If you’ve got a special someone to impress, Valentine’s Day really does take things to a whole new level.  Sure, we all talk a good game about what a made-up, commercialized holiday it is, and how we really don’t even understand what all the fuss is about in the first place.  But even couples who make a pact to ignore the day are loath to tempt the fates and skip the romance altogether.

Seems like a perfect opportunity to celebrate with a nice meal, right?  Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day ranks right up there with New Year’s Eve on the Capital Spice “worst times to dine out” list.  Prix fixe menus (often at inflated prices), crowds of diners and a general lack of inventiveness mean your meal is unlikely to deliver the romantic message you wanted it to.

A better – if not always safer – option is to take what you know about your Valentine’s likes and translate them into a home-cooked meal.  This year , I took the chance to cook up a three-course dinner for Elizabeth, with the goal of putting together a restaurant-quality meal in our new kitchen.

Along the way, I came across a couple of recipes that are likely to make future appearances in my cooking repertoire – a bright, citrus salad from Jose Andres, a savory duck breast/pear combination and a pie that would bring tears to Mrs. Fields’ eyes.

Colors, flavors and peanut butter cookie pie after the jump.

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