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Whether you’re looking for a more intimate setting for your special Valentine’s Day dinner or just trying to avoid the crowds, preparing a romantic meal for two at home might be easier than you think. Award-winning cookbook author Holly Herrick provides tips and advice on how to make this a February 14th to remember.
1. Keep the meal simple and sincere. You want to be relaxed and engaged with your guest, not distracted by trying to prepare an elaborate dish.
2. Use high-quality ingredients. You can serve everyday dishes but still make the meal special.
3. Set the table and light a few candles to create a romantic atmosphere.
4. Start with warm, buttered bread and a simple green salad. Feel free to add thoughtful touches like orange slices or pomegranate seeds.
5. Cook a traditional spaghetti with marinara sauce, but dress it up with fresh basil or rosemary and pecorino on top.
6. For dessert, you have to go with chocolate. Try vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce.
Holly's Simple Marinara
(Serves 4 to 6)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and finely chopped
Sprinkle of kosher salt and finely ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup full bodied red wine, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon
1 28 oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Drizzle of honey (optional)
3 tablespoons torn fresh basil leaves
In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. Stir to coat. Cook five minutes or until the onion has started to soften. Don't color the garlic. Add the wine, increase heat to high, and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes and parsley. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer over medium low heat. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add honey if desired. Cook, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the fresh basil leaves. Toss with freshly cooked, hot spaghetti and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and more fresh basil leaves if desired.
According to Communion Wine Club owner and witty somm Patrick Emerson, the wine you select for Valentine’s Day depends on your commitment level. Here, he shares the right choices.
Four Vines “Naked” Chardonnay
Santa Barbara, California 2011
“Perfect if you’re young and on a date. This un-oaked chardonnay lets the true nature of this varietal show through, as it’s not masked with vanilla flavors. Crisp and clean, the 2011 vintage shows a little higher acidity. Great with oysters on the half shell with lemon mignonette.”
Available at Bottles, $9.99
$20 - $40
Heidi Schrock Rosé “Biscaya”
Neusiedlerlugelland, Austria 2012
“This personal favorite is a blend of 30 percent merlot and 40 percent Saint Laurent from Austria. I fell in love with this rosé when I met the winemaker, Heidi Schrock, who brings it a touch of the feminine essence. It is not a wimpy rosé—it’s rich and dark-fruited. Pair it with smoked salmon rilettes, fig preserve, and triple cream brie or butter-poached lobster.”
Available at Bottles, $20
$50 and up
Pehu Simonet Brut Rosé Champagne,
Verzenay, Monagne de Reims Non Vintage
“This is the big guy and very close to my heart, as my wife and I drank this when we celebrated our anniversary at Palmetto Bluff. It has great finesse with 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay. Lightly oaked, the style is silky, polished, and perfectly balanced, with flavors of tangerine, strawberry, and pomegranate. Enjoy with sushi, sashimi, or Peking duck.”
Available at Bottles, $63.99
Wine photographs courtesy of their respective wineries