Valentine’s Day dinner for two

Though I know it’s a bit of a commercial holiday, I can’t help but love Valentine’s Day.

I have celebrated a few different ways over the years – mailing out pretty or silly cards to far-flung friends, going on weekend getaways with Steve (note: Philly’s Italian BYO restaurant scene was the perfect romantic/fun date!), hosting Galentine’s Day parties. Besides all the chocolate + rosé, it’s a great time for sentimental me to get all mushy about the people I love. 

One of my favorite Valentine’s Day memories was my second Valentine’s Day with Steve. In a valiant effort to redeem our first Valentine’s Day, wherein we were long distance and he… forgot about it… Steve kicked out all of his housemates and made me a super awesome dinner at home. Seared rare tuna steaks that he marinated in fresh ginger and soy sauce, with roasted asparagus. An actual expensive bottle of wine and brie and PATE (ew, but A for effort)! I knew he was trying hard to impress, and he was uncharacteristically nervous. The whole thing was so sweet and romantic, and it helped that it was SUPER delicious as well. 

Cooking for a loved one is such a genuine way to show love. Cooking is effort, thoughtfulness, precision. So if you’re looking for a way to show someone how you feel, why not make them a special dinner for two?

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A few thoughts on what makes a good Valentine’s Day meal:

  • Portioned for two. Practical leftovers aren’t romantic. Being overstuffed isn’t sexy. A meal for two allows you to pay more attention to the details, the little things that will put your menu over the top.
  • Something out of the ordinary. That will vary for whatever is ordinary for you. We don’t regularly eat pasta, so for us, that would be special. Maybe you don’t eat a lot of seafood or red meat or whatever. Branch out!
  • Special favorites. In a total 180 from what I just said, sometimes your absolute favorites can be a really meaningful choice. Maybe you’ll recreate the meal from your first date or your wedding night.
  • Something you can make together. There’s nothing like dancing around each other in the kitchen, sipping on wine and laughing and reading each other that last line in the recipe again, to make you feel like such a good team.

And with that, here’s one suggestion for your Valentine’s Day dinner!

2

Mediterranean Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Asparagus

1 pound pork tenderloin

1 log of goat cheese (you’ll only need about 3 tablespoons)

4 tablespoons of pesto

½ lb fresh spinach

¼ c. sundried tomatoes from a jar, drained and patted dry

¾ lb. asparagus

coarse sea salt

black pepper

oregano

*also need parchment paper and kitchen twine

The first step of this recipe is the trickiest, and then it’s all easy from here on out! Yep, you have to butterfly the tenderloin. To max out how much stuffing you can fit in the tenderloin, I like to cut it open in a spiral. You can find great pictures and tutorial here: http://domesticfits.com/2012/02/08/how-to-roll-cut-and-stuff-pork-loin/ I also switched to her method for trussing the tenderloin after stuffing, and I loved it!

Preheat your oven to 450. Saute spinach in a tiny tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil, and remove from heat as soon as it’s begun to wilt.

Pound the tenderloin so it lays flat. You may have appropriate kitchen gadgets for this – I did not, and found that the flat bottom of a measuring cup worked just fine in a pinch 😉 Place your tenderloin on a baking sheet lined in parchment paper. This will save you the mini freak-out of trying to move your tenderloin after you’ve stuffed & trussed it!

Spread the goat cheese in an even layer, then repeat with the pesto. Spread the spinach over that. Sprinkle the sundried tomatoes on top. Try not to overstuff your tenderloin, but don’t worry too much either – when you tie it back up, you can always remove some stuffing to ensure it all fits. Mix your spices (coarse sea salt, black pepper, dried oregano) in a small bowl and rub all over the tenderloin.

Carefully roll the tenderloin back together, securing with the kitchen twine. You can follow the method used in that tutorial above, or take an easier path: cut strings of twine, place them under the tenderloin spaced out every few inches, and secure in a knot on the top of the rolled tenderloin.

You’ll roast it for 25 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 160.

Once the tenderloin is in the oven, prepare your asparagus. I usually chop off the rough ends, and toss with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

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When you take the tenderloin out of the oven, put the asparagus in. The tenderloin needs to rest, so give it 10 minutes while your asparagus cooks.

Though there are a fair amount of ingredients here for the stuffing, this is a very simple meal that doesn’t keep you too busy or overly focused in the kitchen. You can even prep elements of this in advance – butterfly the tenderloin, saute the spinach, and chop the asparagus a few hours before anyone’s coming over. Stuffing meat looks impressive, and you’re gonna make it look easy!

And all that convenience aside, it’s DELISH! Creamy goat cheese, tangy pesto, tender pork… I’m in love!

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