The one gift I love to get is the one thing money can’t buy. What an opportunity to show the one you love how much they mean to you with a meal prepared by you. Whether it is a picnic in bed or a romantic dinner for two, it is really very simple to do. If you are kitchen savvy, my menu might not excite you, but hopefully it will inspire you nonetheless!
- Antipasto platter – two or three kinds of meats, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, roasted garlic
- Tri-colore salad – tomato, cucumber and onion
- Simple red sauce – crushed tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper
- Artisanal pasta – water, salt, pasta
- Rustic bread
– and great olive oil
- Sweet ending
– chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate
My shopping guide
- salamis, cheese, artisanal pasta (Chef’s Pantry, Star Store, Bayleaf)
- rustic bread (Screaming Banshee in Greenbank)
- sweet endings (Nibbles, JW Desserts, 1 Angel Place, The Beach Cabin)
- local market for all the rest
Here are some ideas for setting the mood
- Burn a cd, make an iPod playlist or tune in your favorite radio station.
- Dress the table using traditional pieces differently, like a martini glass for truffles or napkin ring for candles.
- Your centerpiece need not be flowers, but if you do, use a shot glass or votive holder for the flowers.
- Watching your calories, skip dessert and hire a masseuse.
Antipasto platter – Pre-heat oven to 250, cut the top of a garlic bulb, wrap tightly in foil and place on a baking sheet, roast for about 1 hour or so. Check the bulb after 40 minutes for doneness. You want it to give when you push on it, it should be soft. Roasting the garlic will mellow the flavor. Arrange meats on a platter, chunk parmesan with the tip of a knife, add the roasted garlic bulb and drizzle the garlic with extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with rosemary (optional). Vegetarian version, use a variety of olives, red pepper poppers, pepperoncini, grilled Portobello mushrooms.
Tri-colore Salad – You will need 3 roma tomatoes, 1 small sweet onion or red onion and 1 English cucumber. Cut the vegetables in small bite-sized pieces. Mix ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon red or white wine vinegar, juice of ½ of an orange, pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Toss vegetables with dressing 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
Red Sauce – Pour two 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes into a large sauce pan, add ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Artisanal pasta - Fill a large pot with cold water and salt. Bring to a rolling boil and only then add pasta and cook until done, do not over cook the pasta. Drain, but do not rinse the pasta. Plate the pasta and top with sauce, grate some parmigiano-reggiano cheese on top. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Rustic bread - After you take out the garlic, turn your oven to broil. Just before you are ready to eat, slice your bread, brush with extra virgin olive oil and top with some parmigiano-reggiano cheese, place on a baking sheet and heat under the broiler for a minute or two, depending on your broiler. Do not walk away from the oven, watch your bread. It only takes a second for it to burn.
Sweet endings - I am particularly found of the Chocolate Ganache and the Vanilla and Raspberry baby cakes Ruth at Nibbles makes or the flourless chocolate dark espresso cake that John at JW Desserts makes. Any one of these three cakes are as beautiful to look at as they are devine to eat!
note: I love garlic and would use it in the sauce as well as on the bread, but that’s me. These recipes show it is really as simple as boiling water and opening a can. Remember, the fresher your ingredients, the better your results.