A quick and easy Valentine’s Day dinner

A quick and easy Valentine’s Day dinner

Big red hearts, candlelit dinners, and red roses are the typical images conjured by the 14th of February. One of my favorite quips regarding the holiday, however, is that “Valentine’s day is about reminding couples of their lack of time.”

Let’s be honest, this February the 14th is still very much a Tuesday, and while love may make life worthwhile, the proverbial ‘rat race’ stops for no one, meaning our stressful workweek schedules will be very much in force on this Eve of the Amorous.

Since romantic atmospheres rarely appear from thin air – and since the evening’s dinner is unlikely to prepare itself – this means even the most hopelessly romantic among us will be doing our best impressions of Don (or Doña) Juan on budgeted time.

However, since Valentine’s Day is largely about drawing together various ‘ingredients’ to create a singular ‘moment’ from the evening, budgeting one’s time doesn’t necessarily mean having to skimp on either flavor or décor. Naturally, this is where today’s set of recipes come in: a fresh green salad with a honey and lemon vinaigrette, followed by linguine with cannellini beans and a fresh tomato sauce, and we end off on a sweet note with lemon squares topped with fresh whipped cream.

linguine, salad, wine and bread

To start things off, we prep a mixed greens salad (as shown later), and then top this with a vinaigrette put together with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, and a dash of fresh nutmeg.

Now, before we start on the pasta, I want to share some important culinary advice with you: “Butter and bacon make everything better”. And we’re about to use both… together.  You can go ahead and take all the credit in front of your Valentine; just come back and thank me later.

That said, we start this linguine off by crisping about a half-pound of bacon. Once that’s done, we’re going to heat some butter and olive oil in a cast iron frying pan over medium heat as described below, in which we’ll sauté some garlic before adding in tomatoes, basil, and a dash of red wine. After simmering, it’s time for the cannellini beans and lemon juice.

Now, here’s to hoping you’ve salted your pasta water (*gasp* if you haven’t!), because that boiled salted pasta water is about to be an ingredient. Don’t look at me like that; just believe. Taking about a quarter-cup of the water, add that into the sauce. After you’ve done that, prep some basil and sliced lemon as described below, and it’s time to plate the pasta, which we’ll top with crumbled bacon, freshly grated cheese, and a dash of freshly ground black pepper. Now, plate that like a pro as shown below, and be prepared to impress the face across the table.

linguine with cannellini beans and tomato sauce

With that done, we’ve arrived at the sweet part of this equation – and getting to the sweets is what Valentine’s is all about, right? Truth to be told, these lemon squares are a personal favorite of mine.

First, begin by prepping some butter (there’s that ingredient again) as outlined below, and then combine this into a dough with flour and powdered sugar, and press the dough into an ungreased baking pan, and bake.

After that’s done, prepare the filling as outlined below with sugar, vanilla, baking powder, lemon juice, salt, and a bit of fresh nutmeg, pour that into the warm crust, and then bake again.

Once it’s done, let cool and serve with dollop of whipped cream and a strawberry, and of course a good cup of coffee. Brace yourself to impress your Valentine yet again. You hero, you!

lemon bars with whipped cream and strawberry

And just like that, you’ve got a Valentine’s Day dinner you’ll both enjoy, without skimping on décor, flavor, or the all-important presentation. See, that wasn’t so hard was it?

Linguini with cannellini beans and fresh tomato sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 large tomatoes – cubed
  • 4 – 5 cloves of fresh garlic – chopped
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 2 tbs. red wine
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup fresh basil – chopped
  • ¼ cup pasta water
  • ½ lb. bacon
  • 29 oz. can of cannellini beans – rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Dash of fresh grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground sea salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 tbs. olive oil
  • Fresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1 lb. of linguine

Instructions

recipe ingredients- linguine, bacon, beans
  1. Prepare the bacon to a nice crispness.  Remove from the pan and place on paper towels to absorb any excess grease, then set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large cast iron frying pan over a medium heat.
  3. Add the chopped garlic and sauté until the garlic is fragrant and just slightly golden.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes, basil and seasonings; simmer for about five minutes then add the wine and continue to gently simmer for another 12- 15 minutes or so.
  5. Add the cannellini beans and the lemon juice and keep over a gentle heat while preparing the pasta.
  6. Add ¼ cup of the salted pasta water to the sauce and keep the sauce over a low, gentle heat.
  7. For an extra touch, heat 2 tbs. of olive oil in a small frying pan, add fresh basil leaves to the oil and a slice or two of thin sliced lemon.  Heat until the basil wilts about 2 – 3 minutes and serve over the pasta.
  8. Plate the linguini in a large serving platter topped with the sauce, crumbled bacon the fried basil and lemon and fresh grated cheese and dash of fresh ground black pepper.

Lemon squares

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup unsalted butter – cubed
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • Dash of grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ tbs. Lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • Fresh whipped cream
  • Fresh Strawberries

Instructions

lemon bar
  1. Preheat Oven 350 degrees F
  2. In a large bowl combine the butter, flour and powdered sugar.
  3. Using a pastry blender press the butter into crumb like pieces, then using your hands work the pieces into a dough.
  4. Press the dough in an ungreased square baking pan; either 8 x 8 x 2 or 9 x 9 x 2; building up the edges about ½ inch along the sides.
  5. Bake the crust 18 – 20 minutes.
  6. In a medium sized bowl combine the sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, baking powder, salt and a dash of fresh nutmeg.
  7. Using an electric mixer on high speed beat 3 – 4 minutes, until fluffy.
  8. Pour over the warm crust.
  9. Bake 25 – 30 minutes.
  10. Cool before cutting into squares.
  11. Serve with fresh whipped cream and fresh strawberries if desired.

Honey-lemon vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • Juice of 1 ½ lemons
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • ¼ cup of honey
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • Dash of fresh grated nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the above ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.
  2. Serve over your choice of fresh salad greens.

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