A seductively stress-free Valentine's meal.

Champagne flutes
Credit: Tina Rupp

"Women happily in love―they burn the food. Women unhappily in love―they forget to turn the oven on," a chef tells a lovelorn Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. And it's true. Have you ever cooked a dinner for someone you love only to find that the stress of putting it all together left you feeling as romantic as a Brussels sprout?

The solution is to choose a simple menu: a one-pan dish to be made the day of the dinner and a scrumptious dessert to be made the day before. And be sure to have a bottle of champagne chilling―it will smooth over any culinary angst.


The Preparation Timeline

The day before:

  • Bake and cool the brownies. Cut out the heart shapes.
  • Make the Raspberry Sauce.
  • Dress the Mini Pork Rack.
  • Place the sparkling wine in the refrigerator to chill.

The evening of:

  • Forty-five minutes before your guest arrives, place the pork and vegetables in the oven.
  • When your guest arrives, remove the pork from the oven, warm the olives, and sip Sparkling Passion-Fruit Aperitifs while the pork rests.

The Shopping List

  • 1 bottle champagne or Prosecco
  • 1 bottle medium-bodied red wine
  • 1 bottle passion-fruit nectar
  • 1 rack of two pork loin chops (if you have a good butcher, have bones Frenched)
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 head garlic
  • 12 ounces red-skin potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
  • 8 ounces green beans
  • 1 lemon
  • 8 ounces mixed green olives
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 pint strawberry ice cream
  • ½ pint frozen raspberries

The Pantry List

  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • whole black peppercorns
  • all-purpose flour
  • granulated sugar
  • baking soda
  • cocoa powder
  • vanilla extract


  • Keep it simple: Remember: The more complex the menu, the more room there is for mistakes. The center of your menu can be something as simple as a special cut of meat, seasoned well with a generous amount of coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and olive oil. Throw in one or two crowd-pleasing flavors, like rosemary, garlic, and thyme, and the dish will be a sure-fire winner. To make your life really easy, you can roast some vegetables in the same pan.
  • Cook the meal in stages: It's less pressure, and you are less likely to feel bogged down. Dessert is easy to prepare the day before. The knowledge that it's ready to go and that your roast is marinating in the refrigerator will make you feel calm and confident.
  • Start early: Try to have everything prepared or at least in the oven before the guest of the hour arrives. This will give you a chance to take a shower and primp. When you open the door, you will be completely composed, and the smell of the roast will be hanging pleasantly in the air―and not on you.