Can you taste the love tonight?
February 5, 2009 10:27 PM   Subscribe

RecipeFilter: Cooking for two people. Looking for some delicious and deliciously simple recipes for a special date night. (the kind of date night where you don't leave the apartment ever) Additional criteria inside.

Very Important: Needs to be relatively easy. We have good equipment, but not more than basics. The person preparing the food is novice level.

Important: Nothing like roasted garlic cloves that would result in noxious breath.

Important: Enough, but not more than enough, for two people. Prior experience has taught us that we do not do well with leftovers.

Highly desirable: Fresh ingredients. This is for a special date night, so special ingredients would be fine. Pike Place Market (Seattle) is a few minutes away.

No food allergies. My personal preference is that nothing but dessert is overly sweet (example: I do not like raspberry vinaigrette on salads).
posted by silkygreenbelly to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Mussels mussels mussels.

-- delicious
-- easy to make
-- easy to find high-quality mussls in Seattle
-- possibly an aphrodisiac
-- you get to eat them with fun little forks

Here is a really simple recipe. If you poke around, you can find so many variations: spanish-style, thai-style, italian, etc.
posted by rossination at 10:41 PM on February 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Note on serving size: 2 or 3 pounds should be more than enough for 2 people -- 3 would probably be too much, depending on what you're eating them with. Usually they're served as an appetizer, but there's no reason you couldn't serve it as a main course.
posted by rossination at 10:42 PM on February 5, 2009

Best answer: Dessert - poached pears, simple, delicious, healthy and elegant.

In a heavy bottom, narrow pan tall enough to drown two pears, put apple cider, a stick of cinnamon or ground cinnamon, a half teaspoon of vanilla and two pears. The pears should be peeled but leave the stems on. The traditional recipe would have an added 1/2 to 1 cup sugar, but it is not needed as the cider is plenty sweet. Simmer for 30 to45 minutes until the pears are cooked through but not mushy. Remove the pears and boil down the remaining liquid to form a syrup. Place some of the syrup on a plate and top with the pears standing upright (you may need to trim the bottom). Another presentation would be to slice the pears in half vertically and then without slicing through the very top make a series of vertical cuts and then fan out the sliced pear half onto the syrup on a plate. A little whipped cream goes well with this and you can optionally put a bit of clove and/or nutmeg into the boiling liquid.

Dinner - Poached salmon fillet. You are in Seattle.

Make a poaching broth of chicken broth, mirepoix, some herbs, salt and pepper. Mirepoix is sliced onion, carrot and celery. A nice herb would be fine herbs, but this is not sold so much any more. It is parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil, with chervil being the important herb for this recipe, at least to my palate. Use whole peppercorns if you have them, and also add a bayleaf or two. Simmer very low with the lid off until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes depending upon the thickness of the fish. Serve warm or cold. If you serve it cold serve some mayonaise and capers with it.

If one or both of you are not fish people then perhaps roast rock cornish game hens or broiled lamb chops. Simple and elegant.

Wild rice goes well with all of these and choose the vegetable that is fresh that day.

Well, something like might have worked out pretty well for me once. I forget some of the details, you would have to ask my now wife.
posted by caddis at 11:16 PM on February 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

i'm in deep, deep like with epicurious' advanced search function. for example, here's a search for Valentine's Day dinner, in season during winter, and quick and easy.
posted by bellbellbell at 11:23 PM on February 5, 2009

Fondue. It's easy to make in a saucepan; if you don't have a fondue pot you can get a small ceramic one (perfect for two) for about twenty dollars.

You'll need:

1/4 pound of gruyere
1/4 pound of emmenthal
1 clove of garlic (don't worry; it's not enough to give you garlic breath)
1 tablespoon of flour
3/4 cup of dry white wine (a Swiss wine works, but a bottle of Pouilly Fuisse is delicious and won't hurt)

Buy one small, fresh baguette and cut it into bite-sized chunks. You may also want veggies: I personally prefer carrots, blanched string beans, and fresh asparagus. If you're going for cooked vegetables, make sure you don't (a) overcook them or (b) wait until the last minute to cook them; they should be done first.

