My teenage daughter alerted me that Feb. 14 is “Single Awareness Day,” or S.A.D. Who knew?
Wikipedia knew. A few clicks to the online resource tells me that Single Awareness Day is intended to remind couples that one needn’t be in a romantic relationship to enjoy life. I’m not sure anyone — or two —has the market on making dinner reservations, what 80 percent of Valentine’s Day is; flowers, chocolate, and often prescription romance being the rest.
S.A.D., according to Wikipedia, may be a response to the Hallmark-ization of the calendar. Common activities during Singles Awareness Day, Wiki says, include single events, traveling, volunteering, treating oneself to popular activities, gathering of family and friends, and gift giving to oneself. One increasingly popular activity is to travel to Brazil and witness the Brazilian Carnival, coupled with the fact that Brazil doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, but in June.
Kinda makes ya wanna be single. I think there’s a “grass is always greener” lesson embedded here, somewhere between Brazil and a table for two. By the way, ask your favorite wait-person how he or she feels about Valentine’s Day. Which would they prefer, one table of eight or four tables of two? Valentine’s Day means greeting the table times four, saying the specials times four, taking the orders times four, including being in four different places at once, because everyone wants to eat at 8 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, romantically involved or not.
Naturally, a S.A.D. menu would include messy foods with lots of garlic, dishes one wouldn’t dare eat across from a romantic partner. I offer a menu here that’s both single and Valentine worthy. The Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic recipe made famous by Patricia Wells is recast as Tuna Steaks with 20 Cloves of Garlic. Found in my current favorite book, The Food Thesaurus, this recipe hails from the Mediterranean; the tuna and garlic beg for a side of piperade, or onion, yellow peppers and tomato stewed in olive oil. The combination is nothing less than seductive, which makes this dish a magnificent dinner for a Valentine or for just you. The garlic, by the way, browns to sweetness, and is no threat to an incoming kiss.
Tuna with 20 Cloves of Garlic
serves 2, or 1 with leftovers
2 8-ounce tuna or swordfish steaks
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided for the piperade and for brushing fish
3 tablespoons peanut oil
20 cloves garlic, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 small onion, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 medium tomato, or 3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1/2 cup loosely chopped fresh parsley
Brush swordfish or tuna steaks with oil and season them with pepper. Heat a grill or large saute pan to high. Either grill the fish or sear it to medium rare, approximately 4 minutes on each side, or until opaque but pink in the middle.
Meanwhile, in a small pan heat peanut oil to hot but not smoking. Add the garlic, and saute until golden. Add red wine vinegar and stir to deglaze. Season with salt to taste. Pour over fish, and serve with piperade. Garnish all with more fresh parsley.
To make the piperade:
Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a medium pan to hot but not smoking. Add onion, and saute until soft and sweet. Add pepper slices, and saute until softened. Add tomato, and simmer for five minutes. Add more olive oil if the combination becomes too dry. Season with red pepper flakes, and finish with fresh parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature beside the fish.
Rockport resident Heather Atwood writes the Food for Thought weekly. Questions and comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her blog at HeatherAtwood.com.