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All We Can Eat
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 02/14/2012

Smoke Signals: A 3-course affair with your grill


The fruits of your labor: Grilled strawberries are even better with a drizzle of balsamic and, yes, freshly ground pepper. (Jim Shahin for The Washington Post)
You thought it was a good idea at the time, not making a dinner reservation for tonight. And it was. Amateur night and all.

But now what?

The day is here and the night is close, and you forgot about a Plan B. You could do what you did last year: Stop at the 7-Eleven for cellophane-wrapped flowers and a box of Whitman’s Samplers.

Or you could turn to your BFF, the grill. Has it ever let you down? Okay, then.

First, shift the grilling paradigm. Out with the heavy, low-and-slow. In with the light, high-and-quick. (Pulled pork is many things, but it is not romantic.)

Second, create a mood. Stick a long-stemmed rose in a vase. Light a candle. To express your love — and telegraph your intentions — choose aphrodisiac foods.

In less than an hour, you can make a dinner guaranteed to wow her. Presenting. . .The Easy and Elegant Three-Course Carnal Grilling Valentine’s Dinner.

Two of the recipes are from the Post’s archives, so you know they’re good. I tweaked them to fit the evening. The third, you’ll have to take on faith.

First course: Oysters. Six, total. Three for you, three for her.

The sensuality of oysters on the half-shell is the perfect start to a romantic dinner. Prepare this dish last. You want the oysters fresh off the grill. The high zinc content is said to increase libido. Whatever. Oysters are aphrodisiacs because everybody knows oysters are aphrodisiacs.

Follow the grilling directions, but because peaches aren’t in season, blow off the peach sauce. Instead, spoon a mignonette sauce over them.

The sauce is easy — combine 2 tablespoons each of minced shallots, sherry vinegar (or another wine vinegar) and cracked white peppercorns with 1/4 cup dry white wine. Then season with salt to taste. (Refrigerate what you do not use.) The great thing about the condiment is saying it at the table. “Mignonette.” French always impresses.

Serve with champagne.

Second course: Grilled salmon and grilled asparagus.

Salmon is rich in protein (think stamina) and loaded with omega 3s, proven to elevate serotonin levels, which enhances mood. But the real reason to serve salmon is the fish’s color, prettier than any rose. Use this recipe’s grilling technique but use smaller portions (4-6 ounces per person) and forget all the fancy sauce. Just squeeze a little lime or lemon juice on the fish, sprinkle some sea salt and crack a little fresh pepper on them. Serve at room temperature or, if you can stick in the fridge for an hour or longer, chilled.

Pair it with a side “salad” of grilled asparagus. The ol’ Interwebz will tell you that asparagus is an aphrodisiac, but this is based on a misreading of Nicholas Culpeper’s original theory of the plant. The good Culpeper was referring to “prickly asparagus” — or asparagus aphyllus — not asparagus officinalis, the more familiar vegetable. You’ll have to come up with your own theory.

The recipe says to serve immediately, but to make things easy, and keep the dinner’s rhythm intact, grill the asparagus when you put the salmon on and serve the dish at room temperature.

Third course: Grilled strawberries.

There is no recipe in the Post archive on this, so you’re just going to have to trust me.

Rinse two big strawberries. Dry them. Place on a hot grill for about 1-2 minutes on one side, then 1-2 minutes on the other. Grill them when you grill the salmon and asparagus. Serve at room temperature.

Sprinkle the berries with a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Just before serving, drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar over them and gently toss to coat.

Place the strawberries on a plate and sprinkle with a grinding of fresh pepper (yes, really). Feel the heat inside your body rise as you watch each other bite sensually into the sweet fruit.

You’re welcome.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 02/14/2012

Categories:  Recipes, Smoke Signals | Tags:  Jim Shahin

 
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