Show your valentine love with a meal that includes seasonal, local ingredients

Chef Sean Arnold prepared this Valentine’s Day dinner for two. (Photos by Kate Penn)

You’re scrambling. The pressure you feel from putting off planning Valentine’s Day dinner is making your heart throb more than the thought of your significant other.

Take a deep breath. There’s plenty of time to pull off a nutritious meal with lovey-dovey flair.

Sean Arnold, chef for nonprofit Healthy World Café, designed this menu with you in mind. He included seasonal, local ingredients and sprinkled in a couple of aphrodisiacs in a three-course meal that’s sure to say, “I love you.”

The 39-year-old York Township resident said he aims to cook with seasonal ingredients while infusing global influences. He enjoys cooking because it involves creativity and structure.

“It’s somewhat of a chaotic orchestra,” Arnold said.

Arnold plates Brussels sprouts.

For this menu, he chose oysters because the mollusk is in season (and it’s a possible aphrodisiac); rockfish because it isn’t over-fished and it’s a low-fat substitute for meat; quinoa because the high-fiber grain also packs protein; and angel food cake because it’s lower in calories than other desserts.

Pair this meal with a crisp white wine, such sauvignon blanc, which won’t overpower the fish or quinoa.

“It’ll wipe the palate,” Arnold said. “Each bite will be new.”

The menu

Appetizer: Oysters with Thai Chili and Citrus Jus
Entrée: Pan Roasted Rockfish with Quinoa Pilaf and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Dessert: Store-bought Angel Food Cake with Chocolate, Granola and Honey

Time: About 1 hour

Preparation tips:

  1. Make the oysters first, and place on a plate in the fridge for up to two hours.
  2. Prep items for the entrée, and start the pilaf first. After adding water to the quinoa, start cooking the fish.
  3. After placing the fish in the oven, start the Brussels sprouts.
  4. The fish, sprouts and pilaf should finish about the same time, give or take 10 minutes.
  5. Make dessert after you’ve had dinner.

Shopping list

Here’s what you’ll need for chef Sean Arnold’s quick and nutritious Valentine’s dinner for two:

  1. 6 bluepoint oysters
  2. 1 orange
  3. 1 lemon
  4. 1 lime
  5. 3 Thai chilis (red or green)
  6. 1 onion
  7. celery
  8. carrots
  9. 1 package quinoa
  10. 1 red and green bell pepper
  11. 10 to 12 ounces rockfish
  12. salt and pepper
  13. basil
  14. 1 package butter
  15. olive oil
  16. ½ pound Brussels sprouts
  17. store-made angel food cake
  18. 1 bar dark chocolate (70 percent cacao)
  19. 1 pint heavy cream
  20. honey
  21. granola
  22. whipped cream

These oysters with Thai chili and citrus jus are thought to be an aphrodisiac.

The recipes

Oysters with Thai Chili and Citrus Jus
6 oysters
3 Thai chilis
½ orange
½ lemon
1 lime
salt and pepper

Hold oyster with the cupped part of the shell downward, and use an oyster knife to open at the hinge to remove the top shell. Hold oyster level to retain the juice. Detach the oyster, but leave it in the shell.

Squeeze ½ orange, ½ lemon and a whole lime into a small mixing bowl.

Thinly slice chilis, and add to the juice. For a milder juice, don’t cut near the seeds, or use a bell pepper, instead. Add salt and pepper to taste, and mix. Spoon juice onto oysters. Refrigerate until serving.

Pan Roasted Rockfish with Basil Butter
4 tablespoons olive oil total
10 to 12 ounces rockfish or any other white fish
4 to 6 leaves of basil, cut into strips
½ stick butter
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper

Use a sauté pan that can go in the oven. Heat stove, and coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Season both sides of fish with salt and pepper.

Lay the fish skin side up, and cook on medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Once the flesh on the side of the fish starts cooking, place the pan in the oven.

Check the fish in 5 minutes, and turn it over. It should have a dark golden color on top. Put the fish back into the oven for 5 more minutes or until it’s firm and fully cooked.

Place the pan back on the stove, and add butter and basil. Spoon the melted basil butter onto the fish. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil.

Quinoa Pilaf
½ cup quinoa
¼ red pepper
¼ green pepper
¼ cup celery
¼ cup carrot
¼ onion
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1½ cup water
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 300 to 325 degrees. Cut peppers into small strips, then dice. Cut celery stalk lengthwise into three, then dice as small as possible. Peel the carrot, cut it into four, then dice.

Turn stove on high. Pour some olive oil in a medium-sized pot and sauté vegetables for 4 or 5 minutes. Add half of the salt and pepper.

Once the vegetables are translucent, stir in quinoa, then add water.

Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the quinoa has bloomed. Add more water if needed. Put a lid on the pot, and set it on the back of the stove.

Brussels Sprouts
½ pound Brussels sprouts
¼ stick butter
½ tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon pepper

Cut the bottom off and slice in half. Remove any brown or discolored leaves. Heat a pan and add oil. Once hot, add Brussels sprouts, and season with salt and pepper. Cook on high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, while tossing. Once the vegetables start to brown, move the pan to the oven.

Check the Brussels sprouts every 2 to 3 minutes, and shake the pan to avoid burning. The Brussels sprouts should be able to be squeezed, yet slightly firm. Add butter, and toss before serving.

Spoon quinoa in the middle of plates. Place one piece of fish on each mound of quinoa. Scatter Brussels sprouts around the outside of the pilaf, and serve.

Angel Food Cake with Chocolate, Granola and Honey
½ store-bought angel food cake
dark chocolate
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ granola
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup whipped cream

Cut two 1½-inch slices of cake. In a small sauce pan on medium-low heat, add heavy cream and chocolate. Stir until mixture becomes a shiny sauce. Remove from stove, add honey and granola, and mix well.

Spoon mixture onto the cake, and top with whipped cream.

Leigh Zaleski

I'm a health features reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News and healthy living blogger for No Sweat, York. Contact me with story ideas at lzaleski@ydr.com, 717-771-2101 or @leighzaleski on Twitter.

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1 Response

  1. February 8, 2013

    […] person or more we might have spent at a crowded restaurant. Want ideas? See Leigh Zaleski’s post on using season ingredients. Who knew a t-shirt could make a guy […]

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