Do you hate the idea of a commercialized holiday designed to generate copious amounts of revenue by preying on couples that feel they need to pick one day a year to show each other how much they’re in love? Good for you love-Scrooge. I love Valentine’s Day. I like buying jewelry I can’t afford, chocolate I’ll never eat, and cards worded in uncomfortably love-y ways for pretty girls I probably don’t deserve to be with. Not to mention the avalanche of catering jobs to take care of!
Working in the restaurant industry typically means that any holiday where people go out to eat means I’m stuck at work giggling at the blushing couples I’m cooking dinner for. It also means that I have to be particularly creative in when I can celebrate these holidays with my loved ones. I celebrated Valentine’s Day early twice this year and now I get to live it the normal way, vicariously through my readers! I have two recipes for this Date Night feature. The first is a romantic breakfast – pancakes full of shredded pear, clementine zest, and crushed lavender flowers that I most definitely did not pair with a prosecco mimosa on a work morning. The second is a tried and true gnocchi recipe with a mint-basil pesto, goat cheese, arugula, and a squeeze of lemon juice with which I happily downed a bottle of Ruffino’s Lumina Pinot Grigio at 2AM after a night shift and a few hours before I had to wake up for a 7AM open shift.
When you sit down at seven for your normal people dinner make sure to light some candles and buy flowers. I think Valentine’s Day is the perfect chance for this gnocchi dish to shine. It’s light (for Italian food) so you won’t think twice about a second serving of dessert. It’s also warm comfort food to shake your winter chill. I’m not one to usually do white wine in the winter but I think Valentine’s Day is steamy enough to take your wine in a cooler direction. The pinot grigio I chose paired perfectly with my gnocchi. This pairing is about the repetition of flavours in the wine and the dish. The lemon juice on the arugula is directly repeated in the wine’s finish while the herbaceous notes in the wine enhance the savoury mint-basil pesto. The pinot grigio is a bit of a dryer wine which is complimented by the sweeter potato gnocchi. My one caution with this pairing is that it is far too easy to eat and drink way too much. Pace yourself and don’t forget to talk to your Valentine’s date. Or don’t – I’m no hypocrite.
Here’s the recipe (and bonus recipe). You’ll need approximately 10 minutes to prep and cook this dinner so it’s perfect if you forgot it’s Valentine’s Day or hate cooking. It’ll cost you about $15-20 for the food and $13-14 for the wine which again is perfect if you forgot it’s Valentine’s Day and spent all your paycheque Friday on less romantic activities. Bring flowers.
Mint-Basil Pesto Gnocchi
1 Bunch Basil – Chopped
2 Tablespoons Mint – Chopped
4 Cloves Garlic – Minced
0.5 Cup Grana Padano Cheese (it’s like parmesan except cheaper and I like it more)
0.5 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or more if you like a runnier pesto)
2 Cups Potato Gnocchi – Potato is highly preferred but semolina is also acceptable
4ish Tablespoons Goat Cheese (based on how much you like goat cheese. Don’t drown the dish!)
2 Small Handfuls Arugula
Salt and Pepper
Preheat a pot of boiling water for your gnocchi. Typical store-bought gnocchi takes about 3 minutes to cook so while the gnocchi is in, place your basil, mint, garlic, grana padano, olive oil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to taste in a bowl and blend it with a handheld immersion blender. The alternatives to this are a food processor or chopping things up as small as you can and mashing them in a mortar and pestle (in which case you can roll up your sleeves and flex your biceps for your date while you mash.) Once your gnocchi is cooked, drain it and pour your pesto in to the pot with it. Make sure it’s all coated and spoon it on to a plate. Try and pile it vertically instead of splaying it across the plate (a classic restaurant trick to make things look more valuable and pretty.) Pile goat cheese on your gnocchi and arugula on top of that. To finish, squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top of your arugula.
And now for a recipe I typically reserve for apology mornings but also fits the Valentine’s theme.
Pear and Lavender Pancakes with Clementine Zest and Crushed Dried Rose Petals (Right?)
1 Pear (doesn’t matter the breed) – Shredded
1.5 Tablespoons Dried Lavender – Crushed
1 Tablespoon Clementine Zest
1 Teaspoon Dried Rose Petals – Crushed
1 Cup Self-rising flour
1 Cup Milk (I like to use vanilla unsweetened almond milk because I’m fancy)
0.5 Tablespoon Brown Sugar] Mint Leaves
Mix all your ingredients and use a ladle to portion pancakes in to a heated and buttered pan. Look for bubbles on the surface of your pancake to show that it’s ready to flip the first time. One they’re cooked and smothered in maple syrup, sprinkle some more rose petals and the mint leaves on top to make it pretty and really emphasize how sorry you are. Or happy Valentine’s Day. Or both?
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. I hope you find yourself a date. And if you can’t, I hope you have a kitten half as adorable as mine or a thoroughly convincing skepticism and grinchittude about the holiday. Love responsibly!