It's date night at your place tonight — so what's cooking for dinner?
Before you ransack your kitchen pantry in desperation ... or worse: resort to your go-to (read: boring) chicken alfredo pasta, there are plenty of easy-to-whip-up dishes perfect for a relaxing, romantic at-home dinner for two. There's no need to make dinner reservations at an expensive restaurant.
We think staying in is the new sexy. That's why we've cooked up our own Dinner For Two series by serving up a mouthwatering menu that's sure to impress your sweetheart — sneakily flavored with aphrodisiac ingredients, like these pan-seared scallops cooked from the heart by the Cooking Channel's Kelsey Nixon.
The origin story of scallops as an aphrodisiac harkens back to the time of ancient Greece. Legend has it that the goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture, Aphrodite, was born from the foam of the sea and washed ashore on the shell of a scallop. This iconic image is what we see in The Birth Of Venus, the 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli. Ever since, scallops have enjoyed a promiscuous reputation on dinner plates between couples across the globe. Today, the lovemaking properties of scallops are proving to be more than just myth. A 2005 study, proved that oysters, clams, mussels and scallops all contain chemical compounds that release the sex hormones in both men and women.
So while oysters get a lot of praise for being the aphrodisiac of the sea ... celebrity chef Kelsey Nixon says that scallops are just as sexy for a romantic meal for two: "Scallops are best served when they are quickly seared, which develops a golden brown crust on each side. The result is a rich buttery flavor with great texture."
Thus, a date night miracle recipe was born in the kitchen! "As a young (and poor!) newlywed, I was constantly seeking out recipes that were suitable for a romantic date night in," Nixon says. "Something that felt special without costing an arm and a leg requiring hours of preparation. I cycled through a few recipes that weren't a huge hit, but the first time I made pan-seared scallops with chimichurri for my new husband, I achieved a whole new level wifedom!"
We aren't surprised. What is more impressive is that they take 10 minutes to make! (Which leaves a lot more time for you know ... after-dinner activities.) Serve a plate-full of frsh-from-the-sea scallops with a bright, herby chimichurri, and pair them with a fresh lettuce appetizer sprinkled with edible spring blossoms, a green chartreuse cocktail (made with 130 herbs, plants and flowers), and citrusy lemon-rosemary custards, and you've got yourselves one sexy spring meal!
The Drink: The Verbena Monk
By Davio's Manhattan's Sommelier, Chris Sweet
- 1.5 ounce green chartreuse
- 1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon
- 1 ounce cane sugar
- Equal parts water and club soda, stirred over fresh ice
- lemon verbena leaf garnish or fresh lemon thyme (whatever is available)
1. Mix liquid ingredients and stir.
2. Garnish with leaf or fresh lemon thyme (optional).
The Appetizer: Baby Iceberg Lettuce
By Executive Chef Scott Crawford of Herons, The Umstead Hotel & Spa
- 4 heads baby iceberg lettuce, cut in half, washed, spun dry and refrigerated
- 1 fresh avocado, removed from skin
- Chives, thinly sliced
- Juice from 1 lime
- 1/4 lb. pancetta, thinly sliced
- 1/4 lb. goat feta, crumbled
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons crème fraiche
- 2 tablespoons tomato concasse brunoise
- 1 fresh radish thinly sliced
- 1 bunch fresh baby mache washed and spun dry
- 8 fresh nasturtium flowers
- 12 fresh Violas or Johnny Jump Up Flowers
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon oil
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 250°F degrees.
2. Place pancetta disks on a large sheet pan between two baking mats and bake for 45 minutes or until light brown and crispy. Remove and allow cooling.
3. After washing refrigerate lettuce, mache and radish.
4. Using a small food processor puree the avocado with lime juice and salt to taste.
5. In a mixing bowl mix vinegar, buttermilk, crème fraiche, goat feta, tomato concasse, chives, lemon oil, and salt and pepper to taste allow to chill for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
6. Serve lettuce very cold. Place 2 lettuce halves on a plate. Create large dots of avocado puree using a squeeze bottle or spoon. Top lettuce with buttermilk dressing, mache, radish, and spring flowers. Garnish with 2 to 3 pancetta disks. Finish with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
The Main Dish: Pan Seared Scallops with Chimichurri
By Kelsey Nixon of the Cooking Channel
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 16 large sea scallops, feet removed
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the Chimichurri
1. In a food processor or blender, combine the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, garlic, parsley, salt, red pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoons water and puree until smooth.
2. Taste and season with additional salt, if necessary. (The chimichurri can be made up to 4 hours in advance. Cover and chill until ready to use.)
For the Scallops
1. In a large 12-inch cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the vegetable oil.
2. Dry the scallops well with paper towels and liberally season each side with salt and pepper.
3. Put the scallops in the hot pan and cook until the bottoms start to brown around the edges, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the butter to the pan to help them caramelize (don’t add earlier or it could burn). Once the butter melts, flip the scallops and cook until golden brown on the second side and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
The Dessert: Lemon Rosemary Custard Cakes
By Sylvia's Table: Fresh, Seasonal Recipes From Our Farm To Your Family, by Liz Neumark and Carole Lalli
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
- 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
- 1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Put a pan of water to boil.
2. Separate the eggs. Beat the whites and a large pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer until foamy. Add one-quarter cup of the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until stiff peaks form, about five minutes; set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the remaining sugar with the butter on medium speed until well blended, about three minutes. Add the flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary, and a dash of salt, and blend. Add the yolks and milk and beat well. Gently stir one-fourth of the beaten whites into the batter, and then gently fold in the remaining whites.
4. Coat six six-ounce ramekins or custard cups with cooking spray. Divide the batter evenly among the cups; place the cups in a baking pan. Add the boiling water to a depth of one inch. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is light golden-brown and the pudding is just set; it still should be a bit wobbly. Remove the cups from the pan, let them cool, then refrigerate until cold. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, pushed through a sieve.
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