You've met someone you really like. You started at "let's meet for latte", moved on to dinner at the hottest new restaurant, and now you want to take things to the next level — dinner at your place. There's only one problem: you don't know how to cook.
Fear not! Help is here.
Cooking for someone shows that you care enough to invest your time and effort in doing something to please them. It's easy to pick up the check at Bistro Fancypants.
Making dinner for a date at home doesn't have to be scary, or even all that difficult.
Rule Number One: Keep things simple (or, in this context, KISS -- Keep It Simple, Stupid).
Rule Number Two: Know your audience.
Rule Number Three: Make a plan of action, including the timing.
It's that simple. Here's how to go about it.
Rule Number One:
Avoid elaborate preparations or recipes with a long list of ingredients. If it has more than five beyond the main ingredient and salt and pepper, this is not the time to try it. As with many things in life, less is more. A simple recipe allows each of the ingredients to have a voice. Too many items in a dish can result in a muddled final flavor.
In simple recipes, it is important to buy the best ingredients you can find. This is the time to splurge at the farmers' market on the free-range, pasture-raised chicken.
Rule Number Two:
Think back on what your date ordered when you went out to dinner together. Did he love the Indian restaurant? Was she over the moon about the ribeye steak? Plan your dinner along similar menu lines. However, don't try to replicate an ethnic cuisine that you didn't grow up with. If your date did in fact love the Indian restaurant, prepare a side dish with a dash of curry powder. Don't aim for an authentic Tikka Masala.
Rule Number Three:
Start with the moment you want to be sitting down at the table, and work backwards from there. Read all recipes through twice so that you are not blindsided by a step that says to "let rest twenty minutes" that you hadn't taken into account.
Avoid recipes that require last-minute fussing. You want to be enjoying a pre-dinner drink (alcoholic or not) with your date, not whisking the white butter sauce that goes with the entree.
Set the table before you even begin preparing dinner. Take out all serving dishes and implements you intend to use. Nothing kills a romantic mood quicker than having to hunt frantically for the salad serving set.
You don't need a five-course dinner in order to impress someone. Put out some nibbles with the pre-dinner drinks (a dish of nuts, a dish of olives and some crackers will do just fine). You can skip the appetizer and go straight to the main course. (Restaurants all have nice appetizer menus because they are a good source of revenue.)
For the main course, one main ingredient (meat, poultry, fish, or a vegan option) with two sides dishes is perfectly respectable. Three side dishes begin to be impressive. For dessert, you can go store-bought and fancy, or once again keep it simple. Ice cream and berries, or sorbet and nice little cookies are a lovely finish to a dinner.
Just relax, plan a nice simple dinner, and enjoy the adventure. Remember that Julia Child understood that no one knows what happens in the kitchen except the cook.
A lovely dinner for a date at home may or may not lead to a grand romance, but it sure is a good place to start.