Instructions for the fondue itself: Grate the cheeses and toss with one tablespoon of flour. Peel the garlic clove, cut it in half, and rub it on the inside of your ceramic fondue pot. You can then dispose of the garlic if you don't want it, or you can toss it into the saucepan.

Speaking of which, bring the wine to a simmer in a saucepan before adding the cheese gradually. Stir constantly until the cheese is creamy but not so thick it's stringy. (Some people suggest adding a teaspoon or so of lemon juice to ensure the fondue doesn't congeal on you, but you'll be fine either way.)

Be sure to prep the table, bread and veggies before you make the fondue, as you will need to light the candle (if you are indeed using an inexpensive fondue pot like the one I linked to) and transfer the fondue to the ceramic pot immediately.

It's really very easy to do and is fun for two people in one kitchen if you and your SO enjoy preparing food together. The whole thing shouldn't take more than half an hour.

For dessert, I'd recommend something light and very easy to prepare in advance. Strawberries and a sampling of chocolates, perhaps?
posted by brina at 11:25 PM on February 5, 2009

(PS. You'll only need half the baguette.)
posted by brina at 11:27 PM on February 5, 2009

Best answer: Easy, fun, delicious. My special occasions dinner
- Cracked crab (from Pikes) with warm butter
- Sourdough bread, crunchy & warm
- Caesar salad (maybe light on the garlic if you must)
- Viognier wine, cold and crisp
- Affogato for dessert
- single malt scotch
posted by artdrectr at 11:39 PM on February 5, 2009

Best answer: Do you both like artichokes? My boyfriend boils 2 artichokes until soft then makes this garlic/butter/olive oil dip (you chop garlic, put it in a bowl with olive oil and butter and then heat in the microwave). If you are getting into the very romantic mood, and artichokes are considered as aphrodisiacs by some, you could feed each other. Quantity-wise, it is more like an appetizer and I have always thought that finger foods (or easily fed to one another foods) do well on at-home date nights, so you would need something else to fill an actual dinner appetite. If you are planning on a wine, depending on what else you had in mind, I would suggest white wine with the artichokes.

I second the crab cakes. Don't get the frozen kind, though. Since you are not in a land-locked state, try to get as fresh as you can. My only other suggestion would be to do finger foods, it helps with the portions and is very, very romantic.
posted by penguingrl at 1:00 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Warning: salmon, while lovely, will smell up your apartment. For seafood that isn't smelly to prepare but is still sexy-good, try scallops, crab or lobster. I have had crab from that place in Pike's (the place on the corner, with all the barrels and the people hollering... whatever it's called) and it's pretty damned great, indeed. There are also some great bread-and-cheese options from that market, whether for fondue or just for eating as-is.

Poached pears (above) is a great idea, as is any cooked fruity dessert. Fun, decadent, and very sensual to eat.

I'm a big fan of anything you can eat with chopsticks, especially if you use them to feed each other. Sushi, at least maki rolls, are pretty easy and fun to make as a team, too.
posted by rokusan at 1:24 AM on February 6, 2009

I'm going to suggest an Asian flare since those nights were some of the better nights spent with my ex-girlfriend.
-Steamed or fried Chinese dumplings/potstickers
-Stir fry
-Tom yum or tom kha soup and jasmine rice
-Summer Rolls
posted by robtf3 at 1:46 AM on February 6, 2009

Crab- or lobster-stuffed portobellos, plus a nice wild rice & long grain rice mix and salad. Yum!
posted by taz at 2:44 AM on February 6, 2009

I suggest cooking in parchment. Typical meals are based on very fresh ingredients. The technique is simple, simple, simple. Each is meant to be a single serving. Here is a typical recipe from Epicurious. The added bonus is that eating your meal is like opening a present. As a bonus, you can cut the paper into a heart shape. When you crimp it closed, start from the top indent of the heart, working around and down to the point. See here.
posted by plinth at 2:56 AM on February 6, 2009

I'm with rossination here for the main course. Put some of your favorite herbs at the bottom of the pan, you could add a sliced onion. Add a generous splash of white wine, put the mussels on top of it. Close the pan with a lid and steam the mothers into submission. Once the top ones are open and can be pulled out whole, you're done. Add some wine if you think the pan is almost cooked dry. Serve with any sauce you like, sometimes I make a mayonaise based dip, but you could also make a vinaigrette to your taste. Serve with a light salad and the best bread you can find. For wine I heartily recommend a Gewürztraminer, which is a great wine for romantic evenings (always buy an extra bottle or two).

