This one goes out to my peeps in the 18-34 age demos. If you’re older than that, well, you’re too old. GTFO!
Okay. This is like my fifteenth semi-weekly blog post. I say “like” here because I’m not going to count all twenty of them. Btw a big thanks to those who like my blog and recently signed up for the email updates on my site!
All six of my long-time fans know I’m all over the map with my posts: from how to deal with panic to the glory of Rick & Morty to this one, which will eventually be about winning hearts with food. It’s like I have a constellation of issues, and I do. My first real therapist told me early on, “Eddie, you have a constellation of issues.” And so today in my Constellation Blog I’ll explore the sexy allure of a decent meal. I’ll give some ideas for making your own food and tips on buying wine so you caget your cuffing season game on fleek.
Real meals are rare these days and yet everyone loves a good homecooked meal, right? It doesn’t have to be that hard and I’ll let you in on the first secret of good cooking: buy quality ingredients. You can taste the difference between the $4 olive oil and the $12 olive oil. You can taste the difference between cheese you grate yourself and that shit that comes in a big bag, or worse, a plastic jar. So when you start tripping out on your grocery bill, think about that night you got stuck with a ninety-dollar bar tab. When the drinks were done what were you left with the next day but bad breath and a wicked hangover? When you buy actual ingredients you get to keep all the stuff and continue to use it. Second secret: look online at two or three recipes for the same dish, notice what they all have in common, then do it the way you want.
Here’s my three part plan to win that first-string BAE even though you’re probably a red-shirt freshman.
Start slow while it's still warm with a brunchy-type luncheon date. Daytime events always seem far less serious than big, dinner dates. Totally low pressure situation. This requires minimal cooking but some prep work. You need some fruit to prep: sliced apple, grapes, cubed cantaloupe, maybe some late-season stone fruits. Arrange two of the above on a tray or a big cutting board. Slice some nice cheeses: smoked cheddar, fontina, provolone, brie, whatever. (You can’t slice brie, dummy, just stick it there with a knife). Put out some Melba rounds or water crackers or the Keebler Club things.
Now step your game up. If you’re into doing things in advance make lemon thyme deviled eggs (egg yolk, teeny bit of mayo, yellow mustard, garlic salt, lemon zest, fresh thyme, parsley garnish). For a more interactive cooking experience make grilled sandwich bites together. Butter up both sides of the bread. That goes on the outside. Inside pair some of the provolone or cheddar or fontina you didn’t use above with black forest ham and/or turkey. Cook it slowly, slowly. Flip when golden brown but keep watching—that shit burns quick. Place sandwich on paper towel, pat grease and slice into quarters.
It’s finger food so make sure you have plenty of napkins out. I’d do this meal with some bubbly. Don’t go out and buy expensive champagne just get prosecco. Mix in a splash of Chambord if you’re high rolling. Do P.O.G. (passionfruit, orange, guava juice) if you’re mellow. Get Barefoot Bubbly and OJ if you’re in Massachusetts and spend all your coin on lobster rolls. Make sure you’re rocking some goodtime beats, too. I’d do a mash of Lilly Allen, Beck, Marley, Mary J, Maroon 5, Blanca, LL Cool J, Macy Grey, and Matisyahu but yeah, that’s just me being weird.
This right here should get you some daytime nookie. But if you’re slow like me, it might take a few more months (years). Next up, the first big dinner. You got this, but keep it moving 'cause the weather’s about to change, homes.
This next meal requires a grill and you've got three options if you don’t already own one. A) go steal one from in front of Home Depot B) Do a sunset, outdoor thing at a park with a built-in grill C) Find a friend with a grill. Actually, I like option B the best. Parks tend to thin out late day and especially after Labor Day, so not only do you get to grill you get tranquility and relative privacy. Just bring your own wire brush, kay?
You’ll also need to buy some bamboo skewers, a bunch of veggies like red and green bell peppers, sweet onion, zucchini, Chinese eggplant, maybe some nice large mushrooms. Chop everything but ‘shrooms into 2 inch pieces and marinate everything in shallow bowl with a dash of salt, a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Stir to coat evenly. Now, you’ll need something else to grill. I do marinated rib eye steaks with sea salt, pepper, the juice from half a lemon and soy. But anything sturdy will work: chicken, pork loin, tofurkey not-dogs. Slide the veg on the skewers and cook those first as they take longest (20 min).
Throw the steaks or chicken or whatever on the grill whole. Cutting it into kebobs is extra work and just gives you cubes of died out meat most of the time. If you do cook steaks make sure you let them rest for 5 min. before you slice into it. Plate the sliced meat (or tofurky not-dogs) with the loose veggies from skewers and voila, low carbs!
It’s a dinner, so make it nice with candles, but don’t burn anything that smells like a Cinnabon. No one ever got a headache from simple tea lights or tapers. If you do steak, pair it with a nice red that costs more than $12, you cheapskate. Wine tip: the more boring the label, the better the wine. Good wine makers don’t need gimmicky labels. If you like sweeter wines go zinfandel, for drier wines go with the cab or a petit Verdot. There’s no shame in serving a red blend or “table wine.” For chicken and such I like a nice Chardonnay with mineral notes like Macon Villages (Make-own Vil-odge) This meal is a classic at my house so we stick with the classics: Billie Holliday, Frank, Aretha, Chet Baker, Vince Guaraldi, and maybe some Diana Krall or Amy Winehouse to bring into this century.
The final step in this plan is to keep the love coming. Don’t do all this work and then quit like you on strike. That says I want to get dumped mid-season. The thing to do is surprise BAE with a wintry dish like stuffed acorn squash.
You’ll know it because it’s the one that look like a big, green acorn. Slice two in half, scoop out seeds, score the flesh into one-inch squares, butter it and pre-bake at 400 for like 15-20 min. (If you hate squash you can do this with two bell peppers. Pre-bake for ten min. then dump the water that collects inside the cored pepper.) Now, fry a mix of onion, ground turkey (or T.V.P, you hippie) and something nutty like pecan pieces, sunflower kernels, or all the almonds you mined out of the Planter’s mixed nuts. Place in bowl and stir in 1/3 cup fresh ground parm. What did I say about getting the good stuff? No Kraft! Put a scoop of the mix in the hollow of the squash and bake for another 15 min. If you used the pepper, then get that box of white rice from the Chinese takeout that no one was going to eat anyway. Mix some old rice into the bowl of stuffing for a hearty, yummy blend and cook pepper for another 10 min. You’ll have mix left. Freeze it and make more in another month. Don’t get lazy, do it.
So this is a cold weather dish and you two should be wearing matching Snuggies by now. I’d pair this with a nice dark beer like Black Butte Porter or even a pumpkin ale if you’re not sick to death of pumpkin everything yet. This cozy meal screams Netflix and chill. I’d maintain that mood with some down-tempo ambient trip-hop: Thievery Corporation, Morcheeba, Zero 7, Handsome Boy Modeling School, Massive Attack, Bonobo….
My wife thinks it’s hilarious that I’d dare to give dating advice. I say well, I can’t really keep anyone I can just attract them with food. Now you’ve go a plan for the next five months. It’s up to you to listen and be respectful and not go off on maniacal tangents. Bon Appetit!