It’s February, so that means another addition of my Party, On! series, in which I debunk excuses for NOT partying. Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I figured this was a good time to address the issue of ‘It’s too hard to cook for just two people.’ To that I say, NU-UH! All you need to do is either adapt a recipe or cook without following a recipe. (GASP!)
There are a lot of recipes that can be reduced down to two servings. If a recipe says it serves 4, then prove math teachers everywhere right and use some real life division to cut the ingredient amounts in half. You will inevitably run into issues with this, though. For example, it’s nearly impossible to measure 1/16 of a teaspoon of something. You can also get stuck with a lot of extra amounts of ingredients that you won’t use up.
In our house, most nights it’s just the husband and me for dinner. And most nights, I cook without following a recipe. I know that’s kind of a scary idea. A recipe feels safe because someone has made this before and liked it. It’s tried and true! Without a recipe, how do you know that things will taste good together? Well, I wager that you have been eating food for the majority of your life. Through all these years of eating, you already know what tastes good together. To cook without a recipe, just pull on those tastes that you already know are delicious.That’s how I came up with the menu for this meal.
Now, I am going to contradict myself and outline recipes for the following dishes. But I hope that you’ll use these as a starting point and venture into unknown cooking territory!
Cream Cheese Stuffed Peppadews I’m easing you into no-recipe terrain here. It’s the stuffing technique that’s important, not the precise ingredients
Peppadew peppers from the olive bar at the grocery store, or drained from a jar
Stuff about a 1/2 a teaspoon cream cheese into each pepper. Drizzle olive oil over peppers and salt and pepper to taste. Don’t like peppers? Stuff some gigantic olives or mushrooms instead. Don’t like cream cheese, substitute any cheese of your choice.
Blood Orange Salad with Feta and Black Olives This is just one example of a sweet, salty, savory salad. Try any combination of fruit, cheese, and acid/salt
1 blood orange per person, peeled and cut into 1/8″ thick round slices
salt-cured black olives, chopped
Place orange slices on plate. Top with cheese and olives.
Pepper-Crusted Tuna over Bitter Greens with Lemon Butter Sauce Fish over something is the technique this recipe demonstrates. The something could also be a starch like pasta or rice, or a cold bed of salad greens, if you’re not a fan of bitter greens.
1 tuna steak per person
fresh ground pepper and salt
1 head bitter greens (curly endive, escarole, chicory, or frisee), well washed and chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt both sides of the tuna then press pepper all over tuna steak. Heat oil in frying pan over high heat. Sear tuna until crusty and done as much as you like (I did two minutes per side because I like my tuna very rare). Remove tuna from pan and set aside. In same pan, add a little more oil and lower heat to medium. Add all of the greens and stir until wilted. Place greens on plates and tuna on top of greens. In same pan again, add 1 Tablespoon butter and lemon juice. Cook until slightly browned and drizzle over tuna and greens.
With a little practice, you can be cooking without a recipe all the time! If you want to read a great book about the no-recipe philosophy, I highly recommend How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson. Instead of jostling for position at the hostess stand with every other couple in the entire world on Valentine’s eve, why not stay home and whip up a delicious, intimate, custom dinner for two? With or without recipes.