The one you love most remembers those early days in your relationship when you actively pursued her with romantic overtures. Though those intense days may have passed, your love for her hasn’t. Now it’s time to rediscover and share the romantic side of you that she has missed.
Whether single or married with kids, I have always placed romance in a primary place in my life. Though I am no great cook, I am a guy who knows how to get results when I put a little time and effort into planning the perfect evening. So trust me, you’re going to enjoy this. And, men, you get to use the grill.
Listen up and follow these simple rules:
• Never forget: Everything you do tonight is about pleasing her.
• Never tell her how easy it was to create these dishes. Chefs (like magicians) never reveal their illusions.
• If you have kids, send them off for the evening. You make the arrangements.
• Tidy up the place. Nothing puts her in the mood like a clean house.
• Dress nicer than usual. Wear that shirt she likes to see you in, or buy something new.
• You may not want to surprise her totally, but don’t tell her everything. Just explain that you’re setting up a special evening and you’ll need the afternoon alone in the house to get everything ready.
Once she’s out of the house and you have bought everything on the list I’ve provided, it’s time to create the mood.
• Have her favorite music playing softly. For my wife, we’re talking Nora Jones or that Michael Bubbly guy.
• Place candles all over the room. If you don’t know her scent of choice, cinnamon or vanilla are good bets.
• What is her favorite flower? Find out and have them on the table. Even a small and simple arrangement will earn you points. When in doubt, a few half-opened roses are affordable and tasteful.
• Use your best dishes. I placed our antique cafe table in our living room surrounded by a dozen candles. Also open up an area where the two of you can dance between courses.
• Select her favorite wine. For this menu, I suggest a nice, dry Italian white wine, always served cold.
• Did I mention you are cooking tonight? If you are like me and don’t have much experience entertaining, this is your lucky day. I can help, but you take all of the credit. Let’s start with your five-course dinner.
Preparing these courses in advance will keep the evening moving and give you more time together tonight.
First course: Grilled Shrimp, Sea Scallops and Pineapple Kabobs
12 to 20 good-sized shrimp (without the heads and shells. Frozen works well if you don’t live on the coast like most of us.
Fresh pineapple (cut into bite-size chunks)
Olive oil, chopped garlic, herb butter and fresh rosemary
Thoroughly wash and pat dry the shrimps and scallops.
Pull off the end shells of your shrimp.
Slice and toss the whitish tough ends of the pineapple slices. Keep the tender ends.
Weave the shrimps and the pineapple chunks onto the kabob skewers. Then, separate the shrimps with a single scallop. Repeat.
Cover and place four or five kabobs in the fridge for later.
That evening, drizzle the kabobs with the olive oil and grill lightly (No grill? Saute in the olive oil.) As they are grilling, sprinkle on the rosemary, chopped garlic and herb butter. Grill until the shrimp begin to turn white. The pineapple should begin to caramelize (turn dark yellow and shiny).
Before presenting her with your first course, I suggest you try one of the shrimps to make sure they are cooked perfectly. This is also the right time to bring in the sliced fresh bread from the kitchen.
Keep a close eye on her wineglass. Refresh it before it is drained.
Offer a slow dance. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a dancer, she will love you for it. The dancing will be one of her favorite parts of the evening.
Second course: Capri Salad
Waiting in the refrigerator for this very moment is your Capri salad. Guys, do not skip this course. This simple salad will be the secret weapon.
Fresh mozzarella di buffalo cheese
Fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper
Slice the tomatoes and the mozzarella thinly.
Alternate the tomato and the mozzarella slices on a small to medium platter.
Wash and pat dry the basil. Remove leaves from the stems and stack the leaves and then slice. Sprinkle them over tomatoes and cheese.
In a small measuring cup, measure out ¼ cup of olive oil. Add 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (if you can’t find a real bottle of balsamic vinegar, substitute a red wine vinegar). Whisk until the oil and vinegar are well blended.
Cover and place in the fridge for later.
Just before serving, pour vinegar and oil sparingly over the tomatoes and cheese. Finally, grind sea salt and fresh pepper over all of it.
Be a good listener. Ask her questions about her day. This will allow her to relax and turn her attention to this fabulous evening. Do not offer “helpful” ideas on how she can solve anything tonight. Try to steer the conversation away from any potential negative topics (kids, work, etc.). Remember, you are trying to take her away from all that.
Third course: Tenderloin or Rib Eye Steak with Sea Scallops
Here is where you can turn to your grill (or oven). Like all of your courses, a little goes a long way. Keep your servings on the small side.
