Date Night

"There are three possible parts to a date, of which at least two must be offered: entertainment, food, and affection. It is customary to begin a series of dates with a great deal of entertainment, a moderate amount of food, and the merest suggestion of affection. As the amount of affection increases, the entertainment can be reduced proportionately. When the affection IS the entertainment, we no longer call it dating. Under no circumstances can the food be omitted." --Judith Martin, "Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated"

This year, for Valentine's day, we decided to forgo the usual plans - things we'd done in years past, which typically involved going to a new restaurant, dinner with another couple, etc. I'm not sure who suggested that we just do dinner at home, but it was a good idea. We made our favorite foods.

It was nice to have an evening in.

90 minute Ceviche - based on Mark Bittman's Mock Ceviche

I made something like this for Christmas Eve and it was great. Just the other night we'd watched Anthony Bourdain scarf down ceviche in Ecuador and I got the craving again... so when I saw Frank's had scallops and shrimp, I decided to go for it - I wanted the fresh taste of seafood and the sharp tang of citrus.

This really could serve 4-6 people. Yeah... we ate it all. >.>

  • 1/2 pound shrimp
  • 1/2 pound scallops
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 roma tomato, seeded, finely chopped
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1-2 pinches red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 pinches salt
  • handful flat leaf parsley, chopped roughly
  • 2-3 spring onions (green only) finely sliced
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and lightly salt. Ready a bowl of ice water beside it. Plunge the shrimp in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then transfer to ice water. Repeat with scallops, ~90 seconds. Adjust time based on size - seafood should be undercooked*, will cook in the citrus. 
  2. Peel and devein shrimp (slice in half if more than 30 ct.). Slice scallops into uniform pieces. If you remember, toss with a splash of EVOO. I forgot. No harm.
  3. In a non-reactive bowl, combine lime and lemon juice, shallot, tomato, pepper flakes, and salt. Add seafood and mix. Refrigerate, stirring every 15 minutes or so, for 60 minutes.
  4. Add parsley, spring onion. Marinate another 30 minutes. 
  5. Taste, adjust seasoning.
  6. Divide among chilled glasses, drizzle with a little marinade, and serve.
Ceviche with incredibly fresh seafood from Frank's.

Soy-Ginger Mussels

This is sort of an amalgam of recipes - I wandered google for a while and didn't find one I really liked. But it is most closely based on this one.

I think of mussels as our special dinner - they're fresh, inexpensive, and very easy to make. This was a departure from the normal way I make them, but it was with flavors we use a lot - and it worked really well. This would still be good with bread. I also liked spooning the sauce into the half-shell and slurping it with the mussel. It would be awesome spooned over a bed of rice. This was... really, really good.

If you need help on how to clean mussels, watch the video here**.
I liked this wine way more
than I thought I would.

  • 2 lbs mussels, sorted, scrubbed and de-bearded
  • a few squirts of canola oil
  • a splash of toasted sesame oil
  • a bunch of spring onions, most chopped in 2" pieces - thinly slice 1-2 onions, green part only
  • 1-2 T grated ginger
  • 1-2 T mashed garlic (finely mince/grind with a few pinches of salt)
  • 1/4 c soy sauce, reduced sodium
  • 1 c wine
  • 1 splash fish sauce
  • ~1 c water
  • 2-3 T butter (unsalted)
  1. heat the oils in a vessel large enough to cook the mussels; when hot, add the spring onion and cook 3-4 minutes, until soft and browning slightly
  2. add ginger and garlic and cook for ~60 seconds (adjust amount, time to taste)
  3. add white wine (I used sauvignon blanc), soy sauce, and fish sauce. Bring to a boil, boil for ~5 minutes.
  4. don't forget to pour yourself a glass of wine!
  5. add 1 cup of water, return to a boil, then add the mussels. Stir and then clap the lid on the pot for four minutes.
  6. Remove the lid and pull out opened mussels to a large bowl; discard any mussels that don't open within another minute or two.
  7. Boil the remaining liquid for another 2-3 minutes (reducing by about a third). Add the butter, and stir/swirl it in as the liquid boils. This is really important - adding the fat to the boiling liquid changes it, almost makes it look shiny.
  8. Pour the broth over the mussels, garnish with thinly sliced spring onion and parsley. 
Before butter.
After butter. Can you SEE it?!?! 
(Final swirl of the pan)

This was a freakin' awesome bag of mussels. 

As if that wasn't enough food.... we still had:

Taco Rice

Believe it or not, this is a real thing.

I used to tease Matt about this, but I don't anymore (much). It reminds him of Okinawa. And... it's pretty tasty. I could eat sushi rice by the pound, and the addition of taco meat and cheese? It's good. Trust me.

You need...

  • Ground meat of choice (beef or turkey - but don't go for the lean turkey here, you don't want it to be dry)
  • Taco seasoning packet
  • Water (per seasoning packet instructions)
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sushi Rice
  • Secret Fixins***
  1. Make the sushi rice
  2. Cook the meat according to the instructions on the packet. Jab at it while it simmers to break it into a really fine ground.
  3. Spread the sushi rice into the vessel of your choice (ours is a small oblong pyrex glass dish)
  4. Top with taco meat, then cheese. Let the cheese melt.
  5. Serve with tabasco.
"Purist" taco rice.

"Abomination" taco rice.

In the end, it's more than just food (a lot of food). It's about showing people that you care through food, about bringing them in to an experience with you. This is what I love about food, and cooking, no matter who it's for. 

*   Yes, I know ceviche should start with raw fish. If you have +90 minutes, go nuts. I like to marinate mine 6+ hours (no more than 24), but I decided to make it sorta last minute.

**  Broken mussels go with the territory, don't be afraid to toss them. I dump the bag into a bowl, and then scrub/debeard, placing the cleaned ones in a colander. When I'm done, I give them a final rinse, and then keep them in the colander beneath ice until ready to use. If there are some that are open, tap them, set them aside, and check them when you've gone through the others. If they're not closed by then, toss. Usually you see them tighten/close up, which is pretty cool. Don't forget to thank them for being a delicious dinner.

*** Secret fixins include salsa, chopped tomato, cucumber, and lettuce. Shh, don't tell.

What do you cook for the people you care about - or at least, mostly sorta like? :)  Tell me in the comments below!


  1. Beautiful, beautiful mussel recipe! Oh how I wish my husband liked seafood.

  2. Leanne - it was just awesome. You should make it anyway, that just means more mussels for you. :D