RisottoValentine’s Day is treated a little bit differently in our house, I think. We don’t really buy each other gifts beyond a well-thought-out card. But, we have a few food traditions related to the most Hallmark of all holidays.

First, we never, ever go out to dinner for the occasion. So many restaurants have over-priced, under-delivering fixed menus, and tables filled with people who never go out to nice restaurants and act like it.

Second, in recent years, Nena has started making her should-be-famous banana-chocolate chip pancakes (in heart shape) on the day itself. It’s a casual, fun meal that we both love…even if wine pairing is nearly impossible (sweeter bubbly like a Moscato d’Asti?).

Third, I take a day off of work to shop for and cook an involved meal, with wine pairing, for the love of my life. Friday was the day for the 2006 edition of the meal.

This year, I don’t need to post any recipes from the meal…because I borrowed (with slight modifications) the first two courses from the king of Internet recipes (to me anyway) Stephen of Stephencooks.com.

To start, I made my own version of his Salad of Pears, Roasted Beets and Three Aphrodisiacs
. I replaced the fresh goat cheese with an aged one that I grated over the salad, in lieu of the lime/ginger/shallot dressing, I used blueberry vinaigrette, and I put it all over a small pile of baby romaine. The results were spectacular.

For the main course, I made my own take on Stephen’s Butternut Squash Risotto with Sausage, Pancetta and Leeks. The main change I made in this one was to remove the Italian sausage and replace it with some apple-chicken sausage I picked up at Whole Foods. The sweetness of the apples matched nicely with the squash, with the salty and smokey pancetta (and of course salty parmesan) providing balance. Stephen will forever be Mr. Risotto in my mind because of this dish…which was equally delicious the next day when I mixed the leftovers with one egg, formed patties, rolled them in seasoned bread crumbs and pan fried them.

Last, but not least, I made an Anjou pear crumble with old fashioned rolled oats in the crumble. I don’t typically bake because I’m so awful at following recipes precisely, but it was pretty simple and it turned out pretty well.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Nena…I love our traditions and I love you.