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Cooking for boys

OK, I know this has been asked in various forms over the years, but I can't seem to find the threads.

I want to cook dinner for a guy, but I have no idea what. The obstacles: I'm vegetarian, he's not; he's got about twice the appetite; I'm not sure yet how adventurous he is, foodwise.

Any ideas? I'd like something simple, that tastes great but doesn't look like I tried too hard.


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  1. Would something like eggplant parm be too much trouble? Or a mushroom lasagna? Both are vegetarian without being thought of a vegetarian, are filling (for the hearty appetite) and good this time of year.

    6 Replies
    1. re: WCchopper

      Duh. Why didn't I think of lasagna?

      I'm trying to avoid basic red sauce pasta because that's usually what he cooks. But lasagna is different enough without being "out there".

      I might try the eggplant parm later, once I find out whether he likes eggplant.

      1. re: piccola

        Ina Garten's mushroom lasagna recipe is very good (even better on day 2). You can find it on the Food TV website. It uses a bechamel sauce instead of a red sauce. I made it for a potluck last week and it was the only dish that was 100% eaten.
        Because it is better after it sits a while, I have learned to make it one day and let it sit oer night in the fridge. I bake it and serve it on day 2

        1. re: piccola

          And the seafood lasagna with minor changes (Silver Palate cookbook) also is a really good dish.

          Ahi tuna comes to mind - sort of meeting in the middle.

          1. re: chef chicklet

            Should of added that this is made with bechamel flavored with the pernod.. gives it a very delicate flavor. My kids love seafood, any and all though.

          2. re: piccola

            You can make a pesto lasagna if you want to veer from the red sauce.

            1. re: Jennalynn

              Good idea, as is the b├ęchamel.

        2. Pasta pasta pasta! You two can have the same pasta, only his will have meat and yours don't. Meatballs. beef strips, chicken, chorizo or sauages, just add whatever meat he likes!

          Won't hurt to add some vegetables in the pasta too!

          1. Hearty soup. You can throw some pre-cooked sausage in his and none in yours. Bread, salad, and dessert are non-denominational.

            1. I'd go with lentil soup (made with water or vegetable broth) and add a nice smoked sausage like linguica or kielbasa to his, served with a salad of endive, apples, walnuts and blue cheese with a lemon vinaigrette, and plain bruschetta with good olive oil. Or, if you don't want bread, add farro or barley to the lentil soup. For more color, you can add a few handfuls of spinach or chard to the soup also.

              1. I love making spinach pie when I'm making vegetarian food for non-vegetarians. People don't seem to notice it's veggie, and it goes well with a nice salad or soup. Otherwise, eggplant parm was going to be my first suggestion too.

                1. I sometimes prefer meatless meals, though I'm not a vegetarian, and my husband tends to like meat with every meal, but the one veg meal that he loves is grilled cheese and soup. You could make the grilled cheese a little fancier by utilizing the Zuni method of olive oil with sage brushed on the bread before grilling. Maybe paired with a butternut squash soup or something? My husband's newest favorite was the asparagus and tortellini soup that I posted on the soup thread with an asiago grilled cheese.

                  1. A variety of interesting and contrasting textures is important, I think. When I have the time, I love to make a barley/wild rice/Israeli couscous salad. You can add any of the following:

                    tofu cubes
                    nuts: almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, cashews, chestnuts
                    dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, blueberries
                    chopped vegetables: red onion, bell pepper, green onion, carrot
                    roