Claud and I have never been much for making a big deal of anniversaries, birthdays, or Valentine's Day. We never buy each other gifts. For Christmas, we only buy gifts for our children. Sure, we have used anniversaries and birthdays as excuses to throw parties; but, other than that, we don't pay much attention to it. We always say that every day is our birthday or anniversary. Well, this year, I am choosing to recognize Valentine's Day.
I heard Valentine's Day was a holiday invented by Hallmark in order to sell more cards during the month of February. Well, this isn't true. For a very long time, February has been considered a month of romance. We can see this in Christian and ancient Roman traditions. So, who was this St. Valentine anyway? From the bit of research I have done, I don't think there is a straight answer. One legend suggests St. Valentine was a priest in third century Rome. The Emperor Claudius II killed him because he was marrying young men in secret. Claudius (interesting name?) made it illegal for young men to marry because he believed that unwed men made better soldiers.
Lupercalia may be the origin of what we now call Valentine's Day. This was a pagan celebration dedicated to Faunus, a Roman god of agriculture. This festival was celebrated each year on Feb. 15. There were several rituals of fertility performed on this day. One ritual was to place the names of single women into an urn. The single men in the community picked a name out of the urn and spent the year with this woman. Eventually, this was outlawed because it was unchristian.
Sauteeing the eggplant
Eggplant ready for the oven
Simmering the sauce
Out of the oven
More recently, Valentine's Day is a time to let people know you love them. It doesn't always have to be a romantic gesture. People give cards to grandparents, friends, and coworkers. Children exchange tiny cards usually with candy attached. I do think that the emphasis of the holiday is still on romance. Several love letters are exchanged on this occasion. A young boy may give his girlfriend a stuffed animal and a box of chocolates. Heck, even men do this. I never was one for stuffed animals or candy. Many people give each other red roses. I like the idea of buying 11 red roses and one white rose. Then, a note can be attached telling the woman that they are unique like the one white rose. Isn't that romantic?
I have been trying to think of ways in which I can make the holiday romantic for Claud. Why should I put the burden all on him? Since we never ever celebrate Valentine's Day, this will take him by surprise. I like nice surprises. My idea is to cook him dinner without any concern for his health. Is that even nice? Well, I do know that he will really like this. We will just throw caution to the wind. I'm pretty sure he will think this is romantic because he always complains about my healthy cooking.
I always think of Italian food as the most romantic. Did you see Lady And The Tramp? What is more romantic than sharing a plate full of spaghetti and accidentally sharing a noodle, which ends in a kiss? Am I right? So, I plan to make chicken Parmesan, eat it by candlelight while playing a mix tape I prepare especially for him. Yes, a mix tape! Claud made me one last year, a mix CD, and I was so excited. It's so special to listen to songs that were chosen with you in mind. I was thinking about making the dinner a picnic by candlelight with the mix tape. Then, I got real and remembered I am not comfortable sitting on the floor. Why is that even romantic anyway?
Eggplant Parmesan/Chicken Parmesan
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 16-oz. cans of stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1 can of artichoke hearts
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup flour
2 eggs lightly beaten with
one tablespoon water
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs, salt
and pepper to taste
2 chicken breasts pounded to 1/4 inch
thick/1 eggplant sliced about
1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons basil, cut into ribbons
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic. Saut for ten minutes. Add tomatoes, olives and artichoke hearts. Let this simmer for at least ten minutes until it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in a skillet. Place flour in one bowl, egg wash in another, and breadcrumbs in another. Season flour with salt and pepper. Place chicken/eggplant into the flour, then the egg wash, then the bread crumbs. Gently fry in the olive oil for four minutes on each side until golden brown. Place in an oven safe dish. Pour the sauce over the top. Place the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses on top. Sprinkle on the basil. Place into the oven for 15 minutes. Serve with pasta and/or salad.
I practiced making this meal tonight. I made a tray of chicken Parmesan and one of eggplant Parmesan since I don't eat much meat. The only difference is the chicken and the eggplant. Other than these two ingredients, I made them exactly the same way. It was pretty easy and very tasty. It's more time consuming than complicated. I am hoping that Claud is so jet lagged because he just landed from London that he wouldn't realize I am making this again in four days. He's pretty delirious on the couch right now. I don't think he'll even recognize what he's eating. It's sad but I am taking advantage of his exhaustion. I made it with a salad tonight. For Valentine's Day, I am including the spaghetti.