There is a lot of hype around Valentine’s Day. Guys, I’m going to throw you a bone here, you have it rough. Many of us ladies expect you to plan something romantic, original and surprising. That’s a lot of pressure! And, if you’re the kind that likes to go out and chip away at Washingtonian’s Top 100 list or the DC Eater Heatmap, chances are you’re looking at elusive reservations and pricey checks.
In lieu of all the production and planning, dare I suggest you…eat at home? A homemade meal enjoyed in the comfort of your own home might just be the most unique and thoughtful gastronomic gesture of all. Better yet, you’ll be healthier, richer and experience way more intimacy than if you were squished into banquette seating with hoards of other couples out on the town.
To help get those culinary creative juices flowing, here are three of my favorite heart-healthy and delicious recipes perfect for a party of two “prix fixe menu”.
Heart-healthy ingredient: Kale. Kale is rich in lutein, a compound recently linked to preventing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Heart-healthy ingredient: Salmon. Salmon is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and reduce inflammation in blood vessels.
Heart-healthy ingredient: Strawberry. Strawberries contain heart-healthy essentials fiber, potassium and antioxidants, and are naturally fat, sodium and cholesterol-free.
Sometimes I like to play this game in winter where I turn on my space heater, put on reggae music and pretend it’s not frigid and frightening outside. If I were an animal, I might be a bear considering I have a innate desire to hibernate when temperatures drop, sidewalks turn into ice skating rinks, and my legs start to look like alligator tails. During one of these recent exercises in wistful imagination, I decided that creating a summery salad in the dead of winter would make me feel just a little bit brighter on what was an otherwise gloomy day.
Cucumber met feta. Feta met dill. Dill danced with yogurt, lemon and garlic. What resulted was an easy, tasty and refreshing January-denial salad. Dill does have its winter merits as it’s loaded with immune system-boosting vitamins A and C. I hope this recipe transports you to a sunny beach somewhere and leaves you feeling nourished, both body and soul.
Cucumber Feta Salad with Lemony-Dill Dressing
[makes approx. 6 side-dish servings]
- 1 cup of feta cubes
- 5 small Persian cucumbers (or 2 regular)
- ¼ cup plain yogurt (I used nonfat)
- 2 small cloves of garlic (or 1 big)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh dill
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Cut cucumbers into half rounds (or however you like your bite-size pieces to look). Toss together in a large bowl with feta cubes*.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, minced garlic, chopped dill, olive oil and black pepper to taste. Resist any temptation to add salt as feta is quite salty already.
- Add dressing to feta and cucumber and toss to combine.
- Top with fresh dill and a few cherry or grape tomatoes if you have them on hand. Bon apetit!
*Note: I used block feta, which is cheaper and holds its shape better than pre-cut or crumbled feta. The block I cut up was about 3 cubic inches.
To me, a grilled or sautéed fruit salad with fresh, dark leafy greens and local, melt-in-your mouth cheese is a birthday gift all in itself–hopefully my friend Jeanine agreed because that’s what she got for her big day this year.
Technically I flambéed the fruit instead of sautéeing, but that was a fun, scary and somewhat over-my-head cooking technique that I might not recommend to my broader audience.
It all started when I received some gorgeous prune plums in my from the farmer basket last week…
And then, I saw my butter sitting, bored, out on the counter (where it should be, in my opinion, much of the time) and my vermouth coyly eyeing me up from across the bar. Just like that, an idea was born – (cooked) Plum, Kale and Feta Salad! I love how culinary creativity works. You look around at what you have and you see if maybe, just maybe, those ingredients could be combined to form something truly delicious.
I knew right away what I would do with the plums – a little butter and sweet alcohol go a long way with these guys – but I new I’d have to balance out the sweetness with some bitter, creamy and salty notes. In comes the dino kale, which I find a bit more tasty but still as nutritious as curly kale; domestic feta, which I got from my favorite online grocery store Relay Foods that is ideal for when convenience takes precedence (and where you can save $30 on your first order of $50 or more); and some toasted pine nuts and mint for some texture and brightness.
Plum, Kale and Feta Salad with Fresh Mint and Pine Nuts
What You’ll Need:
- 1 pint of prune plums (or 3 medium purple plums), pitted and quartered
- 4 cups of dino kale, washed and roughly chopped
- 1 cup fresh feta cubes
- 1 Tbs unsalted, organic butter
- 2-3 Tbs (a “splash”) sweet vermouth
- Juice of 1 small lemon
- 1-2 Tbs olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
How to Make It:
- Melt butter is a sauté pan over medium heat until it starts to brown but not burn. Add cut plums to your pan and turn the heat up to medium-high for 1-2 minutes. Add a splash of sweet vermouth (any sweet wine or aperitif would work in a pinch). Cook about another minute, or until the liquid is pretty close to completely evaporated. Remove prunes from pan and let cool.
- In a large bowl, mix together kale, lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper. Massage the kale for a minute to work the dressing into the leaves.
- Combine the kale and plums together, cover, and set it in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Once it’s party time, add your toasted pine nuts, shredded mint leaves and feta cubes (I like this and all cheese at room temperature). Give it a good mix and enjoy!
If you want to look forward to getting gorgeous baskets of fresh produce each week and want to save 20% off your first 4 deliveries, sign up for From the Farmer and use code “MOARfit” at checkout.