Cupid’s Menu

It’s surprising how many things one should consider when planning to cook a romantic dinner for two. Obviously, if you’re trying to impress someone, you want to deliver a meal that is both delicious and attractive, but what are the potential pitfalls to be avoided? First off – keep your menu on the light side. You don’t want to lull your date into a carb coma. Next up, opt for some fresh, bright flavours. Citrus is good for that, as are raw vegetables. Avoid raw garlic, or too much of any overpowering flavour that’s likely to linger on the palate long after dinner is done. Consider dishes in terms of how easy or challenging they are to consume. Watching someone gnaw on ribs or saw away at a steak is definitely not romantic. Even trying to daintily slurp up a bowl of long pasta can be problematic. Lastly, think about the time and effort. It’s usually better to have some of the elements made ahead of time so you aren’t shackled to the stove while the object of your affection is left neglected on the couch. I therefore present to you one suggested romantic menu for two, ideal for Valentine’s Day…or any of the other 364 days of the year. I hope some – or all – of these dishes can help you work a little of Cupid’s magic in your own kitchen.

Gougères (savoury cheese puffs)

Gougères

These tasty little bites are said to hail from the Burgundy region of France, where they are often served at room temperature to accompany tastings in wine cellars although they also make regular appearances served warm as appetizers. Composed of only butter, water (or milk), flour and eggs, choux pastry puffs up beautifully thanks to the air incorporated by beating the batter vigorously, as well as by steam created while the very moist dough is baking. The key to gougères’ rich, delicious flavour is a few seasonings and a generous amount of grated cheese; Gruyère, Comté or Emmentaler are most commonly used. They are the perfect pop-in-your-mouth offering for parties and best of all, they can be made ahead – you can even freeze the shaped dough for several weeks and bake as needed.

Seared Scallops with Grapefruit and Vanilla

This recipe has vaulted to the very top of my list of dishes that I would eat day after day if I could. Buy the biggest, freshest scallops you can find and transform them into something magical thanks to this outstanding sauce.

Fennel, Apple and Pistachio Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

Salads perk up the palate in so many ways. Fruits and vegetables combined with a brightly flavoured dressing make for a refreshing element in a multi-course feast, or a delicious light meal all on their own. This salad hits all the right notes – it’s got loads of crunch along with touches of sweet, sour and salty. For a more elegant presentation, serve salads individually plated rather than in a large bowl. This way you can both divide the ingredients evenly and arrange the components a little more artistically.

Mini Pavlovas

mini pavlova

What’s not to love about Pavlova? Meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit – a perfect trio of textures and tastes. Named for the legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, the dessert was purportedly first created in her honour during a tour of New Zealand in the 1920s. Unlike traditional meringues which are usually soft throughout, the inclusion of cornstarch in Pavlova gives it a crispy exterior and adds to its delicate texture. In the past I have always made larger Pavlovas which can be rather tricky to serve; by shaping individual or miniature versions, that problem is eliminated and the dessert looks much prettier too! Two more great things: this dessert is gluten-free AND you can use lactose-free yogurt instead of whipped cream!