Let’s face it, if you really want to make a Valentine’s Day meal with something red in it, it’s not hard to do. Red is an easy natural food color to cook with — from a can of crushed tomatoes to strawberries.
Google red Valentine’s Day desserts and your brain will hurt from trying to make a choice from the hundreds of thousands of recipes that pop up, with beautiful color images, of course.
I’ve pulled together five recipes for dinner and dessert. Pick what suits your taste and talent.
If you want to find a red dish that is savory — beyond making spaghetti sauce — it takes a bit of creativity. But not too much. Beets were the first things I thought of, in a wonderful salad. Or, a valentine-shaped pizza (with red sauce) would be an easy fix. More complicated, but worth the effort, is Pork Tamale Pie.
If you’re going to make dessert, I’m offering a simple choice, no-churn cherry cheesecake ice cream, and another that takes more time, pears poached in red wine.
Stick with one or two red recipes for the 14th menu; all red will just be too overwhelming.
Ruby Salad with Crumbled Feta & Spicy Pepitas
1 bunch small red beets (4 to 5), trimmed and scrubbed
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary, or 3 fresh bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)*
1 teaspoon vegetable or peanut oil
1 teaspoon pure chile powder (such as New Mexico or ancho)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups very thinly sliced red cabbage (from 1 very small head)
1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
4 ounces (4 cups) mixed baby greens
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)*
6 ounces spicy pepitas (1 generous cup; see the ingredients above and instructions below)
Roast the beets: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Put the beets, herbs, salt and a drizzle of olive oil in the center; toss to coat. Fold the foil into a loose-fitting but tightly sealed packet around the beets. Roast the packet on the baking sheet until the beets are tender, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Let the beets cool completely in the foil. When cool, use a paring knife to peel and slice the beets into wedges (six to eight per beet.) The beets can be roasted up to two days ahead and refrigerated.
Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil.
Toast the pepitas: Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, toss pepitas with vegetable oil, chile powder and kosher salt. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until golden and fragrant, 6 to 8 min. (you'll hear them popping). Let cool completely on the baking sheet. If making ahead, store in an airtight container.
Make the salad: Combine the cabbage and onion in a medium bowl and set aside.
Up to an hour before serving, add the beet wedges to the cabbage and onions; toss gently with half of the vinaigrette.
Just before serving, add the baby greens, half of the feta and half of the pepitas; toss with the remaining vinaigrette. Arrange on a big serving platter and garnish with the remaining feta and pepitas.
*Can substitute pine nuts for pepitas and queso or farmers’ cheese for feta.
Yield: 8 servings.
Per serving: 300 calories, 25 grams fat, 9 grams protein, 13 mg carbohydrates, 800 grams sodium, 10 grams cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.
1 can (13.8 ounces) refrigerated classic pizza crust or 1 can (11 ounces) refrigerated thin pizza crust
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Your favorite toppings
If using classic crust: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray or grease large cookie sheet. If using thin crust: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray or grease 15-by-10-inch or larger dark or nonstick cookie sheet.
Unroll dough on work surface and form into a ball. Roll out into a circle that will fit on the cookie sheet. With sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut a V-shaped slit about an inch or 2 long at the top of the circle. Remove dough piece. Shape with your fingers to round out each side of the heart. Then shape the base to appear pointed, for the end of the heart.
Spread red sauce, toppings and cheese. Bake classic crust 13 to 16 minutes, thin crust 9 to 13 minutes, or until crust edges are golden brown and cheese is melted.
Photos of making heart-shaped pizza at http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Heart-Shaped-Pizza
Pork Tamale Pie
Cooking spray, for baking dish
2 (14.5 ounces) cans stewed tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, excess fat removed
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 ounces shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup buttermilk*
1 large egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish.
Combine tomatoes, onion, pepper, garlic, chili powder, oregano, cumin and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a bowl; transfer to prepared dish.
Rub pork with sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; place on top of tomato mixture.
Bake, uncovered, until pork is fork tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Shred pork into bite-size pieces with two forks; stir back into dish with sauce.
Cornbread crust: Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir in cheese, cilantro, buttermilk, egg and butter in a bowl; add to cornmeal mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spread cornbread crust over pork mixture, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Bake until golden brown and crust is set, 18 to 20 minutes.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
*Make your own buttermilk by filling a liquid measure with 1/2 cup milk. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes.
Spiced Red Wine Poached Pears with Chocolate Ganache and Toasted Almonds
4 firm Bosc pears, peeled
2 cups red wine (Zinfandel works well)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup dark chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/2 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
Place the wine, sugar, cinnamon stick and water in a saucepan and heat it to a simmer. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Place the pears in the poaching liquid and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer them on low heat for about 40 minutes, turning the pears once, until they are tender, but where they still hold their shape.
Allow the pears to cool in the poaching liquid for 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Combine the chocolate and 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in a double boiler. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Remove it from the heat.
Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1 cup cream and the powdered sugar to stiff peaks in a medium bowl.
To plate the pears: Spoon a few tablespoons of the chocolate ganache onto each dessert plate. Place a poached pear on top of the chocolate. Garnish with whipped cream and chopped almonds.
Yield: 4 servings.
Easy No-Churn Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3/4 cup cherry pie filling
1 8-ounce package light (or regular) cream cheese
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
With an electric or stand mixer, whip cream until stiff peaks form. Scrape into another bowl and set aside.
While cream is whipping, place cherry pie filling in a blender and blend until smooth.
In the bowl of the mixer (no need to wash), beat cream cheese until smooth. Add in sweetened condensed milk and beat until smooth.
Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture carefully — you don't want to deflate the cream.
Pour half of your cream mixture into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Drizzle with half the cherry pie filling and graham cracker crumbs and swirl. Pour remaining cream mixture on top. Drizzle with cherry pie filling and graham cracker crumbs and swirl again.
Freeze until desired firmness, about 4 to 8 hours.
Yield: 8 servings.