photo by James Moes
If you needed a restaurant recommendation in Seattle my husband and I were the ones to ask. After we were married, nearly every Friday night we would have “date night”. For days in advance I’d scour magazines, the Internet and newspapers trying to decide which restaurant to try. We never went to the same place twice.
After the meal he and I would jot down a few notes in our black moleskin; what we ate, what we drank and our general thoughts on the experience. Gabe would snag a business card on the way out and we would paste that right next to our notes.
I recently found one of these dining journals. Instantly wonderful memories of these shared meals washed over me. I relived the tastes as I read the accounts of our meals. Oh yes I remember how intensely rich and perfect that cup of Chocolat Chaud was and how delighted and intrigued we were with the hot bowl of cheese we now know of as Raclette.
As you can imagine our Friday nights look a bit different these days. Those lengthy meals in fabulous restaurants are mostly a thing of the past. I wouldn’t trade it for the world for what we have now – 3 loud and crazy mouths to feed, being done with dinner by 5 pm and barely getting a chance to sit and eat ourselves. But continuing to date is still very important to us, we’ve just had to get a bit creative to make it work.
So we created an in home date night. Here’s how we’ve made it work. We set an evening aside weekly for us to cook together and sit down to a nice, hot meal – without the distractions that is inevitable when the kidlets are awake. Earlier in the evening we prepare a simple meal for the kids and let them eat. Once they are in bed we pour ourselves a drink and begin to cook. We may not eat until 8 or 9 but we don’t mind. When we do eat it’s quiet, it’s delicious and it’s quiet.
Gabe and I use this time to catch up and check in with each other. In this harried season in our lives we so often forget to stop, breathe and say “hey, how are you doing?”
The other rule behind these evenings is that we have to cook from a recipe. When I cook for my family it’s mostly based on what we have in the cupboards and fridge. It’s quick, simple and made up on the spot. But with stacks and stacks of amazing cookbooks, I’m determined to put them to good use. Following a recipe also teaches me about new-to-me ingredients and new techniques.
For our first date night we cooked out of Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday. Any dish with flavors that hearken back to my husband’s Mexican heritage he loves. So we happily set out to cook the Roasted Poblano Tacos with Tomatillo salsa and Cowboy beans.
The entire meal was a cinch to throw together, as are most of the recipes in this book. There wasn’t a staggering list of ingredients yet the flavors were rich, bold and intense.
My favorite part of our first date night meal were the cowboy beans. Smokey and tangy. It was a bean revelation for me – I had no idea you could pack so much flavor into pinto beans. I’ve made this recipe several times since this meal.
I look forward to these evenings. Now rather than scouring the internet for which restaurant to hit up I flip through hundreds of recipes, creasing the pages of dozens as I anticipate many more dates to come.
This weekend my husband and I celebrate 7 years of marriage. In that time we’ve moved 5 times, lived in 2 different states, had 3 children and many memorable dates. We’ve loved one another through the best days of our lives and the worst. He is my best friend and there is no one else I’d rather eat with and date than my husband.
photo by Paul Kawabori
Love for you, babe.
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
from Rick Bayless
2 Tbl oil
8 large garlic cloves
1 pound tomatillos (8 medium), husked, rinsed, and halved
1/2 -1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped – taste salsa for heat before you dump them all in
1/2 – 3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro sprigs
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion, rinsed in a sieve and patted dry
In a large skillet heat the oil over high heat. Add the garlic cloves and tomatillo halves. Roast until well browned. Turn over garlic and tomatillos, continue to roast until they are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer roasted garlic and tomatillos to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Add cilantro, chili and onion. Blend. Add water to adjust consistency. Taste for salt.
from Rick Bayless, Mexican Everyday
4 thick slices bacon, cut into small pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans (do not drain)
1 or 2 canned pickled jalapeños, more to taste
½ cup chopped cilantro.
1. In a large (4-quart) saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir for a minute, then add half the tomatoes with their juice (reserve other half for another use). Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add beans with their liquid and simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.
2. While beans simmer, stem chilies, cut in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Chop into small pieces and add to beans.
3. Taste beans and season with salt if necessary. Ladle into small bowls, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.