Take Her Around the World for Valentine’s Day…Without Ever Leaving the Kitchen

by A Manly Guest Contributor on February 10, 2011 · 32 comments

in Blog

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Sasha Martin.

While dinner and a movie are fine for a typical Friday night, Valentine’s Day should be different–a cut above. Looking back over the years, the dates that stand out in my memory are the ones that prompted good conversation, created memorable experiences, and were filled with the unexpected. So this year skip the crowded restaurants and take your sweetheart for a trip around the world with an at home dinner date.

What’s that you say? Don’t have the dough to whisk your lady from Rome to Timbuktu? Then give her a global experience via “stovetop travel.” By whipping up a meal that includes a dish from each of the world’s continents, you can give your special someone a charming dose of both culture and amore without ever leaving the kitchen. No jet lag either!

The following dishes from around the world taste fantastic and are simple to prepare. Whether you make part or all of this sampler-style menu, you’ll have plenty to talk about and create tons of romance as you rub elbows in the kitchen. Staying in this Valentine’s Day could just be the best trip you’ve ever been on.

Let’s get continent-hopping.

First Stop: South America

Start off your date with a Bolivian Avocado Salad. Made with ingredients readily available in Bolivia. Simply split the avocado in half, remove the pit, and fill with a mixture of tomatoes, red onion, parsley and vinaigrette. The creamy avocado and acidic tomatoes will really get your taste buds moving. The best part? You can assemble the filling ahead of time. When she shows up just pull the filling out of the fridge and stuff the avocado together.

Bolivian Avocado Salad


1 avocado, halved and pitted
minced red onion, to taste
1 small tomato, chopped
1 sprigs fresh parsley, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp vinegar


1. In a small bowl, combine red onion, tomato, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
2. Immediately before serving, scoop tomato mixture into avocado halves. Any extra can be mounded on the side, if desired. Serve cool.

Second Stop: Asia

Take her to East Timor (Timor-Lest), where whole tuna are caught fresh from the sea and sold beach-side. While local fishermen slather the entire fish with garlic, butter, and salt, you can recreate this dish by simply brushing tuna steaks with homemade garlic butter and searing on an indoor grill. Finish your Timorese Tuna off with a sprinkling of crunchy, coarse sea salt. Slice thinly and serve over rice or salad.  Prep tip: mix up the garlic butter mash the day before.

Timorese Tuna


2 Tuna steaks
2 Tbsp butter
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
coarse sea salt, to taste


1. Preheat indoor or outdoor grill to medium high. Melt butter and garlic in a small bowl. Brush liberally on both sides of the tuna.
2. Sear 2-4 minutes per side. Serve over mixed greens or with rice.

Third Stop: Europe

Forget crossing the world via airplane – after about two minutes of prep and two hours of slow roasting in the oven you’ll have Ofto Kleftiko–Roast Lamb with cinnamon & ground coriander. This popular celebration food is made in Cyprus where they tightly seal the meat inside a ceramic casserole. You can recreate this moist environment by tightly wrapping the lamb in foil and placing in a regular casserole. This is possibly one of the tastiest ways to eat lamb, with the least amount of effort.

Ofto Kleftiko


2 lamb shanks, about one pound each
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
4 bay leaves
olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Lay out two squares of aluminum foil and place one lamb shank on each square. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the cinnamon, coriander, salt and pepper. Rub into the meat. Place 2 bay leaves with each lamb shank and wrap tightly in foil.
3. Place in covered casserole and bake for about 2.5 hours. Remove from oven, let rest for about 15 minutes, then unwrap from foil. Serve immediately.

Fourth Stop: Oceania

For this leg of the trip, whip up a batch of Australian Damper Bread (rather like a dense biscuit). Traditionally cooked in campfires in the outback, Damper Bread is rustic, manly food. And it tastes great with butter.

Australian Damper Bread


4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 cup baking powder
1/8 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups milk


1. Preheat oven to 425F. Grease an 8×8 pan.
2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Add milk and stir until a stiff dough forms.
3. Press into the pan. Score the dough with a sharp knife, making a grid pattern.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Fifth Stop: North America

Find her sweet spot in Canada, where maple syrup makes everything better. Feel free to bump elbows in the kitchen as you whip up Grandpa’s Maple Dumplings, an incredibly addictive dessert made by simmering balls of dough in maple syrup. Who needs a deep fryer when you have maple syrup? Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Grandpa’s Maple Dumplings


(For the dumplings)

1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup whole milk

(For the cooking liquid)

1 1/2 cups maple syrup
1 1/2 cups water


1. Bring maple syrup and water to a simmer.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter. Drizzle in milk until a moist dough forms.
3. Shape into balls and carefully drop into the maple syrup mixture. Let simmer until the balls float and are cooked through. Be careful not to boil. While still warm, spoon over vanilla ice cream

Sixth Stop: Africa

Settle down after all that excitement with a cup of White Coffee. Despite the name, this popular North African drink neither has caffeine nor coffee in it. In fact, it closely resembles tea. Although you can make White Coffee with any number of spices or essences steeped in hot water, the most appropriate for Valentine’s Day is a splash of rose water (available at Indian markets). And, honestly, drinking a rose with your sweetheart is about as romantic as it gets.

