Food — In-A-Pinch Love Feast
In-A-Pinch Love Feast

By Amy Diaz

Or what to do if you forget the reservations

 

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that can easily sneak up on you.

It’s a Monday, you weren’t sure you had anyone to celebrate with, you thought your favorite restaurant could fit you in — yeah, looks like you’re headed to the kitchen.

But don’t despair, even if this Valentine’s Day is going to be spent at home (and, unlike a weekend celebration, this one comes within an hour or so of leaving work), you can still throw together a good last-minute meal.

First blush of love

Romance means wine and candlelight — woo hoo, two things that help to obscure the unreadiness of you.

Throw a tablecloth on your eating space and set up a couple of unscented votives (both of these things are available on the cheap at the supermarket) and, poof, you have romance. (Didn’t clean the dining room in the last day or two? That won’t be as noticeable in the low lighting.)

Next, set up a plate of finger foods that can serve as appetizers and as a way for you to stall while you get your entrée together. I like cheese plates — a minute or two of slicing, some crackers on a plate, garnish with some grapes or blueberries. Voila, it’s a setup as good as many a high-class restaurant.

Add a few different flavors by including some olives or roasted peppers, both of which are available at kiosks in most supermarkets. Or add some pate or caviar. If the standard liver doesn’t do it for you, try vegetable pate. Or, dress up a cheese plate with bruschetta, tapenade or a salsa or relish.

Open a bottle of wine to facilitate the relaxed, your-dinner-isn’t-ready-yet atmosphere. Try a Proscecco, a sparkling Italian white that has the lightness and fizz of Champagne without the sweetness or the high price tag.

Dinner by candlelight

You can stall your sweetheart with some wine and cheese, but what to make in the interim?

Thanks to Lady and the Tramp, pasta is not infrequently associated with romance. This works in your favor because pasta can be cooked up in about 15 minutes but taste like it’s been simmering all day.

Plenty of marinaras in a can offer one-pot, no-chop sauce. Add a bit of olive oil, a few tablespoons of water and turn the sauce  to medium-low heat. Pick up a few herbs — basil, oregano, rosemary — and tear up a handful or so and add to your sauce. Allow this to simmer for a few minutes. For more of a kick, add a few roasted red peppers (don’t worry, they come in a jar), cured black olives or capers.

Many markets offer fresh pasta, which means better flavor and quicker cooking time. Cook al dente by placing in boiling water for five to 12 minutes, depending on type of pasta. A stuffed pasta (a tortellini or ravioli) will help add substance to your meal.

Add even more heft with a few sausages. Cook in a sauté pan for about 10 minutes per side on medium high heat. Then slice in quarters and add to sauce or serve on the pasta and pour sauce over the both.

A little grated parmesan cheese and you have the perfect spicy but time-friendly dish.

Or, check out the prepared foods at several markets and supermarkets. Many of these offerings will come refrigerated, but a bit of warming up with some fresh spices, garlic or green onions will help to give the dishes a freshly-cooked taste. For foods that need additional liquid, add chicken stock or a bit of water with some wine, salt and powdered garlic to add some depth to the flavors.

Dessert

Maybe your favorite restaurant can’t seat you for dinner but they will likely be able to serve you dessert.

Check out the bar or post-primetime seating availability if you want to end your special evening out. (One note, keep in mind that many restaurants have earlier hours on Mondays.)

Or, pick up a few slices of your favorite luxurious desserts on the way home. You can call ahead to have your desserts waiting for your mad dash home.

Of course, desserts to remember are just as easy to compile from a few premade ingredients available at most markets. Share a dessert by filling a small bowl with vanilla bean ice cream. Place that bowl in a larger bowl and place chocolate cookies around the edge. (Other tasty combinations — chocolate ice cream with chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies; mint ice cream with chocolate cookies.) Or, make a plate with chocolate truffles and raspberries and serve with a glass of port.

Several area markets also offer single servings of cheesecakes and tortes. Buy a few slices and serve with a drizzle of chocolate or raspberry sauce or cut them up to make a dessert sampler.

Markets to the rescue

Here are a few area markets that can make your last-minute Valentine’s celebration a success.

• Angela’s Pasta and Cheese Shop, 815 Chestnut St., Manchester, 625-9544.

• Bull Run, 1100 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 669-0891.

• Bartlett Street Superettte, 316 Bartlett St., Manchester, 627-1580.

• Sausage Heaven, 33 Elm St., 606-6657.

• Michelle’s Gourmet Pastries and Deli, 819 Union St., Manchester, 647-7150.


—Amy Diaz

 
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