There are many ways to show your sweetie how much you love them, and you needn’t wait for a rainy Saturday in February. Flowers, chocolates, diamonds, a surprise date. But let’s get real here, your best bet is a home-cooked meal. Diamonds certainly don’t hurt either, but it’s almost impossible to beat a romantic dinner made at home.
It takes time, to lovingly prepare a carefully thought out menu; finding the ripest pears, juiciest wines and stinkiest cheese for a special meal is no easy task. Then, once you’ve picked up the goods, you’ve got to mince garlic, cry over onions, and pray the cake doesn’t stick to the pan. And there’s certainly no labor of love quite like washing crusty dishes and wiping down sticky counters, but somebody’s got to do it.
But it’s all worth it, when you sit down together and wipe the sweat off your brow, pop a bottle of bubbly and dig in to a homemade feast for two.
“You made all this, just for me?”
To start things off, you’ll need a little something to nibble on while you finish the rest of the meal. This Middle Eastern dip called muhammara would be perfect, an intoxicating blend of roasted peppers, toasted walnuts and tangy pomegranate molasses. There’s a healthy dose of extra virgin olive oil to smooth things out and a generous shot of Aleppo pepper and earthy cumin—it’s the fresher, brighter hummus-replacement you’ve been yearning for.
A nice follow-up would be pomegranate pork chops, smashed sunchokes with Satsuma and garlic, and these chocolate cupcakes with tahini buttercream.
Cooking a full-blown, pull-out-all-the-stops dinner isn’t for the faint of heart. But the look on their face when they rip into your homemade sourdough bread is worth it. So is the sigh of pleasure upon their first bite of tender steak. The way their eyes light up when you pull out dessert. Their excitement when they ask for seconds. The satisfaction when they say “that was the best meal I’ve ever had”, and you know they really mean it.
Roasted Red Pepper, Walnut & Pomegranate Dip
If you’re of the paleo-eating crowd, feel free to swap the bread with another cup of walnuts or almonds. No judgment.
Preheat your broiler. Meanwhile, cut away the sides from the peppers and discard the seeds, ribs and stems. Toss the peppers with enough olive oil to coat and season generously with salt. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until the peppers are blistered in spots. Turn the peppers over and continue broiling under the other side is blistered. Allow the peppers to cool on the pan for 5 minutes.
In a small pan, toast the spices over medium high heat until they are fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Pull off the heat as soon as you smell them or they’ll burn.
In a food processor, pulse the garlic cloves until finely minced. Add the bread and nuts and grind until finely chopped. Add the spices, peppers, pomegranate molasses and 1 teaspoon of salt and puree. While the processor is going, drizzle in the olive oil. Continue to puree until the dip smooth (or leave it chunky, up to you!)
Taste the dip for seasoning and adjust with salt and pomegranate molasses if necessary. You can add water by the teaspoon to thin it out if it’s too thick for your liking. Garnish with a swirl of olive oil or pomegranate molasses, a sprinkle of pomegranate arils or more Aleppo pepper and dig in.