Although you know I LOVE Valentines Day, I almost always end up not celebrating it with the object of my affections. Last year I was away from my man in Brussels, and besides, Europeans don't really do Valentines Day. The year before that I crashed my parents dinner (respect) and the year before that I opted to work at a restaurant rather than force my bf to take me to one. In fact, the last time I may have had a Valentines Day proper was with my long distance college boyfriend, who agreed to watch "The Cutting Edge" over the phone with me while I ate a box of chocolates and my dorm mates made fun of me. While that relationship didn't last, my affection for "The Cutting Edge" as the greatest romantic movie of all time did. (Moira Kelley is the most adorable film bitch of all time, and D.B. Sweeney does hot jock with a heart of gold better than anyone. Plus, there's a lot of snow and ice skating, which is perfect for February.)
This year I also kind of gave up on a commercially endorsed Valentines Day. Trying to get roses and a box of chocolates out of German on Valentines Day is more or less like trying to leash a cat, so I decided to hedge my bets and have a sexy little dinner party a few days before for some friends, and not mention the V-word.
Now, having a "sexy little dinner party" is rather less easy than one might anticipate on a putzfrau's salary, so I decided to really simplify and see what I could get to feed 6 for less than 15€. Turns out, a lot! Here was the menu:
Bruschetta with roasted garlic and balsamic drizzle: I toasted sliced french bread in the oven in shifts, while meanwhile roasting 2 whole bulbs of garlic. (Is there anything more seductive than roasted garlic?) When finished and cool enough to handle, I mashed the roasted garlic bulbs with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes until I had a thick paste to spread on the bread. The topping was just a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar. These were so freaking good and all I had to buy was the bread.
Caramelized Fennel, Arugula and Orange Salad: This was also ganz einfach (simple.) While my oven was working on the bruschetta I put my stovetop to work caramelizing a huge sliced fennel bulb in a bit of margarine and oil. After about 20 minutes on low heat, it was sweet with just a hint of anise. I kept it warm until ready to serve, but prepared the rest of the salad: orange wedges, arugula, and a simple balsamic dressing. The fennel ended up being the most expensive part of the dinner.
Finally, I served it all with some V'Con vodka sauce over penne pasta, an instant creamy classic that is easily doubled for a crowd. The photo isn't great, but the end result was everything that a good vodka sauce should be, and went well with the other two featured items.
All this and 2 bottles of wine for under 15€! I was also going to do dessert, but we ended up just drinking wine for dessert. See? Simple, Sexy, and dare I say, very European. :P
Real Valentines Day wasn't so bad either: no wine and roses, but beer and sushi in the bathtub, while watching Arrested Development episodes. Works for me, my friends.
Hope you lot had a nice V-Day, or had fun ignoring it all together!
song of the day: The Cardigans- Lovefool