A Valentine's Dinner You Can Toss (and Stretch, and Top) Together
You’ve done the steakhouse dinner, you’ve tried that quirky French bistro down the block, and you’ve eaten just about all the sushi you can handle. You and your significant other have decided that this Valentine’s Day, you’re going to cook together.
Even though every day should be an occasion to share a nice meal with your special person, Valentine’s Day can add serious pressure to the looming “what do you want for dinner?” question. But the first step is not to worry; the two of you can make a memorable Sunday meal regardless of either of your cooking skills (or level of tolerance for each other’s behavior in the gated community that is your kitchen). What you need is a meal that requires a little fun experimenting, that’s largely hands off, and is completely customizable. What you need is pizza.
Even if ordering pizza is already part of your weekly routine, the act of making pizza can be a slightly adventurous and fun experience that yields a seriously delicious result. Plus, if either of you are picky (or particular) eaters, you can make personal pies that require no topping agreement whatsoever.
The resting time required of your dough will allow plenty of time to prepare the other elements of your meal, and will probably even allow a few minutes for canoodling. Pair your pie with a hearty salad (also customizable) and something bubbly, and you, my friends, are good to go. Bonus points if you dare to tackle dessert.
The Pizza Dough:
If you're willing to start a day ahead and/or consider yourselves dough connoisseurs, try out Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough. In this version of basic dough, the curious genius behind Sullivan Street Bakery brings his revolutionary "no-knead" bread technique to the realm of pizza, using a long resting time to produce a crackly crust with just the right amount of chew.
But if you want your Valentine pizza-venture to be a one-day event, the pizza crust featured in this recipe for white clam pizza fits the bill perfectly. It requires minimal kneading and a short, one-hour rising time, with just a five-minute rest before hitting the oven. If you’d like more time to play around prepping the rest of your meal (or, you know, snuggle), the recipe is tractable enough for an additional two- or three-hour rise. The recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas, so you can both make a pie of your choosing (and maybe even have a friendly pizza-shaping competition), or you can freeze half for later use.
Use your dough’s rise time to ready your toppings. The simple, but well-balanced combination of clams, cheese, and garlic featured above is an excellent choice for your Valentine’s meal, but you should feel free to experiment if that’s not up your alley. Top one half of the dough with their choices and the other half with yours. Don’t be held back by traditional combinations; make something you’ll love! It is Valentine’s Day, after all. Here are just a few ideas:
- A classic buttery tomato sauce and mozzarella
- White pizza with ricotta and herbs
- Seasonal pizza with acorn squash
- Breakfast pizza with bacon (and maybe an egg)
Once your toppings are decided on, chopped up, roasted, or otherwise good to go, it’s time to assemble your salad. Just like with your pizza, this is another area for you to embrace your and your partner’s tastes. This is also an area of the evening where the two of you can really work together: One of you can wash and prep the greens while the other can take on the vinaigrette. Tag-team the add-ins. A few leaves of inspiration:
- Try using a bitter green like radicchio to make this a true winter feast
- Change up your favorite Caesar salad by using kale
- Go Greek!
Finally, dessert. Totally optional, but also completely appropriate on the “sweetest” holiday of the year. My personal dessert philosophy is that it should be sweet, swift, and memorable—just like a first kiss. This rule especially applies for this situation, in which making dinner is your main event. If passing a plate of good-quality chocolates, fresh fruit slices, or a simple treat like sautéed dates seems too lax, try a gooey chocolate cake with few ingredients and an almost no-fail guarantee, or a classic cake.
If you do go the dessert route, just remember to start ahead of time so it's ready by the time you are done with dinner. While one of you makes the pizza dough, the other can head up Team Cake.
Ready to Get Cooking?
Have you and your special someone ever cooked together on Valentine's Day? What did you make? Gush about it in the comments!
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