Let’s talk romance. I’ve been married for forty years – and to the same man. That’s a record, especially in Los Angeles. I know a thing or two about romance, but I don’t want to step on Dr. Ruth’s tiny toes so let’s talk about a romantic light & easy dinner for two. You definitely want food that makes the senses tickle, not just the taste buds. You want to be in a nice cozy room enjoying a delicious meal with your significant other, not running back and forth from the kitchen stirring a sauce, taking a rib roast’s temperature, or putting out a grease fire. You want to prepare something easy that doesn’t require lots of last minute preparations.

We’re talking sexy food here, but we’re also talking healthful. You want to have a light and easy menu – something that is leisurely and savory, and will take a nice, long time to eat. And something that won’t make you stuffed for any after-dinner extra-curricular activities.

Light Tomato BisqueI love the Tomato Bisque in this menu. It’s made with love apples a/k/a “pommes d’amour” in France, a/k/a tomatoes. The French believed that tomatoes had aphrodisiac powers. In early times, the tomato was actually given as a love token. I doubt if a gift of a tomato continues to stir such emotions today, but for you hard core romantics who insist on carrying on this age old tradition, may I suggest presenting it with some jewelry? This soup has the requisite red Valentine’s color, has deep warm flavor, and just think of all the sweet nothings you can whisper in between slurps.

I have also chosen a Rock Cornish Game Hen with honey glaze which conjures up images of Albert Finney and his sexy eating scene in the movie “Tom Jones.” Honey has a deep ritual history. It’s said that honey arouses erotic thoughts, so feel free to slather on the glaze.

The final course, is a simple strawberry dessert which is classic Feb 14 material. The Romans believed strawberries could cure anything from stomach aches to loose teeth. Doesn’t sound very romantic, but hey, I’d rather munch on a few ripe strawberries than swallow a chalky antacid any day. This strawberry gratin is easy to prepare and a delicious finale to a very sensual dinner.

Serves: 2-4

This is a light and easy version of a rich tomato bisque. It’s so hard to find tasty tomatoes in the Winter so I am using canned but enhancing them with flavor and thickening the soup with a potato rather than cream.

1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium potato, peeled, and roughly chopped
1 14 1/2-ounce can tomatoes, undrained
1 cup defatted chicken broth
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Garnish: chopped fresh parsley

1. Place the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.

2. Puree the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth, pulsing on and off. Return the soup to the saucepan, reheat, and serve garnished with parsley.

Note: If you have a hand-held blender, it is easy to puree the soup right in the pan.

Serves: 2

If poussins (baby chickens of about 1 pound each) are available, substitute them for the hens.

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons grainy-style Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons minced orange rind
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 1-1 1/2 pound rock Cornish game hens, split in half

Garnish: sprigs of fresh thyme, orange slices, and fresh raspberries

1. In a small bowl prepare the marinade by combining the ingredients and whisking until smooth.

2. Place the hens in a shallow non-reactive dish and pour the marinade over, making sure to coat on both sides. Allow the birds to marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours. (You can also marinate conveniently in sealable bags).

3. Preheat the broiler to 475 degrees F. Lightly coat the bottom of a roasting pan with vegetable cooking spray.

4. Remove the hens from the marinade, place them in the prepared pan skin-side down, spreading liberally with ½ of the marinade and roast for 15 minutes. Turn, baste with the remaining marinade, and continue to roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until well-browned and cooked through.

5. Remove the cooked hens to a warm platter, strain the sauce from the pan into a pitcher, and remove any accumulated fat. Serve the hens hot with the sauce on the side, garnished with thyme, oranges, and raspberries.

Serves: 6

When fresh strawberries are in season this is the best and easiest way to serve them than with a light orange flavored yogurt based sauce.

3 pints strawberries (Stemmed strawberries preferred)
1 cup non-fat or lowfat yogurt
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon grated orange rind
1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon Amaretto di Saronno liqueur
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Wash and drain the berries but do not remove the caps or stems. Attractively arrange the berries on a large platter leaving room for the sauce and chill until ready to use.

2. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, stir well, and allow them to chill until ready to use.

3. Serve the sauce surrounded by berries.

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