Misery Loves Cookery,
I am so fortunate and so grateful to have a happy home, a wonderful husband, and a fun, busy life. I used to buy flowers for our “date-a-versary”, but that dropped off years ago. Sparks flew when we met 23 years ago and we have been together and best friends ever since. He’s the best and he loves me the best. We made the best kids. It’s all good.
We could, however, use some sparks. Last October, on our 17th anniversary, my husband and I went to Lowe’s. (The big-box home improvement store, not some imagined local romantic restaurant of the same name.) There was no pun intended, but we really had dropped to a new romantic low.
So, I write to you for sparky, creative ideas to say, “even now, after all this time, I still think you’re the best” from the kitchen. Maybe a fun cocktail and a crockpot meal that can take care of itself for a while? While you’re at it, make this a recurring theme for your blog and future cookbooks: a spice-up-the-romance cocktail and a make-ahead time-insensitive meal paired for weekday romance. (Insert cheeky smile emoji, … and sparks.)
Awh, shucks. Let me see what I can give you that fits the bill, just in time for a Tuesday evening Valentine’s Day dinner.
Everyone who has been married for awhile knows that Lowe’s is super-romantic. Just ask me and my husband of 17+ years. We could get lost in the plant aisles.
What’s even more romantic, though, is when your spouse purchases a craft cocktail class for you to attend as a Christmas present, then drives you to and from the class so you can drink as much of your new cocktail repertoire as possible. It’s also useful to have taken such a class when you are asked for special cocktail ideas on a website such as this one.
Luckily for you, my sweet husband gave me exactly that gift this year, and I have a delicious cocktail to share: the Paper Plane!
Back in January, I learned how to make this fantastic, delightfully pink, not-too-sour-not-too-sweet cocktail at the The Courtesy Bar, a beautiful establishment in downtown Orlando. (Note: Orlando has lots of terrific places to visit outside of the theme parks, and this is one of them!)
Shaken, because it contains a citrus juice—cocktails with dairy or citrus should be shaken, to aerate them, while cocktails without may simply be stirred—this simple drink can be served in those fancy cordial, champagne, or martini glasses you got for your wedding all those years ago (but never use.) Don’t have a martini shaker? No problem. Just take any cup with a lid, add the ingredients, and shake away for at least 45 seconds to a minute. Use whatever strainer you have on hand to pour the cocktail while leaving behind the ice. You should have a icy-chilled drink, with at least 30% of the ice melted into the drink to take away any sharp, ethanol flavor of the alcohol—if your drink bites you back with that flavor, it has not been shaken long enough.
Once made, squeeze a piece of lemon rind above the finished drink to release its oils, then pull that rind up the stem or side of the glass to create a citrus bouquet every time you go for a sip. Our instructor warned us that rubbing citrus peel on the rim of a glass is actually a bad idea, as that oil may become bitter tasting over time. Rubbing the peel in a straight line up the side of your drinking vessel creates aroma without bitterness.
Don’t be too afraid of the unusual liquors used: bright pink aperol and the potable bitter, amaro nonino, are available at most fully-stocked liquor stores.
As for dinner, I actually recommend you go the opposite direction, away from the slow-cooker, and back to quick-cooked foods you can pull from the fridge and make on the fly. Why? Well, let’s face it: a beautiful steak, some fresh shrimp, and sautéed baby spinach will take you less than 20 minutes to make, but will be a lot more romantic (and likely flavorful) than an all-day chicken and rice crockpot casserole. No, you don’t have to be spendy every time you make something quick: a speedy preparation of pasta with a fresh sauce—chopped sautéed veggies with lemon juice and a little butter or oil, for example—doesn’t break the bank, but will deliver on freshness and flavor. Don’t skimp on the freshly-grated parmesan, of course.
And when you do have the opportunity for an out-of-the-house, weekend date night, consider taking a cocktail or cooking class together. You’ll have fun while you are there, and you can learn some new drinks or dishes for your next weeknight date—something you can prep and serve in your comfy pajamas. ‘Cause who are we kidding? Comfy pajamas are a must.
Hope this works for you! Let me know how you like this cocktail, and keep your eye out here for some more cocktail options in the future (I’ve got the cocktail bug!)
- ¾ oz aperol
- ¾ oz lemon juice
- ¾ oz amaro nonino
- ¾ oz. bourbon
- Thin slice of lemon rind
- Place the aperol, lemon juice, amaro nonino and bourbon in a martini shaker or shaker glass.
- Fill the glass ¾ full with ice, and cover.
- Shake for at least 45 seconds to one minute, to allow drink to aerate, and 30% of ice to melt.
- Pour into cordial glass, or vessel of your chose, straining ice.
- Squeeze rind of lemon over the top of the drink, then swipe up the side of the glass to create lemon bouquet.
- Either dispose of lemon, or place in the cocktail and serve.