What CI Staffers Recommend Cooking for Your Valentine 

Having date night at home or just looking to impress? Here’s what our staff suggests you make for dinner. 

Published Feb. 10, 2023.

Two years ago, my valentine (and now fiancé) and I decided we were sick of the restaurant game. Choosing from a limited menu and fighting for a reservation—although sometimes fun—was just unappealing to us. 

So we cooked for ourselves. 

We figured we could buy premium ingredients, eat exactly what we wanted, eat exactly when we wanted, and—we could pick the music. 

For that dinner we enjoyed two perfectly cooked medium-rare ribeye steaks, luxurious yet super-simple celery root puree, and crème brûlée with raspberries.

Now, I’m not saying that delectable meal is why we are engaged, but I’m saying it didn’t hurt. Inspired by this, I asked my colleagues: What would you make for someone special and why? 

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These are their answers, and some general guidelines for how to impress a valentine. 

1. Make them feel something. 

“I’m making Khua Kling: the feverish, spicy, sweaty, floating feeling that this dish leaves you with is certainly romantic. Tossing the fiery khua kling with plenty of steamed jasmine rice and alternating bites of the mixture with chilled cucumber slices makes for a literally sensational meal. I would follow it with some homemade sour cherry frozen yogurt to cool off.”  

-Science Research Editor Paul Adams

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2. Prepare a dish close to their heart. 

“My valentine loves a dirty martini (vodka, not gin), so kicking things off with this ultra-dirty, MSG-spiked one is a must. If the weathers warm enough, Ill be grilling Annie Petitos porky Rosticciana—though my valentine was born and raised in Memphis, he now loves these chewy Tuscan ribs even more than the fall-apart BBQ kind. Dessert will be Steve Dunns Torta Caprese topped with Amaretto Whipped Cream. Its rich, fudgy, has no gluten, and I can make it ahead.”  

-Editorial Director Amanda Agee

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3. Bring the restaurant experience home. 

“OK, this is the quick-and-dirty run-down of a dining-out-worthy dinner at home. Im making roasted oysters, of course, followed by Erica Turners amazing Pasta alla Zozzona and a bitter greens salad with sharp vinaigrette to cut through all of the richness, and for dessert, its lemon posset. Bing, bang, boom.” 

-Editor in Chief Dan Souza

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4. Be thoughtful with time. 

“In the unlikely case of me having a Valentines date whom I was trying to impress, I would make a meal that spends minimal ‘date time’ cooking. I like scallops, as they are elegant and only need a few minutes at the stove to sear. I would accompany them with make-ahead creamy cauliflower soup. And for dessert, it would be fun to prepare some cream puffs together. I would make the shells and cream ahead of time, and then we could fill them together just before eating. That way the shells dont sog out while we extend our pre-dessert evening meal with a nice bottle of wine and captivating conversation! Also, as a side benefit, I could test her skills as a sous chef.” 

-Photo Test Cook Eric Haessler

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5. Try new things together.

“I don’t cook for date night if my date knows what’s good for him. I want something new and creative that I’ve never tried before.” 

-Senior Editor Lan Lam

Perhaps Lan’s date should make Nori Pappardelle with Mussels and Butter.

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6. Or, cook something tried and true. 

Shrimp Risotto for two by Steve Dunn is an absolute must for all special occasions! Its simple, yet special, and absolutely delicious and flavorful. Plus, its fun to make and makes a date night at home an enjoyable experience. My partner and I love to grocery shop for the ingredients because it doesnt take too long, which gets our homebodies out of the house. We love this recipe because we both can work on different steps together. This dish tastes like fine dining and makes enough for leftovers. Its a win-win.

-Social Media Coordinator Sarah Ahn 

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7. Put them first. 

“Im not the biggest fan of salmon, but my wife LOVES it, so when I want to make a special date-night meal, Ill often reach for it because—I love her more! My go-to is Annie Petitos miso salmon. Alongside Ill whip up my French-Style mashed potatoes because nothing says I love you more than two sticks of butter. A simple green salad rounds out the entree, and a flourless chocolate cake with freshly whipped cream and berries caps off the meal in style.” 

-Senior Editor Steve Dunn

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8. Have a theme. 

“Red is the color of passion and romance, so why not splatter your counters and stovetop with it by making Spaghetti All'Assassina? This dish is dinner and a show for you and your valentine: It’s mesmerizing to watch as a skillet of bubbling tomato broth and raw spaghetti cooks down into a caramelized, scorched, ultra-tomatoey tangle. Unexpected, exciting, a little messy—just like the best love stories. Keep the color theme going through dessert by serving brilliantly hued Raspberry Granita, preferably in your fanciest glasses and topped with a splash of something boozy.”

-Senior Content Editor Alyssa Vaughn

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9. Reminisce with each other. 

“I made chocolate mousse for my now wife on our first date and its a recipe that has stuck through the years. While I cant remember what recipe I used back then, our recipe for Dark Chocolate Mousse is the one I use now. It has a light, airy texture that you would expect in a mousse, but with 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder it packs an intense chocolate punch that is unmatched.” 

-Executive Food Editor Keith Dresser

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10. Cut to the chase. 

“Make borscht. Serve it in heart-shaped bowls.”

-Art Director Jay Layman

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