It's hard to ignore Valentine's Day, whether you're with someone or not. While bay area restaurants plan to offer special Valentine's Day menus, grocery stores and convenience markets overflow with pink-tinfoil-covered and heart-shaped candies. But rather than find recipes that use candy hearts or chocolate, I looked for dishes that are perfect as single servings, so solo fliers can treat themselves on Tuesday. Whether you're looking for a fancy dinner for one or a quick dessert, these recipes are great for a date night with yourself.
Carlynn Crosby, Times correspondent
Is your date going to take you out to get falafel nachos? Probably not. That's what makes this recipe so much fun. First, heat your oven to 425 degrees and prepare your toppings. Mix together a salsa of ¼ medium diced cucumber, ½ chopped small tomato, ¼ cup diced red onion, ⅓ cup rinsed and drained canned chickpeas, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and ¼ teaspoon dried oregano. Then, make a tzatziki sauce by mixing together ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt, the juice of half a lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Next, cut 1 whole wheat pita into wedges and top each wedge with a dollop of hummus (you'll need about ¼ cup total). Toast the wedges in the oven for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until they're crispy. Let cool for several minutes and then top with salsa, a drizzle of tzatziki and feta crumbles. Recipe adapted from girladulting.com.
Chocolate Lava Mug Cake
By far the easiest cake you'll ever make, this recipe calls for ingredients you probably already have in your pantry and only takes about 5 minutes. With a scoop of ice cream and a dusting of cocoa powder on top, it's the perfect dessert for your party of one. The best part? You don't have to share. To make it, mix ¼ cup flour, ¼ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon baking powder and a pinch of salt in a microwave-safe coffee mug. (A 2-cup mug is safest, because it will allow the cake to rise without making a mess.) Once thoroughly combined, whisk in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 3 tablespoons room-temperature whole milk, 1 egg and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Once the batter is smooth, drop in 1 ounce semisweet chocolate chips. Do not mix or push down; the chips will sink and melt in the batter as it bakes to create a molten center. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water on top of the batter and microwave, on high power, for 1 minute and 20 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on how strong your microwave is. The cake should look moist and stick slightly to your finger when you touch it. Let the mug sit for a minute or two so that the cake cools (and deflates a bit) and the lava thickens. Top with ice cream, cocoa powder, whipped cream or powdered sugar (or all of the above). Recipe adapted from cleobuttera.com.
Salmon Cakes With Remoulade Sauce
I stole this recipe from my college roommate because it was delicious, super simple and always impressed whoever I had over for dinner. It also quickly turned into a go-to dish when I wanted something hearty for dinner but didn't have any fancy plans. To make, poke holes in 2 large baking potatoes with a fork and microwave them for 8 minutes on each side. In a large bowl, mash the potatoes (with the skin on, as it helps act as a binding agent) and combine with 1 pouch boneless, skinless salmon (you can get this in the grocery store in the canned aisle right next to the tuna), 1 tablespoon garlic powder and 1 tablespoon seasoned salt (maybe more, depending on taste). Gingerly, scoop the mixture into your palm and form it into a patty about the size of a teacup saucer. Carefully coat the patty in bread crumbs and, in an oiled saucepan over medium-high heat, sear until the bread crumbs become a dark brown crust. With a spatula, very carefully, so that it doesn't fall apart, turn the patty over and repeat on the other side. Pull off the heat and serve with store-bought remoulade sauce.
Chicken Bruschetta Pasta Salad
I blame Lady and the Tramp for making pasta look romantic. Have you ever actually tried sharing a pasta noodle? Messy. This recipe is the opposite of messy, and it's perfect for a date with your wine glass. To prepare, grill 1 chicken breast using any seasoning mix of your choice (I use garlic powder, salt and pepper) and set aside. In a mixing bowl, toss together ½ cup boiled and drained pasta (you can use spaghetti for effect, but any pasta in your pantry works), ½ finely chopped red onion and 1 finely chopped Roma tomato. Next, mix in 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon minced garlic, seasoning with a pinch of salt to taste. Top pasta with chicken breast and drizzle with balsamic glaze. (You can purchase a bottle from the store or just reduce ½ cup of balsamic vinegar over high heat until it has reached a syrupy consistency.) Finish with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and finely chopped fresh basil. Recipe adapted from cafedelites.com.
Grilled Tilapia With Mango Salsa
There's something about mango salsa that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Piled high on top of a fresh fillet of fish, it makes this dish both healthy and delicious. To start, make the mango salsa ahead of time by combining 1 large, ripe, peeled, pitted and diced mango, ½ diced red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons minced red onion, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro and 1 seeded and minced jalapeno. Toss well with 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, and refrigerate for a few hours or until ready to serve. To marinate the fish, whisk together ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon pepper and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl and pour into a resealable plastic bag. Add 2 6-ounce tilapia fillets to the bag and coat thoroughly with the marinade before squeezing out excess air and sealing the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Then, heat an outdoor grill or grill pan to medium-high heat, lightly oiling the grate. Remove the tilapia from the marinade, shaking off excess liquid, and grill the fillets for about 3 or 4 minutes per side, or until they flake easily with a fork. Serve one fillet topped with mango salsa and keep the other for lunch the next day. Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com.