- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

The typical Valentine’s Day menu must be devised by folks who would rather cook than cuddle.

How else can anyone explain the lengthy ingredient lists and time-consuming procedures? Though I heartily support cooking, especially when twosomes prepare meals together, I don’t think frying food in a skillet is the height of romance. On Valentine’s Day, couples should devote their attention to each other.

A glass of champagne and a few light nibbles may better suit the occasion, and if the foods don’t require any cooking, a couple won’t be distracted by what’s on the stove.

The following light Valentine’s Day dinner includes cherry tomatoes stuffed with small rounds of fresh mozzarella cheese and wrapped in basil leaves, as well as avocado slices draped with prosciutto. A trip to a good deli will yield the ingredients for these dishes.

Chocolate is the traditional dessert, but I don’t recommend making an elaborate and rich confection. As sumptuous as chocolate, butter and cream can be, the general effect is soporific, probably not what couples intend. Instead, buy two of the best chocolate truffles available and enjoy.

Bocconcini-stuffed cherry tomatoes

8 large cherry tomatoes

8 bocconcini (very small fresh mozzarella rounds)

8 basil leaves

1 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Pinch each salt and pepper

1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon minced chives

Slice the top third off each tomato. Flick out the seeds and flesh. Press a bocconcino into each tomato cavity. Arrange the basil on a serving platter. Top each leaf with a cheese-stuffed tomato.

For the dressing, stir the vinegar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil and sprinkle with chives. To serve, drizzle dressing over each mozzarella-and-tomato portion and wrap in the basil leaf. Makes 2 servings.

Prosciutto-wrapped avocado

1 very small avocado

6 slices prosciutto

1 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

5 teaspoons olive oil

3 thin jalapeno chili rings

Peel avocado and cut into 6 wedges, discarding pit. Wrap a prosciutto slice around each wedge and arrange on a serving plate. For the dressing, pour vinegar into a small bowl. Stir in salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil and garnish with chili rings. To serve, drizzle avocado wedges with dressing. Makes 2 servings.

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