Monday, January 7, 2008

Dinner for Two

Oh, the weather outside is least, it was until this weekend, when it warmed up into the 70's.

It's been a rough few days at Chez Cait-and-Dave. Dave lost his beloved grandfather on Saturday, and our landlord put his foot through our living room ceiling (and insulation was blown throughout the house). Not to be outdone, our collie sprained his foot yesterday.

We'll be leaving on Thursday morning to drive to New Mexico for Dave's granddad's funeral. I hate this for him - not just because he lost his personal hero, but because he's also incredibly stressed over covering the BCS championship game. (The city, as it is, has gone nuts - with Buckeye and Tiger fans pouring into New Orleans for tonight's game.)

Towards that end, tomorrow night is date night - while we should be feverishly cleaning the house before we depart for our road trip, I want us to take a couple of hours to just enjoy dinner and (try to) relax a bit.

It's always hard to know what to say when someone is going through grief, but I want to do anything and everything I can to support Dave. He's my best friend, love of my life, and the one person who matters more than anything to me. He was wonderful when my father passed away, and I just want to be there for him now, when he needs me. If that means splitting driving time and gas money and singing off-key to 80's one-hit wonders on our Sirius system, so be it. But in the meantime...

Here are a couple of dinner-for-two-ish recipes I can strongly recommend for cuddly winter nights.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

2 T. butter
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. curry powder or paste (you can also substitute garam masala)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne
2 T. sugar
1 T. very fine grated fresh ginger (you can substitute 1/2 T. of powdered ginger)
1 14 1/2 oz can of chicken broth (plus one filled can of water)
3 cups canned pumpkin
1 can coconut milk
1/4 c. dry white wine

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion until translucent (about 6 minutes). Add garlic, curry powder, ginger, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute more. Add broth, sugar, water and puree; mix well. Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and wine. Puree soup in blender until smooth. Heat through before serving. Note: you can easily adjust this soup to your taste by changing the seasonings you add into it - we added a little more ginger and some green onions for garnish, and served it with flaky rolls and white wine.

Dave has been wanting to learn how to cook - and I've told him that really, the best things have the simplest spices and flavorings. There are really two rules to cook:

1. Be patient.
2. Pay attention.

On Saturday night, we made lemon risotto together, and served it with lemon drop martinis and whole-wheat french bread. Risotto is such a simple dish - but there are a few rules to make sure that it comes out as restaurant-good as you'd like.

1. Never add cold liquids to the rice - it will cause the arborio rice to branch and splinter, which kills the creamy effect of risotto. Heat up any stock or wine you add to the dish in a measuring cup in the microwave (or in a separate saucepan).

2. Take your time with the dish - it's worth it.

Lemon Risotto for Two

3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large green onion, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
1/8 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Bring broth to simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Melt half of the butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add (heated!) wine and stir until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add broth 1/2 cup at a time; simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir frequently until rice is creamy and tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in cheese and remaining butter. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Season risotto with salt and pepper, if desired. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Bon appetit!

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