Valentine's Day home cooking with Cathy Erway, part two

  • Kale salad with pomegranate seeds

  • Chopping kale into ribbons

  • Butternut squash soup

  • Peeling purple potatoes

  • Potatoes and turnips

  • Marinating hake in lemon juice mixture

  • Steamed hake with sauteed root veggies

Kale salad with pomegranate seeds

Cathy Erway, the blogger behind Not Eating out in New York and author of the soon-to-be-released The Art of Eating In, is a home-cooking doyenne. In preparation for Valentine's Day, we asked her to walk us through the creation of a home-cooked, locally sourced meal for two. See the fruits of her labor—plus recipes!—below. Not into the Betty Crocker approach on V-Day? Check out this exhaustive roundup of restaurant options instead.

Having gathered my ingredients (for just $27.25!), I was ready to improvise a romantic meal that let the farm-fresh goods shine. But even under normal-date conditions (i.e., not Valentine's Day), cooking for someone else can be a nerve-racking task. So I opted to keep it simple.

For the first course, I decided to do a butternut squash soup, with a touch of honey and the reserved seeds roasted until crisp for a garnish (see all recipes below). I chose a kale salad as the next course, shredded finely and dressed in a light vinaigrette. This dish went over well with my boyfriend on a previous date, so I thought I'd spruce it up for Valentine's Day with another aphrodisiac—a shower of pomegranate seeds.

For the main course, I knew I wanted to tackle that fish, and I wanted to keep it light. I chopped the fillet into meaty chunks and put them a bowl with salt, parsley and lemon juice. I began peeling the potatoes, revealing a shock of electric-purple flesh. The golden turnips were just as sunny inside the farmer had promised. I gave the veggies a coarse chop, and sauteed them in olive oil in a large pan along with a couple of sliced shallots. Then I smashed the leftover grape tomatoes and tossed them in the pan. Once the vegetables were tender, I spread the hake on top in an even layer and covered the pan to let the fish steam. Ten minutes later it was done: a one-pot main course for two.

What happened with those pears? I peeled, pureed and froze them into an icy sorbet, with a bit of vanilla simple syrup. After chilling the pear-vanilla slurry overnight, a quick run in my trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker gave the sorbet the right texture for a perfect scoop. If you don't have an ice cream maker, serving the ripe fruit roasted until slightly soft with honey would be just as delicious.

If this date meal seems exceedingly light and healthy, it's because I took my valentine's preferences to heart—a key component to preparing a dinner for a loved one. Know your partner's palate, sneak in a few stealthy questions before you shop to get a good sense of what they like. And hey, let me know how it goes.—Cathy Erway

Honey-butternut squash soup

2 lbs butternut squash (1 medium squash)
3 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
4 tbsps honey
2 tbsps olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds and pulp. Rinse seeds and pat dry completely. Coat in one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Toast until seeds are just darkened.

Place squash cut side down in a separate tray coated with oil and roast about 30 minutes until tender. Cool and scoop the flesh from the skin. Puree in a food processor or with a hand blender in a pot until smooth. Thin the soup with stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add honey and stir until dissolved. Garnish with toasted seeds.

Tuscan kale salad with pomegranate and honey mustard vinaigrette

1 bunch Tuscan kale
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
2 tsp mustard (any kind, I used Dijon but you can try with grainier types, too)
2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil

Remove the stems from the kale. Roll the leaves up lengthwise, and cut into thin, 1/8-inch strips. In a small bowl, combine the honey, mustard and vinegar. Drizzle in the olive oil while stirring rapidly to emulsify. Toss with the kale, and top with the pomegranate seeds.

Steamed hake fillets with potatoes, turnips and tomato
1 lb boneless white fleshed fish such as cod, hake or flounder
1 lb purple potatoes chopped in 1--2 inch chunks
1/3 lb baby or golden turnips, halved
2 shallots, sliced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Season fish with half the lemon juice, parsley, about one tablespoon of olive oil and pinches of salt and pepper. Let marinate covered for 20 minutes. Heat a heavy-bottomed covered Sauternes pan with oil and add the potatoes, turnips and shallots. When vegetables begin to crisp up, smash tomatoes and add them to the pan. Top with the fish chunks, cover, and steam for ten minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Cost calculator:
Potatoes and turnips from Windfall Farms: $5
Butternut squash from Red Jacket Orchards: $2.25
Four pears from Samangasset Farms: $3
Fillet of hake from Pura Vida Fisheries: $8
Bunch of Tuscan kale from D&J Organics: $3

Left to the wayside from this shopping trip, to be used on another occasion: watermelon radish and mixed mesclun

Leftover and pantry items I used: pomegranate seeds, a half pint of grape tomatoes, shallots, parsley, olive oil, honey, sugar, vanilla bean, salt, pepper and some mustard for the salad's dressing: about $6

Total: $27.25