If you say you don't want to leave the apartment EVAR, at least don't forget to shop for breakfast the morning after. My suggestion? Scrambled eggs! You think you know your scrambled eggs, watch this version. As always, Antichrist shows the devil is in the details. This is a completely different dish, a wonderful morning is guarantueed.

Have a great meal!
posted by ouke at 5:47 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Stuffed lobster is a huge pain in the ass to make, but is obscenely good if you're willing to put in the effort.

Otherwise, get a good, well-marbled piece of prime beef. NY strip is my preference, about 1-3/4 inches thick. Rub with just a few drops of canola oil, plenty of salt and pepper. 30 seconds on each side in a white-hot cast iron pan, then into a 500 degree oven for another 2 minutes a side (open the windows; this will smoke like a bastard). Serve with roasted asparagus (or brussels sprouts, if you don't do asparagus) and a potato of some sort (I do french fries, because even though they might not be classy, they're perfect). You might also want to make a sauce with the pan drippings; deglaze the pan with wine or brandy, add a little cream, season to taste, and you're good to go. Drink beer with this, good beer; Rogue's Dead Guy works well with this kind of meal.

I don't generally believe in shellfish as a main course, but those mussels up above sure would make a good starter.

Dessert is chocolate lava muffins with vanilla ice cream, homemade (best) or something dense, like Haagen Dazs. Otherwise some fruit and excellent chocolate. And a good sparkling wine; Louis Roederer's Premier Brut is excellent, although I hear their (much less expensive) California sparkling wine is good, too.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:19 AM on February 6, 2009

All of the above ideas are good.

So would a simple "bistro-style" steak -- the most fiddly thing you should do is make a compound seasoned butter first, but you need to do that in advance anyway, it's dead easy and you can use it on other things later -- get a little bit of your favorite herb (fresh) and chop it up; say like a tablespoons' worth chopped. Then let a half a stick of butter get a little soft, dump the herb in and add a little salt, and mush it all together. Stick it back into the fridge to firm up again. (Rosemary, oregano, marjoram, and thyme all work for this.)

With the steaks -- and they don't have to be very big -- just a little salt and pepper and then put them under the broiler for about 3 minutes on each side. When they're done, let them sit a minute, and then put them on the plate -- and then put a little pat of that butter on top of each one.

Another fairly easy meat dish -- you just need a couple chicken cutlets, a couple slices of prosciutto, and a few fresh sage leaves. The cutlets should be about a half-inch thick; if they're not, just pound each one to flatten them until they are. Lay a couple fresh sage leaves on top of each cutlet, then lay a slice of proscuitto on top of the sage leaves, "wrapping" the edges around the chicken where they overlap. Then you just saute them for a few minutes on each side (the fiddliest bit will be flipping over the chicken breasts while keeping the prosciutto still in place, but if you do the prosciutto side first, it sort of "cooks together" and stays in place pretty well).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest fondue as well. It is a luxurious, slowly consumed meal which allows for plenty of time for conversation. Here are my cheese fondue choices:
green apple
sourdough bread chunks
cherry tomatoes

The "classic" recipe calls for a TB of Kirsch, cornstarch (rather than flour) and white wine along with the cheeses. Treat yourself to a new fondue pot and they usually come with a recipe book which will have all sorts of variations.

Or, you could choose to make chocolate fondue for dessert instead with all the fun of mutual dipping and eating off of each other's forks. You can dip strawberries, marshmallows, pears, apples, pound cake, and brownies.

