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Valentine’s dinner for two

Feb 1st, 2013 | Category: Cooking

by Tina Hoban

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and I would argue that it is also the way to a woman’s. Who wouldn’t love it if someone took the time to plan and prepare a gorgeous meal for them? Valentine’s Day is a perfect excuse to show your love …by putting on your apron.

The complete dinner. PHOTO BY TINA HOBAN

Whether you are looking for a way to impress a date, or just want to do something special for a loved one, a home cooked meal is a great way to do it; and I’ll bet you’ll even have fun in the process.

This year I will be using lots of fresh, local ingredients to make my Valentine’s Day dinner. I will be making pan seared salmon topped with a lemony cilantro pesto, served with a fresh kale salad. For dessert, I am veering away from chocolate and making a cherry-almond clafoutis. A cross between custard and cake, clafouti may sound complicated, but is actually very simple to make. But where do you begin?

The key to pulling off a great meal, whether it is for two or 20, is to keep it simple and plan ahead. Although this menu is simple enough for beginning cooks, the results won’t show it. Much of the meal can be made the day before, so follow the make ahead directions at the end of each recipe and your meal should come together easily, leaving you more time to focus on your companion.

Kale Salad with Leeks and Parmesan


1 small leek

3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 of a large bunch of kale

1/4 cup coarsely grated parmesan


Use only the white or light green part of the leek. Cut the leek, lengthwise into thin strips. Heat a small skillet to medium-high. Add one tablespoon of oil to the pan, then the leeks.  Cook until softened (some of the edges may begin to brown). Remove from the pan to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining two tablespoons oil and the balsamic. Set aside.

Use a knife to remove the tough stems from the kale. Thinly slice the kale leaves crosswise and place in a medium bowl. When it is time to serve, toss the kale with the leeks, parmesan, and enough dressing to lightly coat the salad.

Make ahead:  The leeks can be cooked and tossed with the kale the day before. Cover and store in the refrigerator. The dressing can be made a day ahead and stored at room temperature.

Salmon with Cilantro Pesto


1 clove garlic

½ cup walnuts

1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 – 6 to 8 ounce sockeye fillets

olive oil


To make the pesto:  place the garlic and walnuts in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until chopped. Add the cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil and salt, and process until smooth.

Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, brush the pan with a little bit of oil. Add the salmon, flesh side down, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the fish over, and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, or to desired doneness. Serve immediately, topped with a spoonful of the cilantro pesto.

Make ahead:  The pesto can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, in a sealed container. Any extra pesto can be kept for a week in the refrigerator. It is great served on baked potatoes, quesadillas, or scrambled eggs.

Cherry Almond Clafoutis


3/4 cup + 1/8 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups milk (or almond milk)

1 teaspoon almond extract

3 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup frozen, pitted sweet cherries, thawed and halved


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Butter a 2 quart glass baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Whisk in 1 cup of the milk. Whisk the eggs in, one at a time, followed by the sugar, remaining milk and almond extract.

Arrange the cherries in the bottom of your baking dish. Pour the batter over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. When done, the top will be puffy and brown, and the middle will no longer look wet (a little jiggly is okay). Cool slightly before serving. Serves 6

Make ahead:  The clafoutis batter can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator. Use as directed, although cold batter may add a couple of minutes to your cooking time.

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