The first few times your cook don't have to be nerve-racking. This menu may appear overwhelming at first, but the only thing you’re actually going to cook is the main course. Everything else is store bought. Sounds better already, doesn’t it? Even so, I recommend trying this meal out on a close friend (of the non-romantic variety) or family member before attempting to cook for a date. You’ll be way more confident when it comes time to prepare for the big night.
Please read the entire tutorial carefully to ensure a successful seduction.
When preparing food, always remember to wash your hands often.
Hint: If you can’t find an item on the shopping list at your local grocery store, definitely ask the nearest cute girl (or someone who works at the market) for help.
Once you’re comfortable with this meal you can use it on different dates (lucky you!) or search our menu and recipe section and attempt a new dish.
THE MENU IS FOR TWO
Here’s the overview. I’ll give you the cooking instructions a little later.
She’ll be nibbling on fresh olives and almonds while sipping Prosecco.
Knock the socks off your date (at least), with a tantalizing plate full of baked salmon with lemon pesto and feta cheese, resting on a bed of spinach.
Get something decadently chocolately from the fresh baked goods section at your market or local bakery.
You will be drinking an Italian sparkling wine called Prosecco. Serve it chilled, either in flutes or wine glasses. Prosecco is the Italian version of champagne.
Also have water handy. It’s important to hydrate; it’s good for stamina… and you’ll both feel better come morning too.
Listen to: Hotel Costes #8 (see “Music to Feast By)
Table Setting: Informal, with flowers.
1) THE TABLE SETTING
Let’s get started with what you will need for the table setting. Make sure you have the following:
• 2 nice dinner plates
• 2 smaller plates that match (to serve dessert)
• 2 flutes or wine glasses
• 2 straight glasses for water
• 2 matching knives and forks
• Colorful paper napkins or cloth ones
• 3 small mini bowls for olives, olive pits and almonds.
• A center piece of flowers
Before you begin cooking, set the table as follows:
Use an informal setting. The napkin is folded and placed to the left of the plate. The dinner fork rests to the right of the napkin, but not on the napkin. The knife is placed to the right of the plate, cutting edge facing towards the plate. Have a water glass to the right of the knife, at the upper right hand corner of the plate.
2) PUT OUT THE APPETIZERS
Before she arrives, put out some almonds and some great olives on the table. Have an extra little plate for olive pits. There are many types of olives, so go to your supermarket and sample. Get a small container of the olives you like and a small container of almonds. Women like to snack and this is a great healthy tease before the main course.
3) COOKING THE MAIN COURSE
Baked Salmon with Lemon Pesto and Feta Cheese, resting on a bed of spinach.
Time: 50 Minutes
Hints: You can make the pesto a day or two before she comes, if you want. Cook the fish and heat up the spinach while she is there.
Cooking Tip: Remember when cooking that you can always add ingredients, but you can’t take them away.
Store your fish and perishables in the refrigerator until you need them.
• Small sauté pan
• Baking sheet
• Citrus zester
• Measuring cups
• Measuring spoons
• Chef’s knife
• Cutting board
• Hand blender or mini Cuisinart (if you don’t have one, you can make
batches in your blender.)
• Paper towels
WHERE TO SHOP FOR EQUIPMENT AND SETTINGS:Target, Linens+Things, Wal-Mart, Bed, Bath and Beyond.
• 1 cup of almonds
• 1 cup of olives
MAIN COURSE (Baked Salmon with Lemon Pesto and Feta)
• 3/4 cup of walnuts
• 1 bunch of basil
• 1 bunch of Italian parsley
• 3 – 5 cloves of cleaned fresh garlic (more on this later)
• 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon of fresh, cracked pepper
• Zest of 1 lemon (more on this later)
• Juice of 1 lemon (more on this later)
• Kosher salt to taste
Two 1/2 pound pieces of fresh, wild salmon. I prefer wild salmon because it has more flavor and is healthier. Buy what your budget can afford, but stay away from frozen if you can. Get the salmon with the skin removed. (Ask your fish monger to take out any bones and remove the skin for you. This will make your job easier.)
• 3 cups of frozen, chopped spinach (thawed). That’s 24 ounces.
• 1 packet (6-8 oz) of crumbled feta cheese
• Nice loaf of bread (optional)
• Cooking spray or olive oil spray
•Buy a chocolate tart or mouse for two
WHERE TO SHOP FOR FOOD: Depending on your budget, shop at a market that has a great seafood section. Here in southern California, Whole Foods is usually a safe bet. Trader Joes (doesn’t always have fresh stuff) is great, followed by a sea of chain supermarkets.
A) Make the pesto
B) Make the salmon
C) Make the spinach
A) MAKE THE PESTO
Quick Tips: Always wash fresh herbs and vegetables and pat dry with a paper towel. I usually put them in a strainer for easy washing.
Handy Tip: First taste a piece of feta. (Since the feta cheese will be placed on top of the pesto, which is on top of the fish, you do not want to over salt your pesto sauce.) This will determine how much salt you will need to add.
Handy Tip: When cooking, always taste your creations to make sure they don’t taste like crap and are seasoned well.
1) Roasting the walnuts is optional, but adds a great nutty flavor. To roast walnuts, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and then bake them on a cookie sheet for 7-12 minutes. Check on them regularly to make sure they don't burn. If they do, you must start over. There’s no rescuing burnt nuts.
2) Take the leaves off HALF of the basil bunch and HALF of the Italian parsley and add them to a hand blender, blender or mini Cuisinart. With the parsley, you only need to chop off the major stems at the root of the herbs.
3) Add the garlic, nuts, pepper, lemon zest and a pinch of salt to the
blender. To clean the garlic, you’ll need to take the skin off. Pull the cloves from the head of garlic and smash each individual clove (not too hard) with the palm of your hand. Remove the skin and gather the exposed meat. Next you’ll need to zest your lemon. Zesting is grating the skin of a citrus fruit. You can use a citrus zester or a cheese grater. Scrape the lemon along the grater, rotating until you’ve removed most of the skin. Add the zest (skin) to the blender.
4) Add the extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice to the blender.
5) Blend all of the ingredients together until a thick paste is created.
6) Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.
Place the pesto in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator until needed. FYI: YOU WILL HAVE LEFT-OVER PESTO. You can freeze this or you can keep it covered in your refrigerator for up to a week. It’s great over veggies, chicken, or as a pasta sauce. Just add some Parmesan cheese to it and you will be in heaven.
B) THE SALMON
1) Pre-heat your oven to 450˚ F
2) Take your fish out and inspect it for any bones. Pull them out.Pat the fish dry with a paper towel if needed.
3) Spray your baking sheet with cooking spray.
4) Place the fish on the baking sheet and place 3 tablespoons of pesto on top of
5) Pat the pesto in place by hand. Make sure the layer of pesto is even and covers the
top of the salmon completely. Generously sprinkle feta over each salmon piece.
6) Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, 1 10 minutes. 1 and 1/2 10-12 inches depending on the thickness of the fillet and how hot your oven gets. The fish should appear opaque (not clear).
C) THE SPINACH
1) Place spinach in a bowl and microwave until thawed. If you do not have a microwave,place spinach in a small sauce pan and thaw out over a medium heat.
2) Drain spinach with a strainer.
3) Heat up to serving temperature in microwave or sauce pan. Season with salt and pepper and keep it warm.
Get two plates out. When the fish is done, take it out of the oven. Spoon a bed of spinach on both plates. Place a piece of fish on the spinach. That’s it -- you’re ready to feast. Bon appétit!
Once you have mastered this meal, check out our MENUS section for more inspiration.