Valentine’s Day Dinner
Since I was working from home on Valentine’s day while Tina was in the city, I decided to put together a fancy meal.
We started off with some cheese and a suburban cocktail, which involves rye, rum, port, and bitters – a pretty novel recipe even for die hard whiskey fans. Apparently originating in the late 1800s as a horse track cocktail (new band name), it definitely works as a winter warmer. Thank goodness, because for some reason I decided that in February, in upstate New York, in a house with inadequate insulation, that it would be a good idea to serve a meal consisting entirely of cold-to-room-temperature foods.
First off was a spinach and beet salad inspired by a recipe in Great Chefs Cook Vegan, which is a book with many beautiful pictures of impressive food and a table of contents that frustratingly includes only the names of chefs. Anyway, this recipe called for three kinds of beets prepared four ways. I used one kind of beet (red) prepared two ways. Love means learning to compromise, I guess. Some of the beets were raw, shaved thin and marinated in olive oil and chives. The others were roasted and cubed, and served with a balsamic vinaigrette. Rather than garnishing the beets with a few sorrel leaves as suggested, I served them on a bed of fresh spinach to give the thing a little more body and then added toasted pistachios. Not quite as elegant as the original, but a winner nonetheless.
For the main course I made soba noodles with eggplant and mango from a recipe out of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, which is quickly becoming one of our most favorite cookbooks ever (thanks, Shermans). Every recipe we’ve tried from this book has required a totally reasonable set of ingredients and preparations and has come out looking and tasting like it was made by real professionals. I don’t know what more you could ask for in a cookbook. We actually have a lingering post we have to put together on the meal we made together for New Years that was entirely out of this book.
So anyway, these were some cold soba noodles served with fried eggplant, mango, red onion, cilantro, basil, and a dressing made of rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, hot pepper, garlic and lime. It was delicious. In terms of preparation, you basically just cook the noodles until al dente, and then while they are cooling, shallow fry the eggplant until golden brown. The dressing you make separately by gently heating a half cup of rice vinegar, dissolving a couple tablespoons of sugar and some salt in it, then remove it from the heat and add some diced hot pepper (I actually just used red pepper flakes) a couple cloves of crushed garlic, and the juice and zest from a lime. Then just mix all that together with mango and the chopped herbs. Easy.