (in a chocolate mousse or that card your parents send you to say they care). Enjoy!