White Coffee


16 oz hot water
2 tsp rose water
sugar cubes


Pour hot water into teacups or mugs. Stir in about a teaspoon of rose water per cup. Add sugar cubes to taste. Enjoy hot!


If you really want to go all out, put together a mix CD with music for every stop on your culinary journey. You can listen to it while you’re cooking and eating. Then, when the night is over, give her the CD as a memory of her trip around the world. She’ll be talking about this one forever.


Sasha Martin is cooking one meal for every country in the world (A-Z) as a way to help her family eat a healthier and more varied diet, as well as to encourage global respect and understanding.  You can find all the recipes, facts, and meal reviews at Global Table Adventure.

All Photos by Keith & Sasha Martin | Global Table Adventure and Used With Permission

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brandon P. February 10, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Excellent idea. My wife has been dying for a nice long trip. This will be a great way to show her I was listening to her international desires.

2 Dawsy February 10, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I’m so hungry right now! Great list of recipies – yum!

3 David February 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

I think the concept is better then the actual recipes, but that is just down to personal choice.
If you want to take the “round the world” concept to a higher level, make each week (or one week a month) “international” week.
During this week, immerse yourself into another culture. You can tell so much about a culture by their culinary exploits.
Spend a week in Mexico, make all your favourite recipes including one’s you don’t know about. Google should help you if you are stuck for a recipe.
But don’t stop there.
Find a flag, print out a banner and decorate the living area with memento’s of this country. Find some music, learn the local dance and even how to say “thankyou for a delicious meal” in the foreign tongue.

Our minds are very receptive to multiple stimuli, and you will find this to be a very engaging and rewarding practise, one which your loved one will truly appreciate for the time and effort you spend on the presentation.


4 Bryan Schatz February 10, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Wow. That all sounds delicious. I’ve got to try those maple dumplings.

5 Tina Nettles February 10, 2011 at 11:26 pm

I love the idea of doing all of these in one meal – so romantic! The perfect way to give her the world, guys! Thanks for featuring this one!

6 Janine February 10, 2011 at 11:29 pm

What a wonderfully refreshing way to celebrate the day of love!

7 Don February 11, 2011 at 3:08 am

Instead of butter, eat the Australian Damper with honey. It tastes far better, and is much better for you.

8 jimmm February 11, 2011 at 9:06 am

Among the many wonderful posts on AoM over the years, this one stands out as a delightful surprise. Thank you, Sasha Martin! And HVD!

9 Darren February 11, 2011 at 10:25 am

How about a snow cone for Antarctica? I think it feels left out. ;-)

10 Balls Deep 13 February 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

thats an awesome list i cant wait to have my wife make all that for me

11 Trevor February 11, 2011 at 11:42 am

I think this is a good idea. But since it’s so much food, I think I’ll do this on Sunday so my wife and I can spread it out over the entire day. I’m not sure either of us could eat all this in the evening.

12 Miles R. February 11, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Did Sasha Martin get this idea from Betty Draper’s “trip around the world” dinner menu? (*Mad Men*, season 2, episode 8: “A Night to Remember.”)

13 unconvention February 11, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Each one of those dishes sounds perfectly enjoyable. As a meal, however, it sounds like a horrific carcrash of jarring, mismatched flavours.

14 Frank February 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm

It also works really well to wait for your wife to develop Alzheimer’s. Everyday my grandmother woke up she thought she was in a different country in Europe. Very cheap way to travel and she really enjoyed herself.

15 Sasha @ Global Table Adventure February 11, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Thanks for reading, everyone.

@David – I love the spirit of your comment – great ideas! I actually spend a week on each country and try to do many of the things you mentioned – try several dishes, watch videos, read books, listen to music. I think the country that surprised me the most was Dominica (not the same as the Dominican Repulblic). It is mountainous jungle – the terrain Christopher Columbus actually compared to a crumpled wad of paper/parchment – and has lots of hiking, even to a boiling lake (that people bring eggs to hard-boil in the puddles… ) an all around fascinating place.

@Miles – I haven’t seen Mad Men yet- I’m sort of TV deprived (we only have Netflix – on purpose). I’ll have to watch it though, just so I can see the dinner. It sounds like it would be right up my alley and would love to see what they ate.

Thanks again AOM and readers :) Happy Cooking!

16 Robert R. February 11, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Fantastic idea! Especially since the restaurant I was planning on taking my fiance to is book from now till March it seems. This just might make her happier than spam and mac and cheese would.

17 Charles Garris February 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm

A marvelous festive journey. Havng traveled only to Canada and Mexico, I delight is international foods and wines. My specialty is grilling and I am an acquaintance and
personal & email friend of Lucy Saunders the great food channel – editor/author of cooking and grilling with beer, and have all of her books. Thanks Lucy.

