Dos and Don’ts for Your Kitchen Date

I have much respect for our guest blogger this week, who can cook up quite a meal! Brooke Parkhurst is the creative force behind Just Married & Cooking, along with her husband, James Briscione. Here, she writes about how to get your date off to a delicious start – when the time is right for a little cooking night!

Cooking together can get you what you want- if you know what you’re doing. Just ask my husband. In three days, we leapt from a chance restaurant encounter to a first date at the farmer’s market to a second date, and a lifetime, in the kitchen together.

His amouse-bouche was a stolen kiss and dessert… was more of the same. Did I mention that he’s a chef?

While I wish he or I could create a recipe for bliss, the essential ingredients aren’t always available. (Local and seasonal are buzzwords in the kitchen and in the dating world!) But once you’ve found the person who is the basil to your ripe summer tomato, he and I can guarantee that, with our help, your first date in the kitchen won’t be your last.

 Rock It Like a TV Star

Paula, Giada and Guy don’t step into the kitchen right as the cameras roll. They- and their enormous team of producers, sous chefs and assistants- have carefully selected and prepped the ingredients so that they’re
primed and ready to go. And that’s the only way that dinner is ready in 30 minutes or less. So make sure that you really are just cooking together- do all the grocery shopping, washing and prepping the night before. A cooking date should be all about the heat…


Keep it simple stupid. Don’t transform your home into kitchen stadium and play Iron Chefs. Mystery ingredients need not apply and, really, your grocery list shouldn’t require many more items than you can tick
off on your hand. Which leads me to my next point…

Don’t Try Filet Mignon w PB&J Skills

You’ve never made your grandmother’s secret sauce but you want to attempt tonight. Forget it! Save that for a rainy Sunday with your sister and a bottle of Cabernet. Stick with recipes that heavily rely on fresh
produce, simply sauced pastas and quick-cooking proteins (more on that below).

Thinner Is Better

Rib-eyes are for steak houses and short ribs deserve three hours in the slow-cooker and a Monday night football game. When you want a quick but elegant dinner, look to thinner cuts like skirt or flank for beef
and scallopine or cutlets when it comes to chicken, pork and veal. (Our Date Night Pork Scallopine with sweet-roasted peppers and salty capers is a must-try; three minutes on each side and dinner is served!

Mix It Up With Mixology

Sharing a bottle of wine is lovely… and a little boring. Why not create a house cocktail that speaks of your special evening together? For the last warm days of summer, James and I enjoy our Rosemary Vodka Lemonade in mason jars or martini glasses, depending on our mood. When we’re feeling a little fancy, we spoil ourselves with our raspberry-infused Champagne Cocktail .

Now tuck away the candles, fire up the burners and slip a cotton apron over the silk because tonight you’re making Seafood Succotash from our debut cookbook, Just Married & Cooking:

Seafood Succotash

Classic succotash is a thrifty cook’s favorite side dish, made simply from a combination of corn and lima beans. But since we’re familiar with this Southern staple, we decided to up the ante and add sweet chunks of shrimp, crab and scallops. To make the dish rich and bright, we finish it off with butter and lots of lemon juice and fresh dill. 

Serves 6

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 shallot, minced

1 cup sweet corn, cut from the cob or frozen kernels

1 cup okra, sliced

2 cups cooked butterbeans, lima beans or black eyed peas, liquid reserved or canned*

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1½ tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

½ – 1 lb. lobster, shrimp, crabmeat and/or scallops, cooked and cut into bits (optional)

juice of ½ lemon

Tobasco, or other hot sauce

In a large sauté pan, melt two tablespoons butter over a medium flame and add the shallots. Cook gently, without browning for 2-3 minutes. Add the corn and saute 3-4 minutes, still over a medium flame. If the pan seems dry, add ¼ cup water. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the okra, butterbeans and 1 cup of the bean liquid (you can make up the difference with water if you need to). Bring this mixture to a simmer and cook until the okra is tender, about 3 minutes more. To finish, stir in the tomatoes, dill, seafood, lemon, hot sauce and remaining butter.  Taste for seasoning adding salt, pepper or more lemon as necessary.

*Canned beans are an acceptable substitute for fresh-cooked beans. Be sure to rinse them well before adding to the pot and use chicken stock, vegetable broth or water in place of the bean’s canned liquid.


Excerpted from JUST MARRIED & COOKING: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together. Copyright © 2011 by Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione.  Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Photos Courtesy of: Colleen Duffley

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