Cooking for a friend
June 19, 2014 9:35 AM   Subscribe

My dear friend is coming over for dinner tomorrow night and I'd like to impress her with a delicious, healthy meal. Difficulty level: No oven.

A friend that I haven't seen in years is visiting tomorrow night and I promised to cook her dinner. We both enjoy cooking, but lately my meals have been uninspired and focused on efficiency. I want to wow her, but also make it seem like I cook like this all the time. I know, I know.

My friend is very interested in health and fitness, and has previously been vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo at various times. She currently has no dietary restrictions, but requested that the meal be "relatively healthy." I will eat (almost) anything. We are both adventurous eaters.

I have a small but relatively well-equipped and well-stocked kitchen. I do work on Friday so I can't spend all day at the stove. My oven is a temperamental fire-breathing dragon: it doesn't cook evenly, and it kicks out so much heat into my tiny apartment that I never use it. I have access to most ingredients.

Most of my go-to impressive dinners are better suited to colder weather, so something that would be good to serve on a sultry summer night would be great. Bonus points for:
- using in season produce
- make ahead

Hit me with your best recipes!
posted by gumtree to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Caprese salad!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:41 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would go for a gorgeous Salade Niçoise, with fresh tuna or fancy, schmancy canned imported tuna.

Serve with a big loaf of fresh, crusty bread, imported butter and fruit tarts for dessert. Chilled white wine of your choice.

I mean, where the heck is my lunch???
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:42 AM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your oven is out, but how about a stove? (Meaning: can you boil things?) If a stove would work, then a grand aioli would be fantastic; it's simple, vegetable-heavy so it's healthy, and ideal for summer weather. It's kind of a DIY salad-platter thing - cooked seafood (like shrimp, etc.) or tuna (I used the fancy tuna from a can) and hard-boiled eggs alongside things like boiled new potatoes and steamed green beans, raw carrots and crudite-type things, served with really nice bread and the aioli sauce - which you can totally fake by spiking regular mayonnaise with garlic. (Roasted garlic, ideally, but you can get away with roasting it in the microwave - or you could just use raw garlic.)

Round that out with some tapenade and more bread (tapenade is just a spread of olives and other goodness) and some nice fruit for dessert. Or if you wanna get fancy, do an Eton Mess (whipped cream with crushed-up meringue cookies and strawberries in it) or a fruit fool (stewed or mashed fruit folded into whipped cream). Gold.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:42 AM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

And upon lack of preview - a salade nicoise is very, very akin to a grand aioli; they're both from Provence.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home has a fantastic recipe for "Greek Scampi" that I have served for all kinds of occasions, and it's terrific. Basically, shrimp, tomatoes, & feta seasoned with lemon & dill. Serve it over (instant) couscous with a bright green vegetable on the side and a salad. YUM.

One benefit is that it's a very very quick recipe, so you don't have to spend a lot of time at it, and you don't need to keep the burners on long.
posted by janey47 at 9:47 AM on June 19, 2014

How about a ceviche to start things off? Cold, refreshing, citrusy, you don't have to turn on any heat-generating appliances, what's not to like?

Desserts this time of year are required by law to be fresh-fruit based. Slightly mash some strawberries or other berries with a little sugar, and serve them on purchased sponge cakes with some fresh whipped cream.
posted by Liesl at 9:57 AM on June 19, 2014

Response by poster: Great ideas so far! I just wanted to add that I do have a working stove, but I don't have a food processor or blender.
posted by gumtree at 9:59 AM on June 19, 2014

This shrimp and grits recipe doesn't quite pass the "relatively healthy" test, but it is extremely delicious, very impressive looking and very quick and easy to make. I have made this a dozen times and it always wows. Add in a salad to balance out the cheese, etc. if you'd like.
posted by Flamingo at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have a grill or grill pan, these Tandoori Grilled Veggie Kabobs are really really good and easy to prepare. You can throw any veggies you want on there; the clincher is the cubes of paneer. They get soft but don't melt all the way, and are so good. Pick up some naan, grill that too, and you are good to go.
posted by Fig at 10:26 AM on June 19, 2014

I add shrimps and 1/2 cup coconut milk to this forbidden rice recipe to make it decadent yet healthy-delicious.
posted by Milau at 10:49 AM on June 19, 2014

