Don’t cut back on the displays of affection just because your budget is tight. This romantic menu for two is only about $7 per serving, not including wine.
Cherry Tomato Toasts
There’s no need to spend all your time or money on an appetizer. Keep it simple with this easy and delicious first course that’s basically bread, olive oil and tomatoes with a sprinkling of fresh herbs. This recipe makes 4 servings, but it’s an easy recipe to halve. Per serving: $2.20
- 1 pound large cherry tomatoes (about 24)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 slices sourdough bread
- 2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
Heat oven to 275ºF. Arrange the tomatoes in a shallow baking dish or on a cookie sheet. Drizzle half the oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with the oregano, a few grinds of pepper, and half the salt. Bake about 40 minutes or until the tomato skins pucker and split slightly. Remove from oven. Set oven to broil and toast the bread on both sides until golden (or use a toaster). Remove to a serving dish and immediately rub the cut sides of the garlic into one side of each slice. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and drizzle with the remaining oil. Serve the tomatoes on top of the toast. Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars in tomatoes, giving them more sweetness, more intense flavor, and richer color.
Skirt Steak with Lemon- and Chili-Roasted Potatoes
What man won’t fall for a meat-and-potatoes menu? But you can stay within your budget by using skirt steak, one of the more inexpensive cuts of beef. With only 6 ingredients, not counting the salt and pepper, this recipe is actually two-in-one because the potatoes are the side dish. Other than the fresh thyme, the seasoning ingredients are all pantry staples. Per serving: $3.62
- 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold or new potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 8 sprigs thyme
- 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak
- 1 lemon, quartered
Heat oven to 425° F. Mix the potatoes, oil, chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and thyme in a medium bowl. Transfer to a roasting pan and cook, stirring once, until crisp and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove the potatoes from oven, transfer to individual plates, and wipe the pan clean.
Heat broiler. Season the steak with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place on the clean roasting pan. Broil the steak to the desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with the potatoes and lemon quarters.
Upgrade: Skirt steak is a quick-cooking, reasonably priced cut of beef. If you prefer a thicker, leaner piece, try boneless rib eye or strip steak and add 2 to 3 minutes of cooking time per side.
Broccoli with Lemon Crumbs
Fresh broccoli is in season, so it’s a smart buy. Not counting the salt and pepper, it’s only 4 ingredients, and you’ll already be buying lemon for the entree. This recipe makes more than 2 servings, so we suggest cutting the recipe in half. Per serving: $0.59
- 2 slices whole-wheat bread
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 12-ounce bags broccoli florets, or
- 1 large bunch broccoli, cut into florets
Whirl the bread in a food processor or blender to make bread crumbs. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the bread crumbs and sauté over medium heat until toasted. Grate the zest from the lemon. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice from one half into the pan. Add the salt and several grinds of black pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until dry. (The Lemon Crumbs can be made to this point up to 2 days ahead. Spoon into a plastic bag and set aside at room temperature.)
Microwave the broccoli according to the package directions. (If using fresh broccoli, pile the florets on a microwave-safe plate and sprinkle with a few tablespoons of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.) Remove and sprinkle with the Lemon Crumbs.
Time-saver: Cook the broccoli florets right in their microwavable bag. No waiting for water to boil. And, again, no extra pot to clean.
Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet
Simple and elegant, this 4-ingredient chocolate dessert is a great way to end your meal. Because it’s a make-ahead dessert, you won’t have to worry about interrupting your romantic dinner with any dessert prep. It makes 6 servings, so you’ll have some left for a repeat performance the next evening. Per serving: $0.67
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in sugar and cocoa; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; add chocolate and vanilla, stirring until chocolate melts. Cover and chill completely.
Pour chocolate mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze 1 hour or until firm.