Five Course Vegan Valentine’s Day Dinner

Best. Valentines. Ever.

(This is 80% of the reason why.)

And that’s saying something, considering me and the Valentines guy in question are hundreds of miles apart.  But you know how it goes with the whole lemons to lemonade thing – though in reality, I do prefer lemons over lemonade.  Is that saying something about my personality?  Don’t read into it.  In fact, let’s just discard the whole metaphor and talk about awesome food.

Michael and I designed a five course dinner for Valentine’s day, with one caveat: I was not allowed to know what the dessert was until the dinner commenced.  He kept me shrouded in secrecy for days, assuring me that I would have all the ingredients when the time came.  I figured it must have been a super simple dessert, but the truth revealed itself in a package he mailed to me…

That’s right, baggies with all the portioned ingredients, complete with instructions on preparation.  How cool is that?

But let’s start from the beginning.

We wanted to create a meal that was elegant, interesting, and still very simple – we didn’t want to be slaving in the kitchen for hours, we wanted time to enjoy each other’s company.  Part of that was deliberately crafting simple recipes, and also doing a little bit of prep the evening before.  We also wanted to make sure that portions were kept modest, so that we wouldn’t end up having the dilemma of being full by the third course.  Few things are less sexy than being too full!

With all of that in mind, here was our menu:

1. Caprese Salad
2. Mushroom Crostini with Roasted Garlic
3. Baby Greens Salad with Pear and Lemon Vinaigrette
4. Seared and Glazed Tofu with White Vegetable Puree
5. Chocolate Lava Cake

1. Caprese Salad

This is the simplest salad on the planet, yet it’s always tasty and impressive.  Basil and tomato is a hard combo to beat, and a rich white cheese (usually mozza) completes the experience.  I really like Daiya’s sliceable Havarti, but any firm, high-quality white cheese would be wonderful.  We took an extra minute to add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a crack of black pepper, and some diced kalamata olives.

2. Mushroom Crostini

For how impressive this dish was, it was surprisingly easy.  We roasted a head of garlic the night before, and it was as simple as squeezing some on toasted bread and adding a portion of sauteed mushrooms on top.  We’ll be posting the recipe shortly, but it’s awesome to use a variety of random mushrooms like shiitake, cremini, oyster, or whatever else you find at the store for an extra high-class experience.

3. Baby Greens Salad with Pear and Lemon Vinaigrette

This took two minutes to assemble, especially since I had whipped up the vinaigrette and seasoned cashews the night before.  It really doesn’t take much to make an interesting salad – use a few different textures and colors and you’re good to go.  I like using pre-washed containers of baby greens since they’re beautiful and have a good variety of leafies.  Michael and I both had a different salad experience – I kept things simple with greens, seasoned cashews and sliced pear, while he topped his with toasted walnuts, pea shoots and sliced radish in addition to the greens and pear.  And make sure you’ve got a great dressing!

4. Seared and Glazed Tofu with White Vegetable Puree

This was some damn good tofu, just sayin’.  Michael was even more emphatic about it last night, exclaiming it was the best tofu he’d ever eaten.  A key for great tofu is to marinate it in something yummy for a good long while (ours marinated for about 24 hours), sear it ’til it’s a beautiful golden brown, and then cook down the marinating liquid to create a glaze to toss it in.  It’s so easy, and so effective.  We served atop a simple puree – mine was turnip and potato, his was parsnip and potato – and a little bit of sauteed or roasted veggies completed the experience.

5. Vegan Chocolate Lava Cake

Michael is a trooper, and a genius.  After seven tests, he managed to veganize a recipe that usually calls for a ton of eggs, and he didn’t use any weird ingredients, just standard stuff most of us have kicking around home.  Words cannot express how intensely glad I am that he went through the trouble of figuring out all the finnicky ratios to create a dessert that has chocolate cake goodness on the outside, gooey and warm chocolate goodness on the inside, all topped with a chocolate and Grand Marnier glaze (this is Michael we’re talking about, of course there was booze involved).  But I’ll let him share that experience (and recipe!) with you next week, where you’ll get to hear all about his trials and tribulations.

Dudes, if you’ve never treated yourself to an experience of a slow meal (ours stretched over three hours) with someone you care about, I highly recommend it.  It was relaxing and fun – even more so than going to a restaurant. Despite making all the food ourselves, no one was rushing us and there were no crowds to deal with – plus, we got some great food came out of the deal.

