“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day,
When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”
Saint Valentine’s day has been a celebrated feast day for over a thousand years, recognizing the death of Valentinus. The ecclesiastic legend was supposedly put to death by the Romans for marrying soldiers whom were forbidden from doing so and for ministering the Christian faith which was illegal under Roman law. This legend is first associated with the rise of courtly love by Geoffery Chaucer in this post’s titled lines. By the eighteenth century it began being celebrated by giving a small gift as a token of one’s love, very often by giving a key symbolizing the unlocking of one’s heart. Today the holiday has been fully commandeered by American capitalistic culture as a “Hallmark holiday” to encourage spending which, for me at least, proves to be simply stressful.
It has always bothered me that a holiday modernly dedicated to the love one shares with their partner can be so stressful. Love should not be stressful, it should be joyous. Love should be something that all parties look forward to, recognizing the mutual affection they share for one another. Maybe it is just my competitive nature, but I always end up fearful that I should be doing more, buying more. The truth is that there should be no correlation between the monetary value of a gift and the love one has for their partner. To me, the bar has been raised too high and the symbols of love and gratitude have been misconstrued. How can a giant teddy bear or a myriad of kitschy gifts possibly quantify one’s affection and dedication to their lover?
My advice is to cook for the one you love, or better yet, cook together. Share in the experience as you have shared so many others. Isn’t that how you fall in love with someone in the first place, by sharing experiences? Cooking for people is, in itself, an act of love. Food and love are directly linked in human nature, both producing reward hormones that enact joy and giddiness. In early human cultural development, cooking was a display of skill and ability to provide for another. The sharing of a meal promotes intimate conversation, affection, and compatibility. Don’t be afraid of cooking, just keep it simple and embrace the adventure. Embrace these basic tendencies of human nature and share a meal with the one you love. You might be surprised by how much joy and enlightenment sharing a meal with the one you love can bring.
If you choose to go this route, you may be asking “what should I make?” Don’t be discouraged by the seemingly endless options, instead embrace this opportunity to be adventurous in the kitchen. Some staples of special meals are rib-eye steaks, beef tenderloin, and sirloin steaks. However, these can be very expensive and you don’t have to break the bank to make a delicious meal that you both can savor. You can roast a chicken, braise some short ribs, or have a delectable pork roast. Keep the sides simple and seasonal with roasted root vegetables or mashed potatoes. You can even make a wonderful winter salad with ease and without using incredibly out of season foods like strawberries. Whatever you choose to make for your special evening, I suggest you make one large share plate to emphasize the intimacy of the shared experience. A simple delicious meal, a bottle of wine, and maybe a key to symbolize your unlocked heart, is the perfect recipe for an evening to remember.
Winter Salad for Two:
- 1 bulb of celery root
- 1 head of radicchio
- ½ cup of toasted walnuts, chopped
- ½ cup golden raisins
- A wedge of Doe Run Farms “Seven Sisters” Cheese
- 1 lemon
- 1 tbls olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Put the golden raisins in a small sauce pot and add a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, and a little white wine. Stir a few times and bring the white wine up to a boil and remove from heat immediately. Set aside.
Peel the celery root and cut it into small strips about the size of a matchstick. Place the cut celery root in some lightly salted water and set aside.
Cut the radicchio down into small wedges, about an inch thick, and remove the stem from the bottom of each. Pull the leaves apart and set them aside.
Drain the water from the celery root and combine with half the radicchio leaves and walnuts in a salad bowl. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and squeeze in the juice of half of the lemon. Pour the olive oil along the walls of the bowl and lightly toss the ingredients together until evenly coated. Plate the salad and garnish with some strained golden raisins and a generous amount of finely grated Seven Sisters cheese.
Side of Roasted Root Vegetables:
- 1/3lb of carrots
- 1tsp ground cumin
- ½tsp brown sugar
- ½lb potatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 6 sprigs of thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400F
For the carrots:
Cut the carrots on a bias about 2/3 of an inch thick. Put the carrots in a bowl and toss in a little olive oil with the cumin, brown sugar, salt, and pepper until evenly coated. Roast in the oven until browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes. The carrots should be soft but not mushy.
For the potatoes:
Cut the potatoes down into pieces about 2/3 of an inch thick. Toss the potatoes in a bowl with olive oil to coat, minced garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper until evenly coated. Roast in the oven, tossing them every 10 minutes, until cooked through, about 30-45 minutes.
Once both vegetables are done, discard the sprigs of thyme and rosemary, and toss together. Reheat if necessary before plating. Garnish with some fresh picked thyme or chopped parsley.
Double-Chop Pork Roast with Pan Sauce
- 1 two bone pork roast from your local butcher
- 2tbls grapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 1/2 cup Pork Stock
- 3-4 sprigs of thyme
- 1 knob of butter (2-3 tbls)
Preheat oven to 400F
Remove the pork from the refrigerator and season liberally with salt and pepper and let temper for about an hour.
In a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet (anything but nonstick!) get the grapeseed oil hot until it’s on the verge of smoking, high heat is essential for a good sear. Turn the heat down to a medium flame and sear the pork roast on all sides until golden brown. Finish the roast in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 145F, about 15-20 min. Remove the roast from the skillet and let rest for at least ten minutes, the residual heat of the roast will continue its internal cooking as it rests.
While the roast is resting, drain the oil from the skillet and return to high heat and deglaze with the red wine. Turn the heat back to a medium flame, add the pork stock and thyme, and reduce the liquid by half. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the sucs* from the pan. Add the butter and remove from heat, whisking constantly until the butter has melted and the sauce has emulsified.
Cut the roast in between the bones and plate over your vegetable side. Spoon the pan sauce over the chops and enjoy your meal!
*Sucs are the caramelized proteins that stick to the bottom of your pan.