romantic, simple and cheap recipes
February 5, 2015 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to make a special Valentine's Day dinner, but need to keep it super simple.

Mr. deadcrow on are a spending freeze as we are closing on our first house at the end of the month. We are also exhausted from prepping for the big move. We have fortuitously found ourselves with a babysitter for next Friday night, and I'd like to make something special for dinner. We are adventurous eaters, love spicy, ethic, experimental...
Inexpensive (maybe $50 in groceries? We do have quite a few pantry items still)
Vegetarian (dairy/eggs okay)
Minimal "extras" (since we're moving in a couple weeks, I'd prefer to have as few half jars of such-and-such to bring to the new house)
Simple preparation/clean up
Romantic (totally up for any interpretation here...)
posted by deadcrow to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This might not sound too fancy but I had roasted beets with walnuts and balsamic at a restaurant a few weeks ago and I'm still thinking about it.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:50 AM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

Have a poke around here. I have the original edition of that cookbook and have tried a couple recipes - they're generally pretty simple, and the whole point is "oooh, these are aphrodisiacs" to boot.

That site adds 145 new recipes which I'm going to be poking around in myself literally as soon as I hit "post" on here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:53 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might want to post a photo of your pantry and fridge to give people ideas on what could be made with what you have with limited additional shopping.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:54 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, crap, the site only lists FIVE recipes. But this one, for salmon fillets glazed with honey and basil, sounds simple and good.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:56 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of wonderful vegetarian recipes on this Moosewood site.
posted by mareli at 9:07 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Starter: Steamed artichoke with aioli
Main: Ottolenghi's surprise tatin
Dessert: Chocolate mousse (with fresh whipped cream)
posted by melissasaurus at 9:09 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've always liked Seriouseats' vegan recipes, but I'm not sure how you define simple preparation and clean-up. You could try looking through The Vegan Experience compilation and see if any recipes catch your eye.

Mushroom Bolognese might be suitable -- the ingredients aren't expensive, and it needs a long slow simmer.
posted by 35minutes at 9:14 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Chickpea picatta! Cheap ingredients, so flavorful, deceptively fancy-looking on the plate but dead simple and easy to make.

Serve over mashed potatoes with a simple lemon vinaigrette-dressed green salad or crispy oven-roasted broccoli on the side.

For dessert, maybe some grilled peaches with caramel sauce à la mode or avocado chocolate mousse?
posted by divined by radio at 9:21 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Aarti Sequeira is your friend. I'd make recipes 1, 3, 4 and 5 in that link, if it were me. Tons of flavors from very inexpensive ingredients.
posted by jbickers at 9:29 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Your specifications made me think that perhaps risotto would be a good option. The ingredients are cheap, the result is luxurious, and it doesn't require much equipment. It does take a fair amount of time/effort to prepare, but the more love that goes into a dish, the more romantic I'd say it is. The extent to which it is experimental, though, will depend on your regular culinary habits.
posted by meese at 9:30 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Um, I think a lot of people missed that these folks are vegetarian. :)

Anyway, if your definition of cheap is $25/person, I think you will be fine with 90% of the vegetarian recipes out there, honestly.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:30 AM on February 5, 2015

Do you have a good selection of spices, or are you near a bulk store that will sell you a tsp of this and a tsp of that? I want to suggest saag paneer and a simple side like a saucy veg or lentil 'curry,' and rice. Naan bread from a takeaway or the freezer. Saag paneer is very easy and what's not to love about paneer?

(clicking through I see jbickers had pretty similar thoughts!)

Alternatively: chard sauteed with onions and garlic, a really rich quiche loaded with cream and good cheese(s), and a simple soup?

If you are dessert people: lemon posset with berries
posted by kmennie at 9:42 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Looks like you're getting and will continue to get awesome recipes. I just wanted to pop in and say that I think a lot of what makes a dinner romantic is the presentation details. Garnishes on the plates, flowers on the table, candlelight, cloth napkins, nicer plates and silverware, etc. Just to elevate everything a little bit above what you do every day. Dressing up for each other, even in your own house. A little soft music...details, you know? All of this can be very cheap but no less special.

Have you considered a fondue? Cheese fondue would be fun, work within your dietary specifications (in addition to the classic bread and steamed vegetables, I really like raw vegetables like red pepper strips, raw green apples, and cherry tomatoes), and be simple, but might not be inexpensive enough. But even if you go with a different dinner, for dessert a chocolate fondue with fruit/cookies would be easy, not very expensive, and kind of fancy and romantic.
posted by spelunkingplato at 11:33 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

-French, and therefore by our cultural logic, romantic.
-simple: the speedy dish par excellence.
-intimate: properly eaten straight away, and are therefore best either in a domestic setting or in an intimate little bistro.
-flair: omelet-making is a spectacle. All that shaking and tossing and sizzling.
-suspense: omelets often fail, so when they succeed it feels really good. (Keep a few extra eggs on hand.)
-sexy display of prowess. Cook while wearing something that shows off your muscles.
-adventurous/spicy: the omelet is the perfect vehicle for all manner of flavors and ingredients.
-thrifty: all those half-jars of obscure ingredients? I literally cannot think of anything that isn't good in an omelet. (If one of your experiments proves unfortunate, add a dollop of creme fraîche.)
-pairs beautifully with cheap wine.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:14 PM on February 5, 2015 is great for real, adult meals in a variety of cuisines while still being logical about cash. I've made probably 10 recipes, but most have included meat.
Off the top of my head, she has a ratatouille that looks GORGEOUS, but I am not a zucchini gal.
posted by rubster at 2:46 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Take a ripe avocado and split in half, deseed, and then drizzle pistachio oil or even pumpkin seed oil with a dash of sea salt. If you want more texture than what the salt provides try some chopped pistachios or pumpkin seeds.

Cocktails -- thanks to April Bloomfield for her Moscow Mule where you freeze ginger beer with lots of grated lime zest, grind into a slushee and then top it with vodka and squeeze of lime in a glass.
posted by jadepearl at 5:50 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

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