Setting the table

For My Valentine

Red Swirl bowl with vegetables
Roasted vegetables in red bowl
They used to say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. However it was Jay who cooked most of our eve-of-Valentine’s Day dinner yesterday. I made dessert and set the table.

One of Jay’s specialties is pork loin roast. First he cuts vegetables into chunks to fill about half the roasting pan. He always includes potatoes, onions, and garlic plus at least one other colorful vegetable we have on hand. Last night he included carrots, but in autumn he might add recently harvested garden beets or winter squash. On occasion he has put in some cabbage, turnips, parsnips, or Brussels sprouts. He tosses the vegetables with olive oil (enough to coat lightly), coarse salt (sea salt or kosher salt), and rosemary leaves. Jay rubs the roast with garlic, coarsely ground black pepper, a little salt, and rosemary before placing it on top of the vegetables. The roast goes into the oven, preheated to 350 degrees F, for about 25-30 minutes per pound.

Red and Pise platter
Roast pork and rosemary

In the meantime I selected fused glass dishes with lots of red color for the table. Note that the patterns do not match but they complement one another. All the pieces I chose have the same red and amber hues and most also contain sea blue glass. I also selected a four-candle bridge to serve as centerpiece. A candle bridge is an easy centerpiece and looks especially nice with a bit of complementary foliage from the yard. However last night it was too cold (about 5 degrees F with a 20-mile-per-hour wind) to go outside and clip red-twig dogwood branches or anything else I might have found in the snow. All the glass pieces looked good on a white tablecloth, several of which hang in one of our closets but go unused now that we rarely set a large table or spend time at the ironing board. But this was a special occasion: Valentine’s Day is also Jay’s birthday.

Saturday morning we had selected a Pennsylvania Chambourcin wine that goes well with roast pork and vegetables. In the afternoon I baked a pie with the last ground cherries we harvested just before November’s unusually late killing frost. In their papery shells in the cold garage, they had kept fairly well. We didn’t have quite enough fruit for a two-crust pie, but sufficient for an 11″ ground cherry custard pie. Here’s my recipe:

Turquoise, red, amber impressionist bowl
Ground cherry custard pie
one 9″ pastry shell
3 cups husked ground cherries
1 egg
1/16 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
Line pie pan with pastry and fill with ground cherries. Beat eggs with salt and add sugar and flour. Add milk and vanilla; stir well. Pour over cherries. Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes; reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 25 to 30 minutes longer or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Valentine's Day dinner table
Complementary square plates
The pie was cooling on a rack and the oven was set to time bake the roast when we left for choir practice and Mass. When we got home again, a little after 6 p.m., the fragrance of pork and garlic wafted down the stairs. Jay poured the wine and I poured the water. He took the roast out of the oven and I lit the candles. We dimmed the lights and sat down to savor our delicious dinner. After lingering with music and candle light, we cleared the table and took slices of pie to the library.

Jay and I have been sweethearts for well over four decades. Rarely have we celebrated Valentine’s Day by going out for dinner, preferring to cook for one another and share a cozy evening at home. He wants nothing more for his birthday, and I can’t think of a better gift from my forever Valentine.

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