Valentine’s Day may be my favorite night of the year to cook at home. There’s no pressure to look fancy at a restaurant and no sad-sack feelings about ordering in. The key to a successful Valentine’s dinner from your own kitchen is to pick the right recipes. And to start with a cocktail like this refreshing negroni.
If you’re cooking for just you, go the pasta route. For warming comfort food, try jajangmyeon, a Korean noodle dish with a savory black bean sauce that’s become a thing singles in South Korea eat in an anti-Valentine spirit. If you want something fresher and faster (and agnostic of the holiday), go for pistachio pesto swirled into ramen. The former may stain your teeth black; the latter may speckle them green. Who cares? This is a meal just for you.
To impress someone new-ish without the possibility of a big kitchen fail, grill a whole fish Filipino-style. The banana leaves that wrap it look cool and prevent the fish from sticking to the grill. Bonus: Your Valentine will swoon over the silky spicy coconut adobo sauce from chef Angela Dimayuga (and by extension, maybe you).
For a couple well in the comfort zone, cook this shrimp saganaki together and eat it with your hands. Twist off those shrimp heads to suck out their spiced juices and swipe good bread through the tomato sauce. Yes, it gets messy, but you’ve probably gotten through messier times. This dish celebrates that kind of love.
To get restaurant-style sophistication without leaving the house, make small-plate vegetables, such as grilled carrots with tahini labneh and toasted sesame seeds or pan-seared Brussels sprouts and chiles caramelized with maple syrup. Or, you can actually recreate one of L.A.’s best vegetable dishes: Hippo’s charred green beans with hazelnuts and mustard dressing.
If you want delivery eats without facing a deliverer, try this spin on beef and broccoli. It’s grilled and it’s great. If you don’t have time for that, you can cook this shrimp and leek stir-fry in 10 minutes. Or do both for a family meal.
End the night with classic desserts. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s molten chocolate cake tastes like a magic trick, and it’s one that’s easy to pull off. The same is true of Thomas Keller’s creme caramel. Knock out both for the most spectacular restaurant-worthy meal at home.