One tenderloin, rib-eye, or porterhouse steak (not fatty)
Six to eight sea scallops (fresh when possible)
10-15 (fresh) green beans, asparagus or other favorite vegetable
A few slices of herb butter
Cut the steak into two equal-sized round shapes. Trim off fat.
Place steaks on a plate with six sea scallops. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge until ready to grill them.
Begin to grill or broil your steaks to her liking.
When steaks are ready to turn, put six scallops on the grill along with your vegetables. Watch them closely. Take them off the heat when they are still a little crisp.
Time your steaks, vegetable and scallops to finish up at the same time.
On a clean dinner plate, place the three scallops on top of the steak. Then place a small amount of the herb butter on top of the scallops right away to allow the butter to melt all over the scallops and steaks. Artfully arrange the vegetables on the side. Enjoy and let time fly together.
Clear the plates. Refresh wineglasses.
You’re doing great! Don’t blow it now by dominating the conversation or arguing about something. We guys tend to talk too much (or too little). Don’t try to dazzle her with your irresistable wit. Listen more than anything else. Make eye contact and smile. Now that will dazzle her.
Fourth course: Chocolate-dipped Strawberries
Like all of the other courses, you need to have this one prepared ahead and waiting in the refrigerator.
Wash and pat dry strawberries.
Follow the easy directions on the Bakers© Dipping Chocolate.
Leave the green tuffs attached. When dipping, leave the top third red.
After you’re finished dipping them, place strawberries on a nice plate or platter, cover in plastic wrap and put in fridge
Just before your big entrance with the strawberries, pop a bottle of her favorite champagne and fill two glasses.
Dance a few really slow dances together.
Now it’s time for the ultimate surprise. Coming up will be your happy ending to a perfect evening. I can almost guarantee you have never heard of this seductive and simple Italian secret weapon.
Fifth (and final) course: Pecorino con miele di tartufoPecorino cheese with truffle honey. (OMG!)
Wonderful as the first four courses were, she might only remember this course — your best of the evening. It is also the easiest to prepare. My Italian friends tell me this used to be a highly kept culinary secret.
Pecorino cheese (You might have to go to a gourmet food store to find them. No substitutes. I prefer the pecorino that is firm on the outside but softer on the inside).
A small bottle of honey with truffles (again, check with the gourmet food stores. I can almost guarantee, she will have never ever tasted anything as earthy, fragrant and suggestively intense as honey with truffles. If you simply can’t locate honey with truffles, chestnut honey will do in a pinch.)
Scatter cheese slices in no apparent design. Open the jar of truffle honey and place it gently under her nose. Watch her eyes. Then drizzle the honey sparingly from one piece of pecorino to the next.
If she likes to be in control of her own pleasure, pour the truffle honey in a small bowl. Let her dip in her pecorino by herself. After the last slice of pecorino is gone and you’ve both licked the last of the truffled honey off the plate, clear the table leaving only two half-full glasses of wine, soft music and lights. And the two of you.
Congratulations. You have created and consummated the perfect evening for her. You deserve all the credit. Accept it graciously. Turn down all offers to help with the dishes.
She knows that you still have “it” — that romantic touch. Good for you. Good for her. And good for your love for each other.
Now it’s her turn. Refresh each of your glasses and move onto the rest of your evening together. Let’s call this the sixth course: Nibbling on each other.
Daniel and Jeni L’Esperance are Department of Defense Dependents Schools teachers in Heidelberg, Germany. They are part-time residents of Colognora di Pescaglia, Tuscany, Italy, where they have spent many romantic evenings.
Grocery ListWhen possible, choose items that are fresh.
Produce department:6-8 small fresh tomatoesFresh basilFresh rosemaryFresh garlicFresh strawberriesFresh pineapple (cored if possible)Olive oilBalsamic vinegar
Meat/seafood department:1 rib-eye, porterhouse or t-bone steak30-plus shrimp (without heads and tails), frozen is OK.Shish kabob sticks6 scallops
Dairy department:8 oz. dark chocolate (60-70 percent cocoa)8 oz. pecorino cheeseFresh mozzarella de buffalo (in a tub)1 stick of garlic/herb butter
And don’t forget …A small jar of honey with truffles (Save gas and call specialty shops first).Her favorite wine (Don’t run out!)A bottle of cold still or fizzy water (her choice again)Fresh bread from the bakery (cut in 3-by-3-inch pieces arranged on a tray or plate)