Date Night Dinner for 2
Weeks linger for an eternity it seems, and by the time Friday gets around to showing up everyone's exhausted. Yet Fridays signal the weekend, and surely something must be done to welcome two days of relative rest, right?
We set about to create a dinner that's easy and low stress, and this fits that bill, yet still feels special enough for a date night or a special occasion. This particular weekend is Valentine's day, and so we're going the extra mile to do some advance work and make it memorable.
Cooking, for us, is a relaxing thing, but this is a meal where it definitely pays to do a bit of prep, so that date night can feel nothing but joyful. With a little planning, this meal will be a treat and the quantities below will make enough for lots of leftover options, so worth the extra effort.
Prep the dips for the veggie board the day before if you can- if you don't get to them before, then focus on those first when you get home so you can set the board up and nibble while you prep the rest of the meal. The dips are quick and easy with a food processor or blender, and keep well, refrigerated, overnight. Choose one, or make all 4 if you're feeling fierce. Roast the beets before- 1-3 days ahead works just fine - and then the whole thing will come together in minutes. For the veggies on the board, think rainbow radishes, carrots, cucumbers, asparagus- anything that's in season, piled high.
The cake also begs to be made the day before, or up to 4 days ahead in fact. Store it tightly wrapped at room temperature, and allow the flavors and textures to meld and mature.
For the pilaf, it helps to make the wild rice ahead of time, as it will cook at a different rate than the Quinoa. Make it the day before, or skip it and just go with the Quinoa which takes only about 20 minutes (the rice will take 45). Below you'll find the recipe using rice that's been cooked already. The shrimp is a quick turn in the pan with a bit of garlic and splash of lemon, the butter adds great flavor, but you can substitute olive oil if you're feeling virtuous.
Speaking of olive oil, the olive oil cake is a classic from Bon Appetit which we've updated with cornmeal instead of almond flour, adding a nice toothsome crunch and a gorgeous yellow color- a perfect contrast to fresh fruit or some spiced whipped cream.
Having done the prep before, you should pour your favorite drink and settle in to do some minimal chopping, stirring and mixing. You're well on your way to making something special of the evening - a three-course meal of dips and veggies, wild rice and quinoa pilaf with shrimp, and an absolutely stunning olive oil cake to top with fruit or whipped cream. Happy Weekend!
Dips and Veggies - 4 variations
For the Dips:
White Bean, Garlic & Basil:
Roasted Red Pepper & Feta:
Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Dip:
Grain Pilaf with Shrimp
For the Pilaf:
Wild Rice & Quinoa with Parsley, Scallions & Pistachios:
For the Shrimp:
Olive Oil Cake with Cornmeal
Olive Oil Cake: