Every year, we worry about what to make for Valentine's Day. Magazines and food blogs advise us to create unpronounceable French dishes, elaborate concoctions of aphrodisiacs, or foods you and your sweetie feed to each other... with your hands.
Like many food-centered holidays, Valentine's day often leaves vegetarians and vegans out in the cold. Classic French dishes rely heavily on meat, cheese and butter. Oysters are the most popular aphrodisiac. And those little red boxes of candy? Dairy, eggs and sometimes gelatin.
My Valentine's Day recommendation is simple: prepare the delicious things you already know how to make, only make them heart-shaped. Fancy foods are wonderful if you have the time to plan out and cook an exotic dinner, but really nothing conveys Valentine's day like hearts.
Perhaps this is an overly simple and juvenile approach-- some might even say corny-- but its the little things that make life grand. Imagine how you would feel if your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/lover surprised you with raspberry-studded pancakes on Sunday morning. Now imagine if those pancakes were heart-shaped.
That little bit of extra thought goes a long way, right?
All it takes are a few heart-shaped cookie cutters or some fancy cutting and shaping skills. Pat veggie burgers into hearts. Use a large cookie cutter to make tea sandwiches or brownies a la mode. Use a small cookie cutter to cut out toppings for pizza, make heart-shaped ravioli, or deep-fried tofu.
Here's what a vegetarian Valentine's meal might look like: fried polenta and marinara sauce on a bed of sauteed kale with raisins and pine nuts. It's quick, budget-friendly, and elegant in its simplicity.
If you really want to go all out, Williams Sonoma sells cute heart pocket pie molds; these are great for sweet or savory hand pies, though I have on good authority that they also make excellent stuffed French toast. Sur la Table has a plethora of cute heart-shaped doodads.
Ultimately, it doesn't really matter what you cook. The best part of Valentine's day is just turning the TV off, lighting a few candles, and eating together.
But it's better if the food is heart-shaped.
Other heart-shaped ideas: