How To Cook For A Carnivore On Valentine’s Day

If your diet's meat-free (or vegan) and your honey loves steak, you can still enjoy a romantic meal together on Valentine's Day! Below, we share tasty recipes and ideas to please both your palates.

By Kent Miller

ault lines run through every relationship: Dancing with the Stars vs. Dexter; bungee-jumping vs. collecting stamps; Monet's Water Lilies vs. dogs playing poker on a velvet canvas.

And then there's food.

Whether you're a full-on vegan who eschews all animal by-products, a vegetarian who enjoys the occasional omelet or yogurt (also known as an "ovo-lacto vegetarian"), or you'll eat all the above plus
Something rich and substantive like this is the key to pleasing that omnivore.
anything that swims or skitters in the ocean's watery depths (a "pescetarian"), you're in a small, rapidly growing (but still very distinct) minority. So what do you do on Valentine's Day if your significant other not only loves you, but a nice, juicy pork chop?

Get hearty
Nava Atlas ( has written many vegetarian cookbooks, most recently Vegan Holiday Kitchen: More than 200 Delicious, Festive Recipes for Special Occasions, which she coauthored with Susan Voisin. Says Atlas: "Meat eaters especially enjoy meals that are hearty and that have some of the satisfying textural elements of meat dishes — not necessarily fake meats, but foods that are comforting, dense, and satisfying. Some examples of this are stews, chilis, pastas with hearty sauces, and roasted veggie dishes. All are very nice for this time of year."

Want to learn how to cook Nava Atlas's healthful, three-course romantic meal for two? Read: A Healthfully Romantic Valentine's Day Menu.

Brian L. Patton, author of the forthcoming The Sexy Vegan Cookbook: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude and executive chef at Vegin' Out, a gourmet vegan delivery service in Southern California, has cooked for lots of meat lovers — most notably, his girlfriend. He's another firm believer in hearty fare. "There are tons of great winter squashes in the stores now — butternut, delicata, yams — with which you can make a very rich stew. Something rich and substantive like this is the key to pleasing that omnivore, who is used to a big hunk of steak or a chicken breast on the plate."

Other hearty dishes Patton recommends include: risotto, vegetarian lasagna, roasted portobello mushrooms, and any kind of quinoa, rice or whole grain. "If you grill vegetables, you can go a long way toward meeting your partner's meat-like expectations," Patton says. "You can season them with the same things you season meats with, such as mesquite, soy sauce or steak seasoning."

But be sure to check labels to make sure everything is meat-free. While traditional Worcestershire sauce includes anchovies, there are now vegan alternatives available in many stores.

Veggie burgers (especially the homemade kind) are substantial, but they don't exactly scream "romantic," so steer clear of them on Valentine's Day. Unless your partner is well-acquainted with your vegetarian ways, avoid cooking anything with tofu or soy as well: "For a lot of omnivores, something about them is a turn-off," says Patton.

Vegetarians and V-Day
In a world full of meat-based meals, most vegetarians have learned how to compromise — especially on the high holy day of love known as Valentine's Day. "[R]omance is less about the food you're eating and more about the environment you create to enjoy the food," says Marissa Vicario, a
If you want to kick it up to the next level, use a heart-shaped mold.
vegetarian and New York health coach. "Lighting candles, using your nice china and playing soft music are all ways to create romance."

"[W]e focus on what each of us cares about most," says Ashley Pound, a Fort Lauderdale, FL-based editor and art director. "I may cook up a favorite grain and vegetable, like wild rice and spinach salad, and set out different toppings and dressings for each of us. It's not too much effort to fry up a chicken breast and a couple of slices of seitan in their own little skillets using the same seasonings. [My boyfriend] Peter takes great joy in selecting wines and setting the environment (candles, music), so that's his focus." Adds Pound: "Feed each other! There's nothing sexier."

If you go out to dine, check any potential menus online for their veg-friendliness, Pound says. At the restaurant, ask if the chef is willing to make a special meal for you. The chef "is often so very honored that you have confidence in him that he'll go out of the way to make you something nice, and your sweetheart will be impressed by your adventurousness!" she asserts.

Says Patton: "Last Valentine's Day, I made a red beet risotto for my girlfriend. I got a heart-shaped mold, like you might make a heart-shaped cookie with. It was a little corny, but hey, it was fun!"

Brian Patton's red beet risotto recipe
3 small red beets, with tops and bottoms trimmed
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups vegetable stock, heated
2 small shallots, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Coat two of the beets with one teaspoon of the oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Individually wrap them in foil, leaving a little opening at the top for steam to escape. Roast them for one hour or until they are easily pierced with a fork. When they cool, peel off the skin (a spoon works really well for this). Then, cut them into bite-sized cubes and set aside. Peel the third still-raw beet with a vegetable peeler and shred it using a box grater. Set aside.

Heat a medium-sized skillet to medium heat and add two teaspoons of oil. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt, cook them for two minutes, and then add the shredded raw beets. Cook this mixture another three to four minutes (or until the shallots are tender and translucent), then add the rice into the pan. Stir the rice so that it gets coated with the shallots, oil and shredded beets, and then cook it, stirring constantly, for two to three minutes, or until the edges become a bit translucent. Now, stir in the wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is almost gone, then add 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock. Continue stirring until the stock is almost gone and then add another 1/2 cup of stock. Continue stirring and adding stock (you may not need to use all three cups) until the risotto is creamy and the grains of rice are al dente — about 20 minutes total cooking time.

If you wish to have a "looser" risotto, add a little more stock at the end to achieve the desired consistency. At this point, stir in your diced beets and one teaspoon of the parsley, then season to taste. If you have a fancy ring mold, place that in the center of your plate and spoon in the risotto, gently pressing it to fit the mold. If you want to kick it up to the next level, use a heart-shaped mold (just make sure you know your audience, as you might get laughed out of the kitchen for this maneuver). Finally, garnish with the remaining parsley. Makes four servings (you'll want leftovers of this one!).

"I always make extra. I always make sure she takes that for lunch the next day, so then her coworkers all say: 'What is that?' Her coworkers think I'm awesome, and she thinks I'm awesome!" For all lovers, Pound offers one last word of advice: "Invite your partner to the bedroom for an after-dinner drink or the dessert you've left on the bedside table."

Kent Miller is currently writing a comic young adult novel. His articles have appeared in Nintendo Power magazine, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The San Francisco Chronicle and The St. Petersburg Times (Florida). Are you a carnivore cooking for a vegan, vegetarian or pescetarian this year? Read: How To Cook For A Vegetarian On Valentine's Day.
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