The month of February has long been associated with love. All across the globe, on Feb. 14, candy, gifts, and roses are exchanged between loved ones in the name of St. Valentine’s Day. After all, it is as exciting a day for a teen’s first love as it is for a matured couple’s love for each other!

Just who is this mysterious St. Valentine and why do we celebrate this holiday? One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young, single men—his troop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to another legend, Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl, who may have been his jailor’s daughter, who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It’s no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

In this day and age when one’s career takes priority over family, people rarely seem to make time for their loved ones. A poem by Mother Teresa captures the essence of love on Valentine’s Day and perhaps every other hectic day after that!

Love Is A Fruit In Season

At all times and within

reach of every hand!

Spread love everywhere you go

First of all in your own house

Give love to your children

To your husband or wife

To a next door neighbor

Let no one ever come to you

Without leaving happier

Be the living expression of God’s

Kindness, kindness in your face

Kindness in your eyes

Kindness in your smile

Kindness in your warm greeting!

—Mother Teresa

So, on Valentine’s Day there are a myriad ways to celebrate your affections. You could possibly celebrate it the conventional way by offering your loved one tangible gifts like chocolates, jewelry, etc. You might want to go to a Moroccan Restaurant and enjoy the belly dancing and baklava.

For those of you who are not planning to dine out you might prefer a quiet, romantic candle-lit dinner. Here’s what you could do if you like this option. You may start by surprising him or her with a wonderful vegetable soup that is so irresistible that one could make a meal out of it!

Last year when I was down with the flu, my husband, Vasu, came up with this hearty soup for dinner. Ever since, we make this often for parties we host and it’s a hit with all our friends. This warm concoction truly soothes one’s heart and soul. Bring out your blender, pots, and pans and let’s get to work before he or she comes home from work on this special night!

Ingredients:

10-15 mint leaves (to taste)

½ bunch cilantro

2 bell peppers (red or green)

1 eggplant (large)

1 onion (large)

5 Roma tomatoes chopped

3 or 4 carrots

3-4 cloves of garlic

2 inches ginger

2-3 green chillies (or to taste)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons cooking oil

Method:

Chop garlic, ginger, onions, and tomatoes.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a saucepan in medium flame.

Add cumin seeds, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until golden brown. Then add onions and sauté until light golden brown. Next, add tomatoes and sauté for about 5-10 minutes. (Variation: One may also include some freshly chopped spinach at this juncture, to add variety to the soup ingredients.)

Meanwhile, peel carrots and cut them into blender manageable sizes. Set them aside.

Spray or apply a thin coat of oil to the eggplant and sprinkle a little salt to taste on it. Wrap the eggplant with aluminum foil tightly. Do the same with the bell peppers. Roast these two vegetables in an oven set at 425º F for about 20 minutes.

In a vegetable blender, add the mint leaves, chillies, carrots, and 2 cups water to blend into a soup texture. Next, add the sautéed onions, tomatoes, and blend further.

Transfer into a soup pot and heat for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the roasted bell peppers and eggplant from the oven. Remove the stem and insides of the bell peppers. Also peel the eggplant skin. Then blend these vegetables with 1 cup of water in a blender and transfer contents to the soup pot. Add salt to taste and heat for about 5-10 minutes.

Add freshly ground pepper or a dash of Tabasco to taste. (Variation: To add some zip to the soup, squeeze in half a lemon.)

Garnish with chopped cilantro for a festive taste.

Variations: You may add either some tomato soup or cream of broccoli to the above (before adding the roasted vegetables), to enhance the texture, flavor, and serving size of the soup. If you want to control the thickness of the soup, you may adjust the amount of water in it. This soup will easily serve 4-5 people, so the valentines will be tempted to save it for another day!

I hope you enjoy this healthy and hearty soup. As you can see it uses quite a number of fresh vegetables to make it a success. To all readers—have a wonderful and romantic Valentine’s Day! May you enjoy the fruits of your labor … or is it vegetables of labor?

 

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