Give me ideas on a homecooked dinner!
May 23, 2004 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I need ideas for a special at-home dinner. I want to cook a really special dinner for my wife. Something surprising and exciting. I am not an expert-chef, but I'm pretty good at following directions -- even complicated ones. One additional issue that makes this difficult: We're both on diets. We're not on any special diet; we're just trying to avoid anything with a gargantuan amount of calories. So, I need something exciting, romantic and healthy.
posted by grumblebee to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
Here's a great-tasting, fresh and healthy starter suggestion: Grilled Norwegian Gravlax with Whole Grain Mustard Dill Sauce
posted by dagny at 10:58 AM on May 23, 2004

I think most of the suprising/exciting might in the presentation. Even simple grilled chicken breasts (marinated in lemon juice and soy sauce is good) are impressive when arranged just so on a piece of fresh lettuce with a bit of tomato for colour, particularly with a nice tablecloth and candles.

Something I like to do is to make up a salad with interesting greens and fresh herbs. It helps when you have access to a good garden. Basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary leaves are good. Mint is great, too. I don't have a recipe, but you can just make it up as you go along.

If you have dandelions on your yard, the young leaves are delicious in a salad; they have a sharp, but pleasant flavour which complements the lettuce. But check that the leaves are small and light green - the older, dark green leaves are very bitter. Here are some recipes. Chives are always good - and when they are blooming, they have edible purple flowers (just a little stronger than the leaves) that never fail to impress in a salad or decorating a plate.

I remember doing some research many years ago, and finding out that salads in the medieval and early modern period were often much more adventurous with different kinds of greens than most today, so googling for old recipes might bring up interesting possibilities.
posted by jb at 11:10 AM on May 23, 2004

Broiled fish of your choice (I prefer white firm-fleshed fish), lightly-glazed with whatever (store bought or maybe a balsamic vinegar reduction) for the last couple minutes. The whole process take about 6-8 minutes. But pay attention to the fish once it's been glazed and back under the broiler... walk away and it burns. Grilled some veggies... red onion, a variety of peppers, asparagus, (which takes a steady hand), tomato, mushrooms, or whatever you like. After they're cooked, chop them roughly and fold them into some cous cous (that you've already prepared.. again, 5-10 mins. tops), add a little olive oil, S+P, fresh herb(s) (parsley is fine). It's colorful and fancy looking, but easy cheap and tasty. Plus, it covers your vegetable portion AND the starch. Serve the fish right on top. Make a mixed greens salad and use a fruity or sweetish type dressing, of the vinaigrette variety (but don't drown it). If you could get your hands on some edible flowers for it... well, suddenly it's more than just foliage. Dessert? Chocolate mousse is pretty simple, if you feel like going for it. You can make it ahead of time too. But maybe that's not very diet-like. Start with good ingredients and you really don't have to do much... in my opinion.

Oh... and plenty of wine.
posted by Witty at 11:23 AM on May 23, 2004

I had something like this in Istanbul -- I don't think this is exactly the same recipe, and in fact I've hunted for the correct one for years. But basically, you take a fillet or steak of white-fleshed fish, wrap it in rice paper, add some olives, butter, olive oil, and oregano, and steam or broil for a short time. The result is an amazing, healthy completely tender fish in a perfect little paper packet. It's really awesome.
posted by josh at 11:54 AM on May 23, 2004

I made a salmon roulade for mother's day, it could't have been easier and is really good with a great presentation. Here's the set up:

Get a nice piece of salmon, length is more important than width (no jokes), flat and about 12-14" long. I got two pounds of salmon and it more than fed four of us.

Also get about a pund or less of flounder fillets. You want enough that will cover the width of the salmon fillet.

Final major ingredient is some nice sea scallops, but I think large shrimp might work as well.

Put the scallops on a skewer (tightly packed). Lay the salmon down, then the flounder slightly on top of the salmon and the scallop on top of the flounder. You are going to roll fish up with the scallops as the core. Before you do that, sprinkle fresh dill and parsley along with some olive oil and salt and pepper on top ot the fish.

When I rolled the stuff together, it took some doing to keep it together. You want to roll it tight as you can and then wrap it in parchment paper (very important).

After the fish has been rolled up, I tied it and taped it to squeeze everything together. It was probably overkill, but I can't stress enough that it needs to be squished together. You are going to let it sit for 5-6 hours in the fridge so that everything sort of gels together.

After it sits, cut the roll into about 3/4 inch pieces, up to an inch thick. To do this, use a serrated bread knife and cut slowly and methodically. I punctured the paper slightly with the tip and then dug into it. Oh yeah, make sure you take the skewer out! I was actually quite suprised at how well everything stayed together. Lay the slices on a broil pan and take the paper off.

After you have sliced everything, broil the slices on their side (use a broil pan!) for about 6-7 minutes, or until the fish is firm to the touch. It will be shorter than you think.

Serve with some lemon slices and I promise satisfaction! If you have any questions, email me at my gmail account the user name is "jonahm". I have pictures too.
posted by jonah at 1:32 PM on May 23, 2004

Here are a couple pictures of the above for reference:

Cutting the roll:

On the pan, pre-cook:

posted by jonah at 3:06 PM on May 23, 2004

Get some boring white fish like sea bass, and get a bottle of raspberry vinegrette salad dressing. Put everything in a pan, cook for 6-10 minutes, until the fish is done. Drain off most of the liquid and serve. Your other half will think you're a culinary genius.
posted by falconred at 3:33 PM on May 23, 2004

Lobster never fails. Get a couple of good-sized tails and steam them for about 10 minutes or so (depending on size). Serve with some lemon, melted butter, and asparagus or other green thing. Takes 20 minutes (tops) from start to finish, and it tastes like a million dollars.

You can also boil or broil them, or use whole live lobsters, although that ups the cost pretty considerably. Still a piece of cake, though -- so to speak.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 4:20 PM on May 23, 2004

All grand suggestions above. But the important thing is not to go for large servings or heavy foods if you're hoping for a special after-dinner reward.

Think about dessert. Fruit compote (basically whatever's to hand poached in brandy-laced sugar syrup) with mascarpone, some small and expensive chocolates, ripe pears and dessert wine. Nothing says "special romantic dinner for you, my love" like a dessert course.

At the risk of a self link, I recommend mushrooms, which are disproportionately tastely and not high in energy at all.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:46 PM on May 23, 2004

If you two like sushi, making sushi at home is time consuming, but not hard, and most people are very impressed by it. You can customize sushi rolls with her favorite vegetables or whatever, and set the table like at a sushi restaurant. Fun! Also, once you've invested in the mats and various special ingredients, you'll have it on hand so you can make sushi for parties or whatever. I didn't think I liked sushi until I had it freshly prepared in someone's home.
posted by bonheur at 4:50 PM on May 23, 2004

Really authentic Thai food. That means the hot stuff, not the wussy sweetened goo you may find at some places.

Stir-fried food is usually low on calories and the chillies produce an endorphin rush that can get you "in the mood".

If I weren't so sleepy, I would've typed a few recipes.

(grumblebee, there's also the small matter of what type of food you and the wife like to eat. Italian? Indian? Chinese? McDonald's?)
posted by madman at 1:08 PM on May 24, 2004

made this (Roasted beet salad) last night. Very good, plus looks great. Start early, though, ideally you should do the roasting a day ahead and it takes an hour or so. Don't over-roast your beets...
posted by daver at 4:02 PM on May 24, 2004

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