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What should I cook?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Ok to start off, I'm an almost 18 year old who has no real experience in cooking. That is not to say I can't cook. Having grown up in Brest, Belarus I had to learn to cook my own food while mom was away at work by the time I was 6. So although I don't cook every day now, when something needs cooking, I can cook.

Now here is my situation. I have a girlfriend that lives in South Carolina. What does that have to do with anything? Well Valentines is coming in a few months, and I would like to hold a "Surprise" dinner. I know her Brother and Sister in law quite well, and although I haven't talked to them about this yet, I'm sure they would help me set everything up.

What I want to do is cook us dinner. Now here is the problem, I have no idea what dish I should make. It has to be something nice, that goes along with some candles.... well I'm sure you all understand what I am going for here. I don't know about Wine.... I'm underage so I can't buy any, and she's even younger so I guess it's not a good idea.

Does anyone have any advice on what I should do? Keep in mind, I have plenty of time to practice if I need to :) If someone has a suggestion, a link to the recipe maybe? I appreciate any advice I get, thank you ahead of time. This young lady means a great deal to me, and I want that night to be very special :)
post #2 of 19
Welcome Ivan! You girlfriend is a lucky girl. I don't often meet men who get enthused over Valentines FOUR MONTHS EARLY!!! (if at all...)

We've talked a lot about Valentines day menus over the years. I would suggest you use the search function and revisit some old threads. Then come back and tell us what you both like eating, and we'll come up with something for you.

Good luck!
post #3 of 19

Something Easy

I dont know exactly how well you know how to cook, but I suggest you keep it easy, better to do something simpler that is done well ya know. Also think about having things done ahead of time so you spend most of your time with her than fixing dinner while she's there. A thing to consider is that people eat with their eyes first, meaning a nice presentation is important. So you're both underage but you have access to scoring some booze, I suggest a lighter white wine, like pinot grigio, chardonnay or some reisling, dont worry too much about pairing the wines. Heres my menu suggestion:

Salad-Spinach salad w/ pecans, bleu cheese and a simple extra virgin olive oil/balsamic vinaigrette

Entree-Chicken Marsala w/ green beans almondine and roasted garlic whipped potatoes

Dessert-I suggest you buy something nice at a store and garnish it with berries, whipped cream or whatever or if you wanna make something of your own a poached pear w/ a port reduction

Well, best of luck to ya. All of these things are pretty easy to make, nothing too fancy though, but im sure she'll love it. As far as the recipes, look on and they'll have them all there.
post #4 of 19
Nice menu.
A couple of caveats: Spinach and berries end up in your teeth. Garlic mash end up on your breath. Maybe a menu to save for when the romance has gone...
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
haha :) thanks for such a quick reply. Yes I guess it has to be fairly simple and ... conservative?

I don't know, we both like chicken, shrimp... well anything that tastes good really :P

Oh and I plan on cooking before we meet so there shouldn't be a problem with that :)

Anne, I am one lucky guy ;) She is very beautiful, loving and caring. Very mature for her age as well. I guess the way people are raised, the way their cultures shape them is different everywhere, and some people grow up faster than others. I was forced to, because of where I lived, and my father leaving the family of 5 when I was 4. I don't mean to bore you all with my life but having read just several of these threads it seems as if this place is visited by understanding, mature people.

Thank you for the replies! Oi I almost forgot, I know it wouldn't be the same but I'm thinking why not substitute Welch's Sparkling Grape Juice with the wine? She absolutely loves it! :)
post #6 of 19
Welcome, Ivan.

I'd be a bit leery of the Welches only because it tends towards the sweet side, and that could possibly conflict with the food. Save the grape juice to have with dessert.

Speaking of which, if you have the time beforehand, a really knock-out dessert for Valentine's is chocolate pavlovas piped out in heart shapes. Top these with whipped cream and berries.

Also keep in mind that she will be appreciative of the time and effort you put into this, and the very idea of it. The food, itself, will almost be secondary. Indeed, the whole meal should be thought of a another way to enjoy each others company.

