There's little that's more romantic than a wonderful dinner enjoyed a deux in a cozy setting. With Valentine's Day in the offing, restaurant phones (and websites) are undoubtedly busy taking reservations for just such tete-a-tetes.

If you're into the "cooking is showing love" lifestyle, however, an even more romantic way to spend an evening with your honey is to fix a lovely meal you don't have to go out for. Dinner, and even a movie, seems just the thing for telling someone you have feelings for him (or her).

One of our favorite movies is "French Kiss," starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. It's funny and romantic, and not too girlie — if you take my meaning. It can provide a lighthearted background for you and your long-time love live-in while you enjoy the dinner — French, of course — that you lovingly prepare.

Our romantic French-style dinner for two features three courses. First up is some seafood. Not oysters — too obvious — but sea scallops. We like a dry white wine with this course. It should have a French name, of course — like Chardonnay — but needn't be imported.


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Steak au poivre is our main dish. Simple, and ideal for us last-minute types. We like a pinot noir with this. It goes nicely with the warm spinach salad we fix to go with.

And for dessert? Ooh-la-la. Some petite choux (meaning little cabbages, roughly because of their free-form shapes), or if you prefer, call them profiteroles. We save the sparkling wine for dessert. Something soft and a bit on the sweet side. Either a sparkling rose, or even Asti Spumante.

Ah, l'amour.

Noix de Saint-Jacques Dorees

Translated, this means "golden" sea scallops, which get their gilt from a bit of curry powder and turmeric, as well as the fact that we only pan-fry the scallops on one side. This dish only takes about 15 minutes to prepare and another 15 to cook. You can do much of the prep work ahead. Some French baguette slices do well here.

1 large leek (about 3/4 pound), white part only

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

Freshly ground pepper

Pinch each curry powder and turmeric

1/2 cup heavy cream

About 1/3 of a bunch of chives, chopped

12 large sea scallops, rinsed well, patted dry

Juice of half of a lemon (about 1 tablespoon), divided

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

Cut white part of leeks lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut crosswise into 1/2 -inch pieces.

Wash well to remove any dirt. Pat very dry.