On the other hand, for this kind of Date Night, you might want to be planning the sort of dessert you can eat in bed-- like a pint of Ben & Jerrys and two spoons

Another possibility is some sort of liqueur-based dessert such as a simplified trifle: Store bought pound cake or lady fingers placed into individual bowls and splashed with a good liqueur such as Cointreau, Frangelico, or Grand Marnier. Top with fresh raspberries or strawberries, whipped cream, and slivered almonds. Serve more liqueur on the side.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:49 AM on February 6, 2009

Take 4 small trout fillets, marinate them in Spicy Brown Mustard in the fridge for 1 hour. Take them out, roll them in Zatarains Fish Fry, heat peanut oil in small saucepan, when the oil is 380, drop your fillets, wait about 2 minutes, remove from saucepan and drain on paper towels. It will probably the best fried fish you have ever tasted. You can also do chicken strips rolled in Cap'n Crunch crumbs like they do at Planet Hollywood in Disneyland.
posted by winks007 at 7:03 AM on February 6, 2009

I don't have a specific recipe, but Rouxbe has really great collection of video recipes. You will definitely find something there. You get full access to the site for 30 days if you register.
posted by leigh1 at 8:29 AM on February 6, 2009

Nthing poached pears. They're probably one of the best "bang for the buck" "fancy" desserts in terms of effort. I like one Cooks Illustrated has, with a caramel sauce and pepper. Hopefully someone can find a link to it, but maybe I'll at least point you in the general direction of a good recipe.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:41 AM on February 6, 2009

Two options, one, simple, doable by one.

First, easy option, is get a pork filet, or pork loin. Season/marinade it all to hell. My version? Garlic cloves, basil, sage, maybe rosemary, white wine, and balsamic vinegar. Lots of pepper and salt. Maybe a splash of sweet paprika. Then, take out of the marinade, so that it's not dripping wet, and sear on all sides in a hot pan with olive oil. After seared, remove from pan, and cut the loin into 1/2 inch to inch thick medalions. Cook the medalions in the same pan, with sprinkled on seasonings (try mccormicks salt free garlic and herb, or, well, since garlic is bad, salt and pepper, and again, a touch of paprika), with a splash of wine. After the medalions are cooked through, it's easy to make a pan gravy to serve over potatoes. If you want restauranty presentation, you can put a little dollop of potato in the center of a plate, arrange the medalions in a vaguely curved line, then drizzle heavily reduced pan gravy across the plate.

The romantic, couple working together option is much different: make gyoza (or pot stickers, or jiaozi) together. It involves lots of chopping. Ideally, you get some pork loin roast, cut it into tiny strips, then cut those into tiny cubes. Add to the cubes chopped scallions, chopped baizai (chinese white cabbage/napa cabbage) a bit of minced garlic, a splash of sesame oil, and mix, stirring all the while in the same direction. (If you stir in more than one direction, the mix won't stick together, which causes problems)

After you've mixed everything together, you and your sig/other sit together with spoons and make the dumplings. Get the wrappers at a local Asian supermarket. You can get gyoza/potsticker wrappers, but try to get some wonton wrappers too. Put a tablespoon full into the gyoza wrapper, then seal the edges with a little bit of water. Gyoza can be pan-fried, or boiled, you're call. The wontons take about a teaspoon of mixture. With wontons, fold the wrapper over the mix so it forms a triangle. Fold the base of the triange up towards the point, then wrap the corners of the base towards each other. These are excellent deep fried, dipped in the red sweet and sour sauce found in American Chinese restaurants.

And, well, if you want to wow her, boil some water, set a metal bowl in the water (careful to keep the inside of the bowl seriously dry). Add chocolate to the metal bowl. Melt the chocolate, dredge strawberries through the chocolate until they are coated. Place on wax paper to cool/harden. Eat with champagne and lots of kissing.