When I didn't have an oven, the was my dinner-staple for guests: In a nice broad pan (some ceramic pans can go on the stovetop), put some thin slices of butter, a thick layer of whole spinach, some cream and then some large-bite-sized seafood pieces - I used some white fish, salmon, scallops and giant shrimps. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, ground nutmeg, and chili if your guest likes it. Put some more very thin slices of butter on the top. Put a lid on, and cook it till the fish is ready - 5-10 mins.
Serve in the pan with rice and wedges of lemon on the side. It's very fresh and healthy. (The butter and cream are easily weighed out by all the spinach).
Works well in an even healthier and more Asian configuration, with coconut milk instead of cream. When I do that, I add soy sauce instead of salt, and sprinkle with cilantro if I can get it, because I love cilantro. I love butter as well, but the dish works fine with oil instead, or even with no fats. It's just the principle of steaming spinach and seafood and something creamy together, and then dressing with lemon juice when cooked.
posted by mumimor at 11:00 AM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Salade nicoise is a terrific idea. Or Greek salad - composed on a plate - tomato, cucumber, onion, and feta cheese slices, and Kalamata olives, drizzled with a good olive oil and maybe a splash of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of Italian herbs, served with crusty bread and good beer or wine. If you want a more filling meal, get a rotisserie chicken and serve slices, or make some lemon chicken or fresh fish, sauteed on the stovetop. I sometimes take chicken fillets, season with some tasty herb mix, then saute fast and hot. They come out juicy and tasty, great with a salad.
posted by theora55 at 11:03 AM on June 19, 2014

What about a Thai beef salad with some sticky rice? Very refreshing and summery. It's not the most authentic, but I've used the Cook's Illustrated recipe successfully (you can just cook the beef quickly in a really hot pan if you don't feel like grilling).
posted by raisindebt at 11:06 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some Asian fusion might work here --- Sesame soba noodles for the main, som tam salad to start? Very different flavors and a couple unusual ingredients, but you can add pretty much any seasonal vegetable you want, and technique wise it's a little show offy if you want it to be --- you can use different cuts to generate different texture, fine julienne, bias slices --- but basically it's all chopping in the end. If you have a mandolin or a food processor with a slicer blade it's pretty quick, too. The noodles will be even better done ahead, and you can prep most of the salad stuff the night before as well. Maybe finish with a rum and tropical fruit granita?

If you do the noodles, make sure to finish with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds --- somehow that always seems to transform noodle dishes from homemade looking to restaurant quality. They usually have them by the Japanese food in normal grocery stores, although they're way cheaper at Indian markets or spice shops, I find.
posted by Diablevert at 11:25 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am heading towards healthy here, not low fat-

Good bread
whole milk mozzarella
flour, salt, butter, milk, onions
olive oil
peeled shrimp

Cook shrimp in olive oil until done.

Cook about a tablespoon of finely chopped onions in 1 tablespoon of butter until clear. Add in tablespoon of flour and stir until the color of peanut butter. Add in 1 cup room temperature milk and stir until think, while layering the other ingredients.

Bread, cut open, soft side up
room temperature cheese
hot shrimp
freshly made white sauce

sprinkle with pine nuts if you like

You can also add in cooked mushrooms, garlic, etc. to make it your own. A bit of pimento never hurt anybody.
posted by myselfasme at 12:30 PM on June 19, 2014

There are some really great ideas here.

Just wanted to chime in for either an appetizer or dessert: do not underestimate a fabulous cheese plate.

Get 2-3 different cheeses and crackers, fruits like grapes, strawberries, blackberries, dates, and accoutrements such as a fig jam, Dijon mustard, even pate...all from your supermarket deli area. I'd recommend a sharp aged cheddar, emmenthaler and something fresh like a dill havarti for starters. You can even go funkier with a Stilton, garlic infused cheddar or cotswald.
posted by floweredfish at 1:21 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks


2 large leeks

1 box fresh mushrooms

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon butter

1/2 (120ml) cup dry white wine

225g (half pound) bowtie pasta (note that you can use any pasta, but bowties work well because flat surface lets the sauce adhere better)

2 eggs

1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream or whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for the pasta

freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 very small pinch nutmeg

1/4 cup (60ml) grated hard cheese, like parmesan or pecorino

parsley, for garnish (optional)

Trim and wash leeks: cut off dark green top, leaving white and light green parts. Slice in half lengthwise, wash under running water, and chop finely. Slice the mushrooms.
Heat oil and butter in a skillet. Add leeks and mushrooms, cooking until leeks are tender, 5 - 8 minutes. Add wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits, and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile, put 2 - 3 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt in a large pot and heat. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions. Be sure to cook the pasta "al dente", as the pasta will continue to cook a bit and absorb moisture when you add the sauce.

While pasta cooks, whisk together eggs, cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheese.

When pasta is just barely done, drain and add egg mixture and cook, on low heat, stirring, until eggs are cooked, about 2 minutes.
Add the leek and mushroom mixture (and meat, if using). Stir to mix well.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with parsley

Also, meat: you can do this recipe with chicken, prawns or ham, or meat-free. I usually lightly sautée some cubed chicken breast in the skillet before I start the leek mixture and put it aside. Then I dump it back in after I've added the wine. Or, if using ham, cube it up and toss it in when you add the wine. Sautéed diced bacon or speck would work too.

posted by amusebuche at 11:01 PM on June 20, 2014

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