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Recipe, Pairing, and Cooking Tips for Dinner Dates

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Last Updated on June 24, 2021

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The way to someone’s heart is a long, winding road that takes time and effort to travel, but home-cooked food is a shortcut. Food is a powerful tool for building and maintaining a romantic connection because how we nourish ourselves is an essential part of our lives.

You don’t need to be the best cook to impress, and wanting to make flambé shouldn’t be the reason you finally get fire protection class and homeowners insurance. The best recipes are simple, whole ingredients that give you balanced flavors and textures. 

Make a meal that will make your date fall in love without breaking a sweat or spatula.

How Food Can Impact a Relationship

When prepared the right way, food can ignite every sense and emotion, making a simple experience a memorable one. The act of eating involves smell, sight, touch, and taste, making sharing a meal an immersive experience.

When you cook for someone, you share a part of yourself while providing an act of service and sharing quality time. No matter what the primary love language of your love interest is, preparing a nice meal is sure to help you win their heart.

Dinner Date Basic Ingredients

Sometimes we just don’t know where to start. If you’re having trouble making a grocery list or deciding what components to put together, start with a list of date-night dinner basics.

Here is a list of foods that pair well with a variety of meals and cuisine styles that are easy to cook and won’t put a hamper on your night:

  • Red wine – You can drink it. You can cook with it. It’s all-around excellent. Adding wine to even the most straightforward instant pot shredded beef or pasta recipe creates a flavorful, complex layer to familiar dishes.
  • Spinach and bok choy – These leafy greens boost your body’s serotonin levels, which is the chemical of happiness. Subconsciously serve your date happiness on a plate and watch them slowly begin to associate you with feeling good.
  • Honey – The historically sexy food. The sweetness of honey is versatile and pairs well with most proteins. The reality of its aphrodisiac effects may be purely mental, but who are we to argue with goddess Aphrodite?
  • Yogurt – If you want melt-in-your-mouth textures, use yogurt in your dish. Yogurt is a healthy alternative found in Middle Eastern cuisines that can be used to make marinades, sauces, dips, and bases. There are endless recipes to choose from.
  • Almonds – Being a long-time symbol of fertility, almonds are indeed a sexy nut. From flour to sliced, almonds are both healthy and tasty. Use them to crust meat, or add them to a salad to create texture and layers to your dish.
  • Garlic – The secret is allicin and garlic is loaded with it. Allicin supports healthy blood pressure and helps ease soreness. It has been shown to improve sexual stamina, so though you may have to keep mints close by, your dinner will be rewarding you beyond the spoon.
  • Basil – The aroma of fresh basil can make a kitchen smell amazing even before cooking. Use this herb to help invoke each of your partner’s senses so your dish leaves a lasting impression that will surpass the dinner table.
  • Chocolate – Have you ever had mole? If not, you are missing out. Chocolate is often used in desserts but is extremely versatile. You can add cacao beans to a spice blend, stew, or barbeque sauce, and it even pairs well with cheese.
  • Coffee – It’s not just to drink after dinner. Using coffee as a seasoning rub adds an extra flair to your dish that requires no additional cooking skills. Just buy a decent quality of finely ground coffee.

Narrowing your ingredients down will help you create a focus for your dish, pick a style, and even help influence the other elements of your evening. Almost every food has a specialty drink pairing, so staying consistent will make planning and preparing an easier process.

Be Creative and Considerate with the Meal

Nothing is a bigger turn-on than consideration. Keep your partner’s specific likes, dislikes, diet, and allergies in mind when planning to serve a romantic dinner. 

With the rise of specialized diets, more products are available to center any meal on most needs, so don’t be scared to substitute or try something new.

Unique Dinner Ideas

Chicken is extremely popular and flexible. It’s a classic that is simply elevated by anything you pair with it. A trick of mine when cooking for a date is to prepare Cornish hen. It tastes like chicken, most people won’t even tell the difference, and they are simple to cook. 

You buy Cornish hen whole, and they are best after being brined for at least 12 hours. The sodium in the brine helps keep the hen juicy and creates a crispier skin. A few of my favorite chicken and Cornish hen preparations are:

  • Oven-roasted – Cornish hen should be placed in a slightly elevated dish to ensure even crisping of the skin. I mix my cooking oil and seasonings in a bowl and brush or rub down with the mixture before putting it in the oven to roast. Adjust the time and temperature to your bird’s size, but 425 degrees for about 50 minutes will be standard.
  • Pan-seared – Watch enough “Top Chef,” and you’ll be searing like a pro. Cast iron skillets are the best to use because they transfer from stovetop to oven well. To get those restaurant-quality sears on any cut of chicken, season it and then place it on the heated pan top side down. 

Add a Touch of Flair to the Main Dish

How you cook your main component can bring different flavors out of your dish, but what you choose to season your dish with will lock in your desired tastes. 

Spices aren’t just good for helping you to outlive your life insurance policy. Flavorful spices can bring any meal to the peak of perfection. Keep in mind this list of sauce, herb, and spice blends that universally pair well with meats and veggie blends are:

  • Lemon, garlic, pepper, and thyme
  • Soy sauce, white vinegar, and orange zest
  • Balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, chicken stock, and garlic
  • Lime juice, orange juice, honey, pepper, garlic, and jalapeno 
  • Oil or butter, white wine, and rosemary

Making the Meal Classier

Sides are just as important as the main attraction, so give them just as much love. Sides like alfredo pasta are delicious, but to show off a little more finesse, try out some of these side dishes:

  • Orzo – similar to rice, but so much tastier and sexier
  • Cabbage – steamed, raw, or grilled cabbage is light and can be tossed with seasonings, making it pair well with any cuisine.
  • Butternut squash – the aroma of butternut squash is intoxicating. One goes a long way and will be enough for leftovers. The unmanipulated taste is light, so any seasoning you choose will only enhance its natural flavor.
  • Glazed carrots – the color of carrots just pops. I like mine with some bite, so making carrots on the stovetop or oven doesn’t take long and looks fancy on a plate.

Save the Heat for Later

Cooking can be intimidating, but there are plenty of recipes that require little to no heat. Making a sauce, dip, or dressing from scratch is an easy way to impress and bring a refinery level to a meal. 

One of my favorite recipes is an Asian ginger dressing that requires no heat at all. The recipe consists of grated ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sriracha, honey, avocado oil, cilantro, sesame oil, and lime juice whisked together until smooth. 

This dressing can be used as a marinade or salad dressing. Typically I serve it with white meats, tofu, couscous, tempeh, and vegan (without honey) and vegetarian dishes. 

Adding a fresh sauce like this to a mixture of veggies, seafood, or noodles is quick and brings delicious flavors out of whole ingredients you pair it with. 

Another great way to achieve a wonder dish without heat is ceviche and tartare recipes. Shrimp, tuna, and veggies go a long way in their natural states and don’t need much manipulation. Keep in mind that these recipes take time, so plan accordingly. 

Eat, Drink, and Be Romantic

Food is a universal connector. If you want to impress a date, take a deep breath and trust the cooking process. Your date is there to spend time with you. Trying new recipes is a fun experience, but don’t become stressed if it doesn’t turn out right. 

The memory of a home-cooked meal turning into a pizza night is just as romantic when you’re with the right person. Romance is much like making the perfect meal. It is a balance of salt, acid, fat, heat, and love.

Danielle Beck-Hunter writes and researches for the insurance comparison site, TheTruthAboutInsurance.com. Cooking has always been a passion of hers, and she frequently hosts dinner parties for friends and family.