Date Night at Home: Romance in Your Kitchen

By Kathy Patrick

 

W
hat comes to mind when you think of date night? Dinner and a movie, dinner with no kids, dinner and a concert, dinner and shopping, dinner and…Well, you see the pattern here. Date night often includes dinner out, which can combine a fantastic meal with a wonderful evening. On a bad night, it might mean lots of traffic, distant parking, the interminable wait for a table, not-so-great-service, and/or a pricey tab. Why not shake things up a bit and enjoy a cozy romantic date night at home? Winter’s shorter days and cooler temperatures make dinner at home an inviting date night locale, especially if you plan to spend the evening together in the kitchen! With a little planning and an eye for romance, dinner at home can be that perfect combination of a fantastic meal and wonderful evening.

Here are some tips for upping the romance factor:

  • Pick a date and time you each agree upon and put it on both your calendars. You may even want to divide up shopping activities and make sure you both have time on the calendar for your pre-dinner assignments.
  • Set a pretty table, either in the dining room or in front of the fireplace. Use your nice glasses for water, cocktails, and wine. You can do this the day before, or the morning of the dinner if that’s an option.
  • Have plenty of candles, and consider using votive or jarred candles so there’s less worry about wax spills.
  • Find music you don’t normally listen to such as jazz, classical, Latin, Big Band, blues, etc.
  • The night of the dinner, put the phones and tablets far, far away and don’t touch them the whole evening.
  • Dress up. Wear that outfit you haven’t gotten to wear, break out a dress shirt, and put on your good shoes.
  • Prepare things ahead of time if possible. Put your dinner items on a single shelf in the refrigerator and in a separate space on the counter so it’s easy to grab what you need as you cook together.
  • Serve your meal one course at a time. Have a glass of sparkling water or maybe a cocktail while you enjoy appetizers, then head back to the kitchen to make the salad together. Enjoy the salad at the table, then put together the next course.

Included here are two great entrée choices and an easy dessert for a fun and flavorful date night dinner at home. You may want to add an appetizer (like triple cream brie topped with a fig jam and balsamic glaze served with crackers), a salad (maybe arugula with green onions, radishes, and Marcona almonds dressed with olive oil and lemon juice), sparkling water, and a bottle of wine or cocktail to go with the meal. Have fun and enjoy the romance in your own kitchen as you savor date night at home.

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” ― Craig Claiborne

Herb-Garlic Crusted Flank Steak with Pan-Roasted Grapes

Serves 2

Pan-roasted grapes and blue cheese offer a nice alternative to the typical butter-topper for steak.  Make the mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower ahead of time (even the day before), reheat in the microwave, and serve as a base under the flank steak.

1 tsp. fresh thyme

1 tsp. fresh rosemary

1 garlic clove, minced

¾ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper

16-oz. flank steak

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cups assorted whole seedless grapes

1 shallot, sliced thinly

1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup freshly crumbled blue cheese

Mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower, for serving

 

  1. Combine first 5 ingredients. Rub steak with herb mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cook steak 6 to 7 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steak to a plate or cutting board and tent loosely with foil.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to pan, and sauté grapes and shallots 5 to 6 minutes or until grapes just begin to soften.
  3. Remove from heat and let stand 1 minute. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Slice steak against the grain into thin slices. Arrange mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower on dinner plates. Top with steak and spoon grapes and blue cheese over meat. Serve with a sprinkle of additional fresh herbs if desired.
  1. Combine first 5 ingredients. Rub steak with herb mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cook steak 6 to 7 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steak to a plate or cutting board and tent loosely with foil.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to pan, and sauté grapes and shallots 5 to 6 minutes or until grapes just begin to soften.
  3. Remove from heat and let stand 1 minute. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Slice steak against the grain into thin slices. Arrange mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower on dinner plates. Top with steak and spoon grapes and blue cheese over meat. Serve with a sprinkle of additional fresh herbs if desired.

Creamy Garlic Scallop Spaghetti with Bacon

Serves 2

You can prepare everything you need in advance and then spend as little as 15 minutes getting this delicious dish on the table. Precook the bacon and save the grease, chop the garlic, have a pot of salted water on the stove ready to boil for the pasta; basically, anything you can think of that can be done in advance.

 

½ pound dry spaghetti

4 slices crisp cooked bacon, chopped

1-lb. medium sized scallops

Salt and pepper to season

3 Tbsp. olive oil

6 cloves minced garlic

½ cup white wine

1 cup low sodium seafood stock or chicken stock

1½ cups whipping cream

2 large tomatoes center pulp removed and diced small

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh parsley, to serve

 

  1. Cook the dry spaghetti to al dente in salted water and drain.
  2. Crisp cook the bacon in a large sauté pan and roughly chop it. Set aside.
  3. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and pan sear them in the bacon fat over medium-high heat for about 1½ to 2 minutes per side and set aside with the bacon. Do not overcook the scallops!
  4. Drain the bacon fat from the pan and add the olive oil and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or until garlic is aromatic.
  5. Add the wine and stock and simmer for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by about a third. Add the cream and simmer for an additional 2 minutes. Do not allow to boil.
  6. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Add bacon, tomatoes, and scallops to the sauce. Simmer for a minute or two to warm the scallops through before adding the cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese.
  7. Gently toss the pasta and sauce together before serving. Top with the parsley.

Strawberries and Spiked Syrup

Serves 2

An easy, light, and romantic dessert. You may want to serve with cubes of pound cake, brownie bites, or your favorite cookies. Add raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries for an even more colorful dessert.

 

1-lb. strawberries, hulled and halved

¼ cup granulated sugar

⅓ cup water

2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, cognac, or fruit brandy

Redi-Whip or frozen non-dairy topping

 

  1. Place the strawberries in a large bowl.
  2. Simmer the granulated sugar and ⅓cup water on the stovetop until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and stir in the Grand Marnier, cognac, or fruit brandy. Pour the syrup over the strawberries and toss.
  3. Divide the strawberry mixture among individual bowls and top with the whipped cream.
  4. If you want to have pound cake, cookies, or brownie bites, serve them on a pretty plate and dunk pieces in your bowl of fruit and syrup for a delicious, slightly messy treat!

 

Kathy Patrick owns Meals on Heels, a personal chef service. Kathy makes entertaining in your home fun, easy and delicious! Enjoy hosting dinner parties, holiday occasions, and other special events with Kathy’s expertise. Kathy is happily married to party Cipollini. She enjoys herb gardening and exercising. Reach her at greatfood@mealsonheelsga.com.

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