20 September 2011

TDIV Q&A: What types of foods can I prepare for a romantic vegan dinner?

Reader Q & A: My girlfriend is vegan. What types of foods can I prepare for a romantic dinner?

Perhaps you’re coming up on an important anniversary (like the day you met); perhaps it’s your sweetie’s birthday; or perhaps you simply want to wow her with a fabulous, mouth-watering, romantic vegan meal. What can you cook up that’s entirely plant-based to get those romantic vibes buzzing? (And may I just add that there’s plenty of info here for the ladies, too!)

As it turns out, the same kinds of food and drink that omnivores consider “romantic” work just as well for us vegans. If you want to sweep her off her feet, here are some suggestions for how to prepare that ultra-special home-cooked meal.

1. First, Set the Mood.

It’s true that the meal itself will be in the spotlight this evening, but please, don’t forget the exterior trappings as well. Just a little time and a small financial investment can make the difference between a so-so setting and a swoon-worthy one.

Lay out a lovely tablecloth on the dining room table and use real cloth napkins (you can buy a set for about $4 at the dollar store), use your best china and glasses, dim the lights (and set out some candles on the table) and spring for a vase of fresh flowers if you really want to go for it. Your beloved will appreciate it, I promise. (And if you’re more into the great outdoors, a beach or park-based picnic is always nice. . . but bring a thick blanket and oversize umbrella, just in case. Nothing is quite as romantic as huddling under an umbrella in each other’s arms, food or no food.)

2. Go with Something Traditional--Veganized.

Certain classic foods are well-known to spark romantic impulses. Why mess with tradition? You can always re-create one of these standard dishes in a vegan version.

Bourguignon. Yes, the usual incarnation of this toothsome classic stew is made with beef, but this tempeh version is every bit as substantial and satisfying.

Fettuccine Alfredo: This classic combination of slurpy noodles and silky, rich cream sauce will win her heart in no time.

Anything flambé: There’s something so dramatic about a flambé that gets our hearts going pitter-pat every time (and the addition of alcohol is certainly conducive to romance—see “sexy food ingredients,” below!)

Roast: Who says that a dense, savory and perfectly seasoned roast needs to be made of meat? Try roasted seitan or an elegant nut roast with gravy. Similarly, you can serve up steak that’s juicy and flavorful—the veggie variety.

Fondue: A rich, lush, chocolate fondue is a perfect way to end a meal. Or go for something thick, creamy, and cheezy to bring out the romantic impulses.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries: the usual domain of hotel honeymoon suites, these juicy crimson berries are a classic romantic sweet.

3. Put in a Lot of Effort.

Who wouldn’t appreciate a suitor who’s willing to go the extra mile when it comes to preparing a very special mea?. For the guys out there, your gal will be impressed that you opted to cook from scratch—period. Take it a step further and make something that’s a bit more involved (i.e., requires more than boiling water and emptying the contents of a pouch into it).

Here are some ideas for slightly more involved dishes that will both wow and woo her at the same time.

Lasagna. With its individual components of sauce, cheese, and “meat,” this fabulous main dish offers a variety of flavors and textures for a full sensory experience.

Multi-layered. Whether it’s a sushi “pizza” appetizer, a seven-layer dip or a cookie dough-topped brownie or layer cake, multiple layers will elicit interest in the food. . . and you.

Coconut Vinegar–Cured Tofu Scallops with Lemongrass-Basil Cream Sauce and Cilantro-Garlic Coconut. Need I say more?

4. Use Sexy Food Ingredients.

What makes an ingredient sexy? True, the definition may differ somewhat according to personal proclivities, but in general, we can all agree on a few traits.

Aphrodisiac foods: According to Gourmet Sleuth and that bastion of all things sexy, Cosmopolitan magazine, some of the most common aphrodisiac foods include almonds (traditional fertility symbol), banana (its shape and potassium for muscle strength), ginger (stimulant) avocado (sexy shape and vitamin E that helps produce sex hormones), oyster mushrooms (shape and health-boosting), figs (look like female sex organs), truffles (expensive), chilies (increase blood flow) and watermelon (ditto).

Creamy, rich foods: Anything smothered in cream sauce or very rich and creamy feels decadent and highlights the sensory experience of eating. Try this mousse, whipped cream or ice cream.

Shared foods: Foods that are shared in a Tom Jones or Lady and the Tramp sort of way: finger food definitely has this effect. How about pizza? Or a shared soufflé?

Chocolate (also an aphrodisiac, but it deserves an entire category on its own). Anything with chocolate is great, but these are a few of my favorites.

5. Express Your Feelings Through Food.

If you’ve never really been a cook and feel you don’t want to risk burning down the house, here’s one more option: use the food as a medium to express your feelings. Because when it comes down to it, the way to a woman’s heart is not so much through her stomach, but through her. . . heart. A sincere expression of love and romance will trigger a similar reaction in any but the most hard-hearted of ladies.

Some ideas:

Cut cookies into heart shapes.

Spell something out in frosting or other food. Tell her how you feel by writing it on a cupcake. Or bake a giant cookie and use chocolate chips to write out “Love.”

Embed a present or message in the food. Put a little love note inside that sub sandwich. Or insert a trinket into her bowl of ice cream.

Good luck, fellas! With this list, you’re bound to find something that she’ll appreciate (and appreciation may just turn into romance). And at the very least, you’ll both enjoy a great meal together.

Click here for more vegan recipes.

Ricki Heller, PhD, RHN | @RickiHeller
Formerly the owner of a vegan bakery, Ricki adapted those recipes for her cookbook, Sweet Freedom: Desserts You'll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar. She also writes articles about food for various publications and online sites. Find Ricki posting delicious, healthy recipes on her blog, Diet, Dessert and Dogs.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/anarchytecture/