I’m excited to get into more details about this food with you (especially the lava cake!), and catch up on all your blogs this weekend.  Hope you had a great Valentine’s day!

  • foodfeud

    Lava Cake! Love the side by side shots. The mushroom crostini looks awesome.

  • dayna @

    I love the idea of having dinner together even if you're miles and miles apart! Everything looks DELISH… Especially that lava cake! Yum!

  • Joey

    Now that is some special work. I love the side by side dinner, and that Michael went to all the trouble of bagging up the goodies and sending them to you. What a really sweet and clever idea.

    As for that lava cake, I'm pretty sure you get some medal for services to vegan cake for that.

  • coconutandberries

    Oh my what a special meal, everything looks delicious. Did you eat together over skype?!
    I'm very excited for the lava cake recipe, I've wanted to make a vegan lava cake from the moment I went vegan but haven't found a good-looking recipe.

  • Amey

    what a wonderful post!!! I love everything about it… all the different courses, the planning, the numbered baggies of ingredients… the whole thing is just great. Happy Valentines' Day to both of you!

  • Helen Prabha

    Wow…looks wonderful.. Everything looks yummy..

  • xvavaveganx

    You guys are way too adorable for words. It's so sweet that you were still able to have a Valentine's date even being so far apart. Your meal looks delicious and elegant and that lava cake! Michael is a genius! It looks so decadent, yum!

    I agree with you, it's so much nicer to have a leisurely meal at home than to get stressed out about going to a restaurant that's probably too busy to have a relaxing meal. Sounds like you had a great night!

  • Hannah

    This is epic. The idea, the menu, your love. So much aw.

  • Dawn

    Beautiful! And SO glad we are going to get the recipe for that LAVA CAKE!!

    I had crostini on the brain for V-day, too! Easy and delish! 🙂


  • Kari

    This is fantastic! Very, very cool 🙂

  • Jolene – EverydayFoodie

    You two are awesome. Absolutely awesome. Also, I cannot believe the trouble he went through for that dessert, and how adorable he is for sending all the ingredients. You two make me happy 🙂

  • mike.

    The side-by-sides were definitely all Allysia's idea. It's neat to see the similarities and differences in the plating. I love how her salad and tofu entree look.

  • mike.

    It was a fun way to be together while still being apart. The lava cake was definitely worth the time and effort to develop, hopefully you'll love the recipe!

  • mike.

    Well you'll get to be the judge of that as soon as I post the recipe!

  • mike.

    We most definitely ate together. It was a great way to spend a large portion of the night. Kitchen fun and delicious eats. And I know what you mean about the lava cake recipes! I tried a few that I took directly from the internet which turned into horrible monstrosities. Stay tuned to see the final, good recipe!

  • mike.

    The numbered ingredients may have been a little dorky on my part, but it was kind of fun to put together, and then I knew that she was going to have everything she needed! Hopefully it was a nice surprise.

  • mike.

    Thanks! I can personally guarantee that everything tasted as good as it looked… or even better!

  • mike.

    I think couples that enjoy cooking have an especially easy time making a romantic night in. Make some delicious food, have some delicious wine, let romance ensue!

  • mike.

    Thanks =) We've always wanted to start putting together some bloggable coursed meals, and this seemed like a great place to start!

  • mike.

    Oh man, I hope the lava cake recipe turns out as well for everyone else as it did for us. I feel some major pressure to make sure it delivers! Cross your fingers.

  • mike.

    Thanks very much!

  • mike.

    Making people happy is pretty much one of the best things in life, especially if you make them happy with incredible food!

  • Erin

    You guys are the cutest long distance vegan couple ever! This is such a great idea, and the meal looks great on both sides. Looking forward to Michael's lava cake recipe!

  • Allysia

    One of many reasons you're my favorite person. 🙂

  • Allysia

    There should be a pin for that, ha ha! 🙂 And as if I need to say this again, but that lava cake kicks some serious ass.

  • Maggie Muggins

    You guys are ridiculously cute! Seriously, the time and planning put into this meal makes it that much more awesome. That chocolate lava cake looks frakin’ incredible! Can’t wait for that post. I’m not in to Valentine’s Day but I love the idea of taking the time to cook a multiple course fancy dinner together.