18 grill February 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm

By using the indoor grill without and cooking oil you can cook steaks and fresh fish which might stick if the grill is not greased first or use tin foil. You can eat the vegetables either fried on the grill or fresh. Cut out eating vegetables out of a can because they add too much sodium which can contribute to health problems such as hypertension. By using the grill you can cook a variety of meals.
We invite you to visit our new website http://www.indoorgrillcooker.com specializing in small kitchen appliances. Include indoor grills, multi cookers,slow cookers,waffle and sandwich makers, rice cooker. Provides a wide variety of products, as well as information and pictures.

19 lets make a joke... February 13, 2011 at 10:03 am

“…Without ever leaving the kitchen!”… because, you know, women shouldn’t leave the kitchen anyway…

20 Brad February 13, 2011 at 11:29 am

If my wife wasn’t making the Valentine’s dessert, I’d be all over those maple dumplings. I guess they’ll just have find their way to another time, but hopefully not too far away.

21 Richard, Ogden, UT February 13, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Great receipes! I like to dutch oven in the summer, and am looking forward to adding these to my list.

Thank you!

22 RJ February 14, 2011 at 10:27 am

Humm.. this maybe a re post.. I clicked and see nothing for a while.. so
here goes.
I am <—- not a cook. My friends tend to WINK at my burnt offerings.. the Dumplings look safe enough.. and the description sounds great ~! I am a bit of a Tea Drinker.. so I am interested in this "Coffee" . Rose water.. anyone tried ROSE yet ? What does that taste like? I tend towards Licorice Tea. Very Smelly and clean tasting. Very nice Post.. thanks again for all the Great Ideas.
( if this does post twice then my browser is acting up again. Sorry )

23 Marvin Velazquez February 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Love it! These are some great recipes and truly a unique idea to give to your girl. It shows that you’re thinking outside-the-box and doing work to make her feel special. Can’t get any better than that.

24 TheJimmer February 14, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Success! I had a bit of trouble with timing everything, or I guess you could say luck depending on how you like to eat your courses, because it all came together at once; except for the bread, which came out just in time. :)

The Mrs. is just astounded that I would cook at all, and this meal really blew her away. Thanks AoM!

25 Lance February 14, 2011 at 9:58 pm

I epic failed on the dumplings (I think). At least I had the two boys helping me with the dough. I believe I made the balls too big, as they were raw in the center more or less. I’m not sure if that’s how they should be, as they were floating, and I was turning them. Out of respect for pops, my youngest son held back on tossing, and pretending he was just coughing. Older son tried his best, but stopped about 3/4 done, and my lovely wife made it to about 1/2 way. I choked mine down like the man I am…apoligized…and the who family broke out into laughter, once I started laughing. Win some, lose some, but this will be a Valentines day we won’t soon forget! :-)

26 Scott "Badchef" N. February 15, 2011 at 8:42 am

Awesome meal! Substituted Lamb Chops and pan seared them. My younger valentines (girls, ages 5 & 8) enjoyed the meal as well.
I will substitute regular coffee next time rather than the White Coffee. The Rose Water was a bit much for both of us.

27 Jared February 15, 2011 at 11:48 am

I had to substitute the shanks for rack of lamb and reduced the cook time by about an hour since it wasn’t as much or as thick of meat, but it was definitely a hit with the missus. We will be trying it again when we can get some shanks in.

28 Trimegistus February 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm

I know the intent is sincere, but this article sounds like something that might have run in Woman’s Day in 1956 or thereabouts. Since when did the Art of Manliness become Home Economics?

If you can’t afford to take your wife out for Valentine’s Day, send the kids to Grandma’s, light a fire in the fireplace, open a bottle of cheap red wine and share a bar of dark chocolate before screwing like a pair of teenagers. She’ll remember that evening with a lot more affection than the night you made a mess of her kitchen.

29 Kolby February 16, 2011 at 7:49 pm

In the Australian Damper bread recipe it lists 1/8 cup for baking powder and sugar. Why doesn’t it just say 2 TB?

30 Sasha @ Global Table Adventure February 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Sounds like several great meals were had – I’m so glad!

TheJimmer, you did the works and I am smiling thinking about how amazed your wife was. That’s so great!

Lance, I’m sorry the dough balls didn’t work out. They definitely need to float *and* be cooked through. I like to cut one in half to check the status. I know what you mean about being a meal not soon forgotten – sometimes it is the epic failures that stick with us as funny family memories. Perhaps next year you can surprise everyone with a “round two” :)

Scott – rose water is a lot to get used to… but I think it’s great that you gave it a go. It’s really fun trying new recipes.

Jared, glad you liked the lamb seasonings. I think the shanks are incredible and even better as reheated leftovers.

Trimegistus – I’ve been told I’m a pretty old fashioned gal so I’m not surprised at your comment. I have to admit that your idea of a nice Valentine’s Day sounds great, too… just wish either grandparents lived in town.

Hey Kolby – I list the ingredients that way because I prefer to scoop an 1/8 of a cup once, rather than a Tbsp twice… just personal preference.

31 Masha Dowell February 24, 2011 at 2:09 pm

This is a GREAT post :) I hope all men are taking notes.

- Masha

32 Patrick March 1, 2011 at 10:41 am

The topsoil in the rosewater really made the meal for me.

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