Anybody can make reservations for Valentine’s Day. But for an extra-special evening, wow your sweetheart with a dinner you prepare yourself. This indulgent meal, created by Food Network star and cookbook author Giada De Laurentiis, is easy enough for a newbie cook to prepare and practically guaranteed to serve up some romance.
“When it comes to Valentine’s Day, I’m a devoted homebody. That’s why we’ve made a tradition of spending the evening at home cooking up something special,” De Laurentiis says. “These dishes are easy enough to be made on a weeknight, and if I spend a little time prepping everything earlier in the day, I can have a really special dinner on the table in no time flat.”
Time-saver tip: If some of these ingredients aren’t items you typically buy, have your groceries delivered so you’re not wandering the aisles trying to hunt down unfamiliar foods.
FIRST COURSE: ORANGE GRILLED SHRIMP WITH COCOA NIB GREMOLATA
Set the tone for the evening with this shrimp appetizer. The orange zest, pistachios, and cocoa nibs make for a unique flavor combo that’s sure to impress your sweetheart.
“I’m a sucker for anything chocolate, so on Valentine’s Day I try to use chocolate in many different ways. Here, the cocoa nibs add a toasty crunch that plays incredibly well with the sweetness of the shrimp and citrus! A party in one bite,” De Laurentiis says.
This dish adds a creative twist to the classic citrus-and-seafood pairing. “Orange and lemon work really well with any kind of fish, particularly shrimp, and the cacao gremolata gives it a nice crunch,” De Laurentiis says.
Make-ahead tip: Either buy peeled and deveined shrimp, or get those tasks done ahead of time. Prepare the marinade early so the shrimp has two hours soak up its deliciousness.
MAIN COURSE: COCOA RUBBED FLANK STEAK SANDWICHES
Sandwiches for dinner? Yes, please. You and your partner will both love these flank steak sandwiches, served up on your favorite ciabatta rolls, lightly grilled.
“With these sandwiches, cocoa powder helps this dish take on similar characteristics to a mole — sweet, spicy, bitter and smoky. It’s sure to warm the heart of anyone special,” De Laurentiis says.
Make-ahead tip: Prep the mascarpone mixture and cocoa-coffee rub ahead of time, and when it’s time to eat this dish will come together in minutes.
SIDE DISH: STRAWBERRY SALAD
For this delicious strawberry salad, your blender does the heavy lifting. And the strawberries bring a decadent taste of spring to a chilly February night.
“This sweet salad gets nothing but love. Sweet from the berries, spicy and creamy from the cheese and oh-so-pretty to look at,” De Laurentiis says.
Make-ahead tip: Go ahead and rinse, hull, and slice your strawberries, and wash your arugula. You might even want to prep the salad dressing early.
DESSERT: CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY CAKE
“It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without a decadent dessert! This layer cake is as rich and satisfying as it gets,” De Laurentiis says.
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making a cake along with all these other courses. Thanks to a shortcut — starting with a boxed cake mix — you’ll have it in the oven in no time. Just remember to build in time for the cake to cool before you frost it.
Make-ahead tip: Bake the cake a day early and store it in the refrigerator.
DRINK: SPICE AND SMOKE COCKTAIL
For a little something to sip as you enjoy your meal — and your evening — try this fun cocktail. The jalapeños bring a spicy kick to tried-and-true simple syrup.
“This drink is sure to get the home fire burning...pun intended,” De Laurentiis says.
Make-ahead tip: Simmer and infuse the jalapeño syrup ahead of time and chill it in the refrigerator.
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