And, uh, happy Valentine's Day.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:13 AM on February 6, 2009

Oh, yeah, and along with the fruit for dessert idea: macerated cherries. Take cherries, cut them in half and remove the stones. Also, you can definitely add other fruit here. Cut pears, sliced strawberries, whatever. Douse the fruit in a mix of 1 part balsamic, 1 part sugar. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. Serve topped with fresh (hand whipped, if you can) whipped cream. It literally equals happiness.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:17 AM on February 6, 2009

Going to agree with plinth that with your list of requirements you guys should try cooking en papillote (funny, because I actually made some salmon this way last night). And you don't have to really worry about smelling up the place with fish if you want fish because the steam stays in the package as a bath of flavor to cook whatever is in there. It also doesn't have to be fish. Can be any other protein or no protein if that's how you roll. It's super easy to portion because you can just make two single serving packets and you can even build a good chunk of the meal in the packet since some recipes let you pack the veggies in there too (scroll down to see the salmon recipe in in the following link as an example). The only equipment you need is some parchment can make foil packets too, but paper's fun AND once again agreeing with plinth about the "awwww" factor of doing it the heart shaped parchment way. You can make normal square packets too, but come on, how cute is the heart shaped paper? It's like origami and cooking in one. You guys can make your packets together, throw it in the oven, enjoy some wine or make a salad or rice or something, and if it's fish it's done pretty quick. Just search for en papillote recipes + ingredient of choice.
posted by kkokkodalk at 11:53 AM on February 6, 2009

Best answer: This is very very uncomplicated, but (while simple) also very very tasty and somewhat elegant. It's one of my favorite pasta recipes involving seafood (though I don't recall where I got it):

ingredients: scallops and/or shrimp
unflavored tomato sauce (make your own, or buy a can of something like muir glen) (~2 oz/person)
heavy cream (~8 oz/person)
white wine (I typically use a Soave for this recipe, but many many wines will work: experiment!)
butter (~2 Tb/person)
garlic (I know, but it's not stinky here) (~0.5 Tb/person)
red pepper flakes (small amount)

Saute the garlic in generous amount of butter, just until the garlic begins to color. (The only real way to ruin this recipe is to overcook the garlic: don't let it turn dark and bitter.) Toss in some red pepper flakes. Pour in about half a cup of white wine, and reduce until most of the wine is gone. Put in the tomato sauce and stir to mix; cook for just a minute. Pour in the cream, stir, and heat through. You're looking for something that is light pink and delicious -- a roughly 4:1 ratio of cream to tomato sauce, but (the first couple times you make it) you should add the cream in small amounts, taste, and add more if you want. Add salt to taste.

In a separate pan, saute scallops (or shrimp) in butter, oil, whatever. When they're done, put them in the pan with the sauce and let them sit at low heat for a few minutes.

Cook some penne; drain; mix with the sauce.

I'll often make some bruschetta to go with it. (err, just in case: cut some good bread into thick slices, and put it in the oven. chop tomatoes and a little garlic roughly; peel a couple additional garlic cloves but don't chop them. when the bread is starting to color, pull it out and rub the peeled garlic cloves over it. put tomatoes, garlic, and some fresh basil on each slice of bread. season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.)

For dessert, have some lemon sorbet.
posted by chalkbored at 1:01 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I either do sushi (really not hard to make) or one of two pastas.

GASP pasta
-G arlic
-A rtichoke hearts (marinated)
-S un dried tomatoes
-P esto (a packet of those pesto sauces they sell in grocery stores)

Pretty self explanatory but since it is an oil sauce know it is very potent and you don't put much on the pasta.

Shrimp Scampi
-lime juice
-red pepper flakes
-LOTS of fresh grated Parmesan
-oil & butter

*heat oil & little butter on low/medium, add garlic and let saute for a few minutes. In goes the shrimp until cooked. Just before turning the heat off add cilantro, pepper flakes, lime juice, and half of parmesan. Sprinkle more parmesan on pasta when serving.

You could also make pizza as the date, set up the ingredients and dough then just make a few small pizzas.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 5:47 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: "And, uh, happy Valentine's Day."

Thanks, but it is actually our 4 year anniversary.

These ideas are great. Hive mind, you are, as usual, awesome!
posted by silkygreenbelly at 6:05 PM on February 6, 2009

The famous Strawberry Risotto recipe from The Silver Spoon.
posted by kepano at 12:08 PM on February 8, 2009

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