I was pretty impressed when he suggested it. I said “foolish you,” but was secretly swooning. And then sanity set in — phyllo is way out of my league. Best left to the experts. For now.

My first proper Valentine’s Day (not spent with parents or roommates, the only gift a carnation from Dad) was exhausting! Breakfast was yogurt with Molly’s French Chocolate granola and strawberries, followed by chores for him and homework for me. BLTs with avocado and chevre on homemade challah for lunch, after which we dove headfirst into making chicken stock and our first attempt at baguette bread. It was well into the afternoon before we managed to stumble out of his condo for more firewood and a trip to the market.

Valentine's flowers

We double-teamed the majority of our bastilla preparation, slipping into the respective sixties era male and female roles for the finishing touches: I plated and decorated the bastilla, he started and stoked the fire. I did momentarily cross the imaginary line in popping the Cava, but only because I’m a pro.

Bastilla is a most elegant Moroccan dish traditionally made with squab. To our shock and amazement, the Winn-Dixie meat section was without pigeon. Instead we used chicken. Encased in crispy layers of buttery phyllo dough is a mixture of spice-poached chicken slow-cooked in stock and spices and then shredded; scrambled eggs cooked in the thickened chicken-poaching sauce; and almonds bashed up with cinnamon and sugar. Once baked and inverted out of the pan, the bastilla is topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

We used this recipe, courtesy of Pete Bakes! (Leftovers make great breakfast!)

Creative license allowed; it was Valentine’s Day after all!

The unusual combination of sweet and savory flavors with complex blendings of aromatic herbs and spices was enchanting. Rarely do we eat food with such depth of flavor and interesting contrasts. Our generation seems to opt for the quick-fix and the ready-prep meals more often than not. Don’t get me wrong, these are perfectly acceptable when the occasion calls. But when you have the time and inclination to prepare something special, something that has a list of ingredients nearing twenty and takes over an hour to prepare, I say go for it, baby! You’re sure to be rewarded. And feel a bit smug that you created something so wonderful!

We enjoyed our fashionably late supper (2030) in front of a crackling fire with a game of Original Trivial Pursuit. As children of the eighties, we displayed poor knowledge of the trivia, but nothing could ruin our slowed-down evening: wine in hand, beautiful meal, just the two of us.

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