As someone else said, presentation is the key. You eat with your eyes, always. I would also thing in terms of multiple courses of small servings.

For instance:

1. Shrimp cocktail. Arrange the shrimp along the edge of a martini glass (you can buy inexpensive plastic ones at the market) with the sauce inside. For a change of pace, instead of the typical cocktail sauce, go with an avacodo hummus. This is all prepped ahead of time and kept in the fridge, to be seved cold.

2. Beet & arugala salad. Crusty rustic bread.

3. Rack of lamb with Morracan spice, cous-cous, butternut squash puree. Sear the lamb ahead of time and have it ready to go. Finish in the oven while you enjoy the salad. Cous-cous and puree made ahead of time and kept warm in a low oven or reheated in the microwave.

4. Pavlovas, as above.

You could, if desired, slip a soup in there between the salad and main course. Leek & potato, perhaps, or kohl rabi. Keep the serving small, though. Think cup rather than bowl.

Whatever you choose, enjoy!
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #7 of 19
Chateau d' Briand is the dinner of lovers. Get a nice center cut beef tenderloin. S&P and rub a little olive oil on it. Carmelize on the stove on all sides in a hot cast iron skillet. Put aluminum foil over the skillet and put it in the oven at 450 until internal temp is about 130 (medium rare). Take it out of the oven, and let it sit covered for at least 15 minutes. Shrimp cocktail is always a great appetizer.

A small Romaine salad with balsamic vinegrette sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese is good. I like to add some brown sugar to the vinagrette and use a 1:1 ratio of EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar. The brown sugar goes well with the tartness.

Steam some fresh green beans for about 9-10 minutes, and test them with a fork. When they're just starting to get tender (not slushy) toss them into some ice water to "shock" them and keep them from continuing to cook.

Cook some shallots and portabella mushrooms in butter, add juice and zest of one lemon, then add back in your drained, shocked green beans; at the last moment serve the steak and carve at the table.

Very impressive.

If you have time, you can deglaze the pan the chateau was cooked with stock. wine or water, and by adding some more butter, shallots or finely diced red onion, cook until just transluscent. Add some flour (equal portions to the butter), and create a roux which you will cook just a bit to take the "taste" out of the flour. Add some stock, and stir until it thickens. S&P and maybe some chopped fresh rosemary will really make a nice sauce for the chateau.

Happy Valentine's Day!

post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
Oh thank you everyone! I will surely take all of your advice and see what I come up with.

I was wondering, is there anything I can use real Coconut for? I'm afraid it might get stuck a lot in teeth, but I've made these Mongolian sugar Coconut balls that maybe I could glaze with chocolate or something.

Fresh coconut also smells good. I don't Know I'm just thinking out loud here.
post #9 of 19
You've gotten great advice on food above.

However, I'd like to offer some cynical advice on the subject of Valentine's Day. It'll sound EXTREMELY jaded, but someday you'll be mulling it over and realize that I was onto something. Well, maybe you will.

So, please take this for what it's worth or not at all.

IMHO, Valentine's Day is a trap for men.

One year, we have enough time and energy to do some wonderful romantic thing for the lady we love. (Like, for instance, going all out and cooking a wonderful surprise romantic meal.) Everything is great and she has an incredible time and talks it up to all of her girl friends. You're a hero and are properly rewarded. (This is a family website, so no more on that.)

The HUGE problem is the NEXT year. What are you going to do top last year? For the three or four weeks before Valentine's Day, she'll be reminding all of her girl friends about the romantic dinner from last year. They're jealous and envious and your lady is enjoying every minute of it.

However, you are now going to have make last year's all-out effort look like nothing by doing even more! Otherwise, not only will your lady be disappointed, but she'll be humiliated in front of her girl friends.

It's a NO WIN situation for you.

So. Is this a two-way street? No way. Us guys are just happy that our women still like us. We don't need any lavish display, just some -- it's that family website stuff again.

There are only two ways out of this that I've been able to find. One. Dump your lady before the next Valentine's Day. You can re-do the romantic dinner next year with whomever you're seeing then. Or, you can tone down your plans and slowly increase them a bit each year, always giving yourself room for improvement and escalation.

Before you all start flaming me, remember the above is somewhat in jest and totally in good fun. ;)
post #10 of 19
Sheesh, CastIron,

Anyone who'd rain on a teenager's parade deserves to eat well done steak.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #11 of 19

Valentine's Day Dinner

You said you both like chicken & shrimp... either of these can be baked with fresh rosemary, garlic cloves, artichokes and feta. Just rub the outside of the protein with olive oil, stick the herbs under the skin, sprinkle the other ingredients around and bake. Different and yummy!

A side of cous cous, rice or mashed and a green veggie.

Dessert? I love the sound of your coconut things. You could also consider a flourless chocolate torte, drizzled with ganache & fresh raspberries... I baked one in a heart shaped pan for valentines day once.

Another word about V day... I think my husband of 30 years has it right:
He says V day was developed as a commercial boom. He believes (and I agree) treating your partner as special on 1 day that society tells you too doesn't mean nearly as much as treating him/her that way throughout the year - So I wouldn't rain on a teen's wonderfully romantic idea ~ rather I would say: Why not do this special donner for NO Special Reason as soon as you can pull it together, and do something else nice for V day?

Finally - Since you are underage, and she is even younger, I respect you staying away from the alcohol! It doesn't take liquer to make a romantic or lovely evening! Sparkling water with a twist or sparkling cider both work well. And if she likes sparkling grape... have it for a toast after dessert!

You sound like a wonderful person! She is lucky to have you ~ enjoy your special night now or in Feb!
post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hehehehe thank you again for all these replies. I will try to explain something.

Godwilling everything will be alright, I do have something for next year that would make this seem less. I don't see myself dumping her, I would lose everything that still keeps my spirits up, still keeps me standing on my feet. See, I don't know if you guys believe me, maybe you think it's my wishful thinking or teenager inside me talking, but we're in this relationship for good. We talked about it, we are trying our best to work with our situation. People tell me long distance relationships don't work, I think long distance relationships don't work when both people aren't giving their best for each other, for the relationship.

And that's where the answer to the question "Why not do this special donner for NO Special Reason as soon as you can pull it together, and do something else nice for V day?".

I simply cannot afford it. I already work 8am-9pm. I live in Buffalo, NY, while she lives in Spartanburg, SC. 700 miles apart. And I'm going this 20th of december for 2 weeks to spend the time with her, her family and friends.

I'm in a really tough position, so a surprise visit before Valentines is just not possible for me. She knows though that I don't do it just because it's a "lovers day" . Heh by chance, I took her to see "A Year with Frog and Toad" on Sweetest day this october. I had no idea there was a second "sweetheart" day besides Valentines.

This has nothing to do with food, but since many of you are married I have a question.... are proposals usually about half a year or something before the wedding? Do people propose for like a year or bit more before? Just wondering.
post #13 of 19

Friend Wife and I are more than four decades into a trial marraige and we're starting to think it's going to work out.

When I met her I turned to my buddy and said, "I'm gonna marry that girl." We dated for five years after that, three of which we were formally engaged.

So, in our case at least, there was considerably more than 6 months between proposal and nuptials. But look how long the marraige has lasted.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #14 of 19
Welcome Aboard. I think you are a real sweetheart :) Not many young men have such a mature head on their shoulders, but it sounds like you had to grow up fast, she sure is a lucky girl to have you.

As to the length of engagement, it varies enormously from couple to couple. My man and I were together 4 1/2 years before he popped the question, we married a year after, but bought a house together and lived together for 6 months to make sure we could stand each other :) Nothing worse than finding each other intolerable, and its also a test of living with the pressures of expenses and house payments etc etc. This was over 20 years ago, raising 2 great kids and been through our share of dramas, but we're still here.

Seeing as she is from the south and you both like shrimp and chicken, for your main course you could go a nice gumbo/jambalaya. For wine, keep it light or even find a nice non-alcoholic sparkling wine - you're both young - you'll hardly need it, specially as you're apart from each other so much. Maybe a champagne cocktail to celebrate V day, something with strawberries and a bit of the bubbly. Nice tall glasses with edges dipped in egg white then dipped into castor sugar and chilled.

Others have posted great ideas for the meal here. Being Valentine's Day - don't forget the chocolates and flowers, aromatic candles and some good music....they all make a big big difference. A nice chocolate fondant goes down well but can be tricky (for me anyway :) ) or very romantic, a chocolate fondue with fruit, marshmallows, anything you like really.

Hope it goes well - enjoy the practice!

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

post #15 of 19

valentines dinner

Married 30 years, together 4 years before that (I was 17 when we met, so it can work - he was 20) Decided to get married 10 months before wedding. One of my nieces got married a year ago - 17 month engagement. The other has been dating her Fiance for 9 years... she was 18 when they started - they got engaged last December and are marrying in May. Seems now most are engaged at leat a year, just for wedding planning purposes. Are either of you going to college? If so, may want to ait till the last 1 to finish is in their last year. I am sure you love her and that she may very well be the one, but college changes a lot of things.

I really wish you the best... seems you will make a wonderful husband!
post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thank you guys :)

I would like to propose next year sometime, I have no idea when, I can't think of a good time yet, her birthday is in October. The reason why I was asking was to see if it's uncommon for couples to get married quite a bit after the proposal. She is learning to become a Registered Nurse, so yes it's a lot of education and hard work and it might take some time.

My proposal idea has everything to do with the outdoors, possibly sunset time, and a pony/horse :)

Oh boy, we went from food to proposals? :D
post #17 of 19

Salad is a must!

While tossing a salad with vinaigrette, always make the vinaigrette at least half hour ahead of time and let the mixture sit to allow the flavors to marry. Pour the vinaigrette down the side of the bowl, not directly on the greens, for a more evenly dressed salad.
post #18 of 19
I like the gumbo idea very much. There are some excellent recipes out there -- try Paul Prudhomme, for a start: you can always trust him, though you might want to tone down the "heat" to your liking. What's more, you can and arguably should make it a day in advance, and then simply reheat it. The same goes for Shrimp Creole. In essence you make a complicated soup/sauce that is time-consuming and a bit finicky, and when it's done you let it cool and put it in the fridge. The next day, you skim off any obvious floating fat and bring the pot to a gentle boil. Drop in the raw seafood (shrimp, oysters, whatever), stir, return to heat, shut off the heat, put on the lid, and wait 3 minutes. Serve immediately over rice.

That way your main course requires no effort at all on the day, and you can devote your cooking time to other things.

Your ideal, I think, is a meal that is 99% pre-prepared. That way you can spend the time with your date, not mucking about in the kitchen while she gets lonely. When you've finished a course, you just clear the dishes into the kitchen and immediately bring out the next course, no waiting.

I would strongly urge against anything that requires a lot of care or attention at the last minute, be it steaks or risotto or whatever. Chateaubriand is a different matter, but be very sure you have a reliable meat thermometer -- test it, and put in fresh batteries. The point of the food is your date, not the other way around.

Good luck!
post #19 of 19
I made a dish that will require some research but would be perfect for your lady.
You will have to look into Thai Cuisine.The dish is called a Rose Petal Salad.The dish uses the petals of a dozen roses.Ask a florest to save you sprung roses,their much cheaper.Also get 1 perfect rose.The rose petals are mixed with a lemon sauce,steamed scallops,shrimp and firm,sweet,fish chunks seasoned with soy,fish sauce,fresh ginger and cilantro,hot chilies are a optional additon.All tossed together served on a bed of Basamiti or Jasmine rice.The perfect rose is used as a garnish on top of the dish.
It's been 38 years since I made this dish, but my lady,Rose,he he he,she is still my Valentine.
Good Luck
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