Don't bother making a dinner reservation for Valentine's Day this year. Instead, cook an indulgent menu for two -- or double it for a special family supper.
Caesar salad for two
2 thick slices rustic white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 anchovy fillets, minced
1 large egg yolk or 1 tablespoon pasteurized egg yolk
11/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 small head romaine lettuce, cored, outer leaves discarded and heart cut into 11/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss bread with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes to 12 minutes. Let croutons cool completely.
2. On a cutting board, combine garlic, anchovies and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using a large knife, drag the blade at an angle across mixture until a paste forms. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in egg yolk, mustard and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in 3 tablespoons oil. Season with pepper. Just before serving, add croutons and lettuce to dressing and toss; top with Parmesan.
Nutritional information per serving: 510 calories, 27 grams fat, 22 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 3 grams fiber and 48 percent of calories from fat.
Steak and shrimp with parsley potatoes
1/2 pound small new red potatoes, halved or quartered if large
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 filet mignon, sirloin or flat-iron steaks (6 ounces each)
3 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 extra-large shrimp (6 ounces total), peeled and deveined, tails left on
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Place potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Season with salt; bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a rapid simmer. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Pat steaks dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper. When oil just begins to smoke, add steaks to skillet. Cook until browned well on all sides, turning with tongs as needed, about 10 minutes total (reduce heat to prevent burning as needed). Reduce heat to medium, top steaks with thyme and add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet. When butter froths, tilt skillet slightly so butter pools and repeatedly spoon it over steaks, about 1 minute. Transfer steaks to a plate and tent with foil.
3. Briefly rinse skillet under cold water and return to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet; when it froths, add shrimp and cook until beginning to brown at edges, about 2 minutes, turning halfway through. Season with salt and pepper, add half the parsley and toss. Transfer to a plate.
4. Return skillet to medium heat and add cooked potatoes. Cook, stirring, until potatoes are heated through and starting to break down, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon butter and remaining parsley and toss to coat. Season potatoes with salt and pepper. Serve steak and shrimp with potatoes.
Nutritional information per serving: 748 calories, 57 grams fat, 20 grams carbohydrates, 38 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, 69 percent of calories from fat.
Black forest upside-down cakes
If you can't find jarred sour cherries, substitute frozen sweet cherries, thawed and drained. Use 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice instead of the cherry juice in step 1.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
11/2 cups drained jarred sour cherries (1 teaspoon juice reserved)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons rum
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cherry juice in the bottom of each of two 8-ounce ramekins. Microwave ramekins until butter and brown sugar are melted and bubbling, about 1 minute. Arrange cherries in a tightly packed layer in the bottom of each ramekin.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In another small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in egg yolk, then flour mixture and milk. Divide batter between ramekins.
3. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat cream, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and rum until soft peaks form. Run a paring knife around edge of each cake and invert onto a plate. Serve cakes with rum whipped cream.
Nutritional information per serving: 702 calories. 39 grams fat, 89 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 6 grams fiber and 50 percent of calories from fat.