A Vibrant Valentine Dinner of Reds
Recipes for a dinner that’s red on the plate, warm in the heart, delicioso on the palate.
The red zone is where you want to be on Valentine’s Day, especially since the Giants are numero uno once again. Offer your love a vibrant dinner of reds and both of you will glow.
Red excites the eye and opens the mind to possibilities. That’s why tantric lovers wear red silk robes for transcendent encounters. But the visual punch of an all-red dinner is just the beginning. Touch, taste, and swallow the saturated color, and the body thrums. Red delivers unique micronutrients, from the resveratrol in a glass of Shiraz to the antioxidants in cranberries that endow the fruit with its blush.
I’m an unabashed carnivore, so I think Valentine’s Day is a great excuse for a luxurious cut of beef (locally and lovingly raised, of course), a filet slow-roasted to rare at 250°: every inch red except for a thin crisp crust. I serve it with so many fruit and vegetable sides, there’s only a soupcon of guilt. (Big guilt causes indigestion, but a pinch is very nice spice.)
For this year’s menu I’ve shaded in some purples and pinks, so pretty this time of year. They suggest nuances in passion without diluting the message.
Go overboard with table décor. I use hokey red placemats and stitched-together roses bought for $3 apiece at Pier One. My frilly red napkins get ironed. I buy tulips two days ahead of time so they open up just as we’re sitting down to dinner. Pomegranate candles. And Brubeck’s Red Hot & Cool in the air.
The Cocktail Hour
A dry Lambrusco, such as Concerto, with a festive bit of fizz and a crushed-garnet color that makes Champagne turn pale with envy.
Spiral-cut watermelon radishes (scarlet-hearted), available at Greenmarket and natural food stores, with whole wee radishes in a spectrum of reds; Sicilian red or Himalayan pink sea salt.
Fresh tomato salsa (a few flecks of basil and parsley won’t dim the vibrancy) with red and blue corn chips.
Pecans toasted with cinnamon and a touch of cayenne in the sugar and salt coating.
The Main Course
Rare filet of pure upstate beef, sliced onto a platter adorned with red and purple radish shoots and baby red romaine leaves.
Mashed blue and red potatoes.
Slow-roasted cherry tomatoes (5 hours on a foil-lined pan at 200°).
Red pearl onions parboiled and then braised with red wine butter.
Diced red chard stems, simmered in unsalted water for 20 minutes, then sautéed in olive oil until crisp-tender.
Cranberry biscotti (see sidebar).
Blood orange and raspberry sorbets.
Best available red berries with, okay, warm chocolate for dipping, because Merriam-Webster defines “cocoa red” as “the brown-red coloring matter of cocoa and chocolate formed by oxidation of tannin in the cacao bean.” And, what’s Valentine’s Day without chocolate?
Nancy Weber is writing her 23d book—a thriller set in Greenwich Village about swinging senior chefs who arouse the wrath of a puritanical food blogger.