Preparing an elegant, romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day need not be a labor, of love or otherwise.
Just 45 minutes of simple kitchen work will have you serving broiled salmon with a miso-lime glaze, roasted asparagus, a simple salad and little frosted heart-shaped cakes.
Even better, much of this meal can be prepared early, leaving about 15 minutes of work just before serving.
The four-ingredient glaze can be made the day before. If you have room in your refrigerator, you even could cut the salmon and place it on the baking sheet the morning of your dinner. Just don’t drizzle with glaze until ready to cook.
The asparagus also can be washed and trimmed early. Place the spears in a plastic zip-close bag, add the oil, salt and pepper, then seal the bag, shake to coat and refrigerate until ready to cook.
The same storage method can be used with the salad, but don’t add the dressing until served.
The cakes are easily prepared early, as they need time to chill before serving anyway. Don’t cover them with plastic wrap (or if you do, keep the wrap from touching the surface), as it will stick to the frosting.
The only special equipment needed for this meal is a 1- to 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter.
This recipe is written for the entire meal, start to finish.
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For the cakes:
1small frozen pound cake
2teaspoons strawberry jam
1cup prepared vanilla, chocolate or strawberry frosting
1vanilla, chocolate or strawberry icing pen (choose a contrasting color to the frosting)
For the asparagus:
1bunch asparagus, thick bottoms trimmed
2tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the salmon:
2tablespoons white miso
2tablespoons maple syrup
1tablespoon lime juice
1pound salmon fillet
For the salad:
3cups baby arugula (or other baby greens)
1/2cup shredded carrots
1/4cup dried cranberries
2tablespoons slivered almonds
Balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.
To make the cakes, cut four 1-inch slices from the pound cake. Use a 1- to 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut a heart of cake from each of the four slices, and discard the excess.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of jam over the tops of two of the hearts. Place a second heart on top of the jam. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack. Set aside.
Place the frosting in a microwave-safe measuring cup and microwave on high in 15-second bursts, stirring in between, until the frosting is melted, smooth and pours easily.
Place the wire rack with the cakes over paper towels or newspapers. Pour the frosting over the two cakes. It should leave a thick, smooth coat of frosting. The excess frosting will drip through the rack.
Let the cake set up for 5 minutes, then use the icing pen to make decorative marks on top, if desired. Use a spatula to carefully transfer them to serving plates and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To prepare the asparagus, in a medium bowl or large plastic bag, place the asparagus, salt and pepper. Toss or shake to coat, then arrange the asparagus in a single layer on one side of the prepared baking sheet.
To make the salmon glaze, use a blender or whisk to combine the miso, maple syrup, lime juice and water until smooth.
Cut the salmon fillet into two pieces and place them on the other half of the baking sheet. Drizzle each piece with the miso-lime glaze, then place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, increase the oven to broil. Watch the salmon carefully; the top should caramelize slightly. Move the pan around under the broiler if needed to ensure even cooking. Broil for 6 minutes, or until the salmon flakes easily.
While the salmon cooks, divide the greens between two serving plates. Top each serving with half of the carrots, cranberries and almonds.
When the salmon is cooked, use a spatula to transfer one serving to each plate, nestling it next to the salad. Divide the roasted asparagus between the plates, then serve with balsamic vinaigrette for the salads.
Makes a dinner for two.