Imagine that a much anticipated “date night” is just around the corner for you and your partner. You look forward to putting the kids to bed and creating that dream dinner for your spouse or partner. But what should it be? What will make it so special that it will put stars in his or her eyes? Here are some tips on how to plan a meal that aims to please.
1. Tailor it to YOU and YOURS. Each circumstance is different and personal. Your likes and dislikes are not the same as the next person. Making your moment special could mean:
- Making a favorite meal that you don’t make very often.
- Cooking something together if your partner also enjoys the process. You can especially make him/her feel special by having the ingredients all set out and any chopping done ahead of time. This will make the meal go together quickly and is much more fun. Everyone loves having a Sous Chef! 🙂
- Making something you don’t particularly like to cook, but you know your partner will appreciate it if you make it.
- Choosing a favorite ingredient and including it in each course (e.g. coconut would be would be one of my choices. My husband and I both love it!)
2. Keep it SIMPLE. Remember that the purpose of a date night meal is romance, not hours in the kitchen. Simple, healthy foods that are presented in a pretty way are always welcome. What matters is the flavor, not how complicated it is. Use your spices and taste everything before you serve it to be sure that it’s just right. Keep in mind though, that some things that LOOK complicated actually are not all… like rolling some stuffing into the middle of your pork roast instead of just baking it.
3. Explore “make ahead” options. Plan your meal and shop ahead. Many things can be purchased and even made yourself a day or more ahead. Risotto is wonderful for that. It re-heats well and as you will see below, can be made into other things. As well, many things may be simply chopped and organized well ahead. Don’t leave too much to the last minute. You want to have energy to engage with your partner. Make sure you protect your energy source so you’re not nodding off in your soup!
4. Don’t try anything too exotic. This might not be the time to try something new unless you are both very good natured and can withstand a failure. Comfort or familiar food is just fine. Go with the known bet in this case.
5. Make it pleasing to the eye. Pay attention to presentation! Nothing makes a person feel more special than knowing someone else has really fussed over something for them. Take that extra minute or two to carefully present what you have made. A few ways to make your presentation look special are:
- Equal portion sizes look more professional.
- Use a scoop to mound dishes like risotto or potato salad. You can then lean your meat against the mound.
- Cut meats with a sharp knife so you have clean, straight edges. Cut everything, by the way, with a really sharp knife for this reason!
- Use edible flowers as accents. (You can buy small amounts of them in many grocery stores and markets. My favorites are Nasturtium. They have a delicious, peppery taste.)
- Garnish! Snips of fresh herbs make colorful, attractive garnishes. Choose an herb that contrasts with the color but goes with the spices/herbs in your dish. Other great garnishes are tiny bits of chopped, colorful bell pepper, egg yolk pushed through a sieve, tiny strips of carrot and tips of asparagus spears. If you keep small amounts of leftover vegetables, you can always use them as garnish too. They add color, interest and a little extra nutrition.
- Serve your dish on attractive dishware. Keep your eye out for interesting dishes and then just buy two to keep the price down and to be able to offer variety.
6. Have more than one course. It’s so easy to full into a cooking rut. Whether you work outside the home or not, life is busy, hectic and tiring. It’s tempting to grab something on the run or throw together a one dish meal. Not that that is always bad, but your partner will be impressed if you come up with more than one course. It isn’t that hard. The first course could be a “store bought” soup (with a garnish of course!). The second could be something special you made yourself and dessert could be ice cream with a special sauce or berries or something purchased from a store.
This is a great time to think about any leftovers in your refrigerator. Is there anything that could be re-worked to become a course on its own? For example, if you have leftover risotto, you can form it into balls, press a small cube of cheese in the middle, dip it in egg and then flour and then deep fry it for a delicious appetizer or starch side dish. A little bit of leftover soup can be served in a tiny terrine as an appetizer. Leftover cheese and turkey can become a mini grilled Panini sandwich appetizer. Simple scoops of melon on a skewer make a light and refreshing appetizer. Use your imagination. The list is endless!
Pick out some ideas above, add a smile and your special person will feel like he/she is in a restaurant created just for them! Happy Date Night!