Valentine's Day at Home

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valentine hearts on door
There are two ways you can go on Valentine's Day. On one hand, it's an excellent holiday for kids, or goofily cheerful adults. You get out the paper doilies and the glitter and red velvet cupcakes with pink frosting and those chalky little conversation hearts that now say things like Text Me and Tweet Me (and am I the only one who thinks there should be a Boomer or even Gen-X version of these that leaves out the technology and just sticks with Luv U and Foxy Lady and Love Bug?) and you sit around the kitchen table with hot-pink crayons and sparkly markers and cut out homemade cards for everyone.

In the morning there are chocolate-chip pancakes made in the shape of hearts and maybe gold-sprayed macaroni necklaces, if anyone makes those any more. In the evening, whoever doesn't usually make dinner does the job, or if that's a serious obstacle to getting something edible on the table in less than 3 hours without total kitchen destruction, then copious back-rubbing and foot-worshipping should follow, once the sugar-happy kids are off to bed. Maraschino cherries, red food coloring, whipped cream for breakfast: perfectly acceptable food choices today.

And then, for all of you grownups without kids, or with kids over at Grandma's for the night, there's Valentine's Day, Goth Edition. Don't get me wrong: I agree with Gawker that the only thing more tedious than Walgreen's chocolate boxes are Valentine's Day haters (the fabulous My Sucky Valentine show excluded, of course). But why must love be celebrated in only its sweetest incarnations?

The best way to save your holiday drowning from Hallmark/LIfetime movie/Whitman's Sampler goo? Paint it black instead of pretty pink, shiny and slick as a tangy of squid-ink pasta, topped with the claws of a lobster or a Dungeness crab in all their fiesty gripping glory, bathed in a fiery fra diavolo sauce.

Make your menu a vampiric splendor of fang-licking blood red and bat-cave midnight black. You could go straight to the Scorpio menu in my Astrology Cookbook: figs wrapped in proscuitto and dripping with pomegranate glaze; lamb chops sauced with port, bleeding heart cake gushing molten chocolate and raspberry. Or you can mix and match you and your demon lover's favorite dishes, adding an edge of pleasure and pain. Like it spicy? Then make that curry really, really spicy. Endorphins=good. (Just be careful slicing those chilis. Capsicum can linger for hours on fingertips, even after washing, not something you want to discover during your after-dinner activities.)


Love sushi? Lay out a spread of the most luscious, mind-melting bites you can find-rich tuna belly, crazy-sexy uni, salty-slippery roe, a little octopus, for the chew.

If you must go heart-shaped, do it with beets, bathing your fingers deeply in their magenta dye. Beets, blood oranges, avocado: this Heart's Desire salad is actually full of encouragingly aphrodisiacs, especially vitamins B and E. Plus, it looks much more alluring that your average pile of mixed greens. You could even add cooked shrimp, crab, or even lobster to it, making it into a ravishing main dish that won't send you into a prime-rib food coma when you have charming toes to kiss or a nape of the neck to adore.

Heart's Desire Salad
Peeling raw beets is a thankless task. Luckily, the skins will slip off effortlessly once the beets are cooked, especially if you get to them while they're still warm.

4 beets, roasted or boiled until very tender, then peeled
2 blood oranges
2 handfuls of arugula, watercress, or mixed greens
juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 avocado
2 tbsp crumbled feta or soft goat cheese (optional)

1. Cut beets into wedges or half-moons. (Or, using a small cookie cutter, cut into heart shapes.)

2. Grate rind of 1 orange finely. Whisk together orange rind, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, salt, and pepper, adjusting ingredients to taste. Let beets marinate in dressing for 1 hour.

3. Peel oranges, ruthlessly removing all white pith, and slice thinly into rounds, then half-moons. Mix orange slices and greens with beets, tossing to coat with dressing. Yes, everything will turn red, but that's OK, under the circumstances. Arrange on two plates. Just before serving, top with avocado slices and optional cheese. Grind on a little fresh pepper and serve.