For most of us, staying in and cooking up an ambitious date-night meal is a rarity. But for the culinary power couples among us, courtship and cooking are an inseparable occurrence. Every night of the week can be date night if you’ve perfected the art of preparing for two.
We’ve all heard that the key to someone’s heart is through their stomach. Couples like Diane and Rob Perez, Mario and Maria Graziano, or Suzanne and Roger Perry have found this to be true. For these restaurant-running duos, catering to a loved one’s taste buds is about as romantic as it gets. Hungry for love (and delicious meal ideas), we asked them to share the dish they make on repeat come date night.
These three recipes will sweep you off your feet.
Winter Veggie Tacos with Curry Jam
Diane and Rob Perez of DV8 Kitchen in Lexington, Kentucky, unsurprisingly met while working in a restaurant: She was a hostess, and he was a waiter. “Over the years—and by accident—most of our meals came to be tacos due to my Mexican heritage, our love of fresh food, and our busy schedules,” says Rob.
To keep their tacos tasting fresh, the duo often uses leftover meals as the base for their dish. “A few years ago, we started eating healthier, so we used the sweet potatoes from dinner the night before, added other fresh vegetables, and made tacos,” he says. “We thought they were good but needed something else to make them great, so we added curry jam and it was love at first bite.”
Winter Veggie Tacos
- 1 lb. sweet potatoes
- 6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
- 2 oz. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 3 oz. red onion, fresh and diced
- 2 oz. sweet and spicy pepper, diced
- 1 avocado, fresh and diced
- 12 corn tortillas
Curry Jam (large batch)
- 1/2 cup curry powder
- 1 qt. water
- 1 qt. sugar
- 1.75 oz. pectin
Add curry to a small amount of water and make a curry paste. Let the curry paste sit for 10 minutes. Boil water and sugar, add pectin, and simmer for one hour. Cool and refrigerate.
Combine the sweet potatoes, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, and salt and place in a roasting pan. Bake for 45 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. After the potatoes are done, place under a broiler until the edges of the sweet potatoes turn black.
Mario and Maria Graziano of Miami-based restaurant group Graziano’s have more in common than their first (and last!) names. With a shared appetite for authentic cuisine—the two set up their first shop in Buenos Aires over 40 years ago—the couple returns to a familiar and personal dish come date night.
“This was a dish that my mom taught me when I first married Mario,” says Maria. “We’ve been cooking this for 50 years now, and it’s featured at one of our restaurants, Lucia Pizzeria.”
- 12 oz. dried bucatini or spaghetti
- 4 oz. guanciale (if not available, use cured pancetta)
- pecorino romano as needed
- Parmigiano-Reggiano as needed
Basic Tomato Sauce
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 white onion, diced
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
- 1 can of Italian peeled whole tomatoes
Cut the guanciale into cubes and put them in a saucepan at medium-high heat. Brown them well without stirring or burning. When one side is crispy and golden, turn and cook the other side. Add the tomato sauce to the pan with the guanciale. Stir in the pan and add two spoons full of grated Parmesan and pecorino romano cheese. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce, stir, and serve.
For the sauce, in a three-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown for about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook five minutes more until the carrot is quite soft. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until thick.
The Perfect Ribeye and Grilled Veggies
Suzanne and Roger Perry of Datz Restaurant Group like to keep their evenings alone simple and sweet with a well-marbled ribeye steak and fresh vegetables on the side. “We live in Florida and are lucky enough to have an outdoor kitchen with a fantastic grill,” says Suzanne. “We pair that with fresh vegetables including our favorite—asparagus—and a baked potato cooked over hot coals and oozing with butter.”
- 1-inch thick well-marbled ribeye
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- Coarse kosher salt and coarse cracked black pepper as needed
Grilled marinated vegetables
- Red and green peppers
- Sweet yellow onions
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. Italian spice blend
- 1 gallon Ziploc bag
- 2 large Idaho potatoes
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. coarse kosher salt
- Aluminum foil
Preheat and season the grill with oil. Rub the ribeye with the olive oil, and then liberally salt and pepper both sides. Place the ribeye on the seasoned hot grill and cook until medium-rare, turning it over halfway through. Rest for five minutes before cutting. Cut the vegetables into chunky pieces, other than the asparagus. In a Ziploc bag, add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian spice blend, and the chopped vegetables. Shake well to distribute the marinade throughout the vegetables. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour. Place ingredients into a grill basket and cook, stirring occasionally to your desired tenderness.
Pierce the potatoes with a fork several times. Brush with olive oil and roll in the kosher salt to liberally coat the potato skin. Cook the potatoes in the microwave for about five minutes and then remove. Place them on the grill and cook until fork-tender.
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