The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Save your Valentine’s Day with this lemon salmon dinner

Cook this right and your date will blush as pink as the salmon!

<p>To plate this dish, lay down a bed of orzo pasta and place one piece of salmon on top.</p>

To plate this dish, lay down a bed of orzo pasta and place one piece of salmon on top.

Forgot to make a reservation for Valentine’s Day? Don’t worry. This fresh, light salmon recipe is simple and stress-free to prepare, sure to impress your date and the cooking process is almost as enjoyable as the meal itself.

Cooking at home is the way to go if you don’t love all the Valentine Day’s hype. There’s no awkward fumbling for the check, you can accommodate dietary restrictions and the process is enjoyable for everyone. Plus there’s something so satisfying about transforming raw ingredients into a delicious meal with your own two hands. I know cooking can be intimidating, but if you can turn on an oven and boil water, you can cook this recipe with no problems. 

This recipe has everything you need in a balanced meal. I chose salmon because it is easy to cook, looks beautiful on your plate and is full of protein and healthy fats. The tomato and lemon orzo bursts with a light, citrusy flavor and balances the richness of the salmon while the salad and dressing add a bite of vinegar and another pop of healthy color.

Cook time: 45 minutes 

Baked lemon salmon


2 6-oz salmon filets with the skin on

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard 

Half of a lemon 

Salt and pepper to taste

Basil leaves, optional


  1. Begin by lining a baking sheet with tinfoil and preheating your oven to 450 degrees. 
  2. Thoroughly wash and thinly slice half of a lemon, being careful to remove the seeds. 
  3. Prepare the salmon for baking by patting it down with a paper towel and covering it with olive oil, salt and pepper. Next rub on whole grain mustard and add your sliced lemon. 
  4. Add the salmon to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. 
  5. Remove the salmon after it is thoroughly cooked and uniform in color. Make sure to run your spatula under the filet to loosen the salmon from the tin foil right when you pull it out of the oven. 

Tomato garlic lemon orzo


Half of a box of orzo pasta

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 lemon

3 cloves of garlic, minced

4 ounces cherry tomatoes


  1. Add a pinch of salt to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for around 10 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.
  2. As the pasta cooks, mince garlic and saute with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cherry tomatoes and the juice of half of the lemon. Allow this to cook for five to seven minutes, or until the tomatoes start softening and bursting under your spoon. 
  3. Once the pasta is cooked, strain it. When cooking orzo, I recommend adding another pot underneath the strainer to prevent the pasta from falling out through the holes. Put the pasta back into the pot and add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the juice from the other half of the lemon.  
  4. Once the tomatoes are ready, stir the tomato-garlic mixture into your pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add fresh basil for garnish. 

Side salad


Jar with a tightly fitting lid

Spring mix lettuce 

White mushrooms

8 ounces cherry tomatoes

⅔ cup olive oil

⅓ cup white vinegar

1 lemon 

3 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon stone ground mustard

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

Salt and pepper to taste 


  1. Rinse the spring mix, white mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Pat the spring mix dry and add to a large salad bowl. After chopping the mushrooms and halving the tomatoes, add them to the bowl as well.
  2. Add olive oil, white vinegar and garlic to the jar. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon along with cumin, stone ground mustard and whole grain mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Shake the salad dressing until you have a homogenous mixture. 
  3. To keep your vegetables crisp, only dress the salad moments before you plate your meal. Shake the salad dressing well and add it slowly — a little goes a long way in terms of flavor with this dressing. 

To plate this dish, I laid down a bed of orzo pasta and placed one piece of salmon on top. I garnished the salmon with a leaf of fresh basil and another dash of salt and pepper. I filled the rest of the plate with a serving of salad. 

Cooking at home is a fun, engaging date and a money saver all in one. It’s also a stress-free alternative to dealing with reservations. As a dinner for two, that’s a great and affordable alternative to some of the more traditional Valentine’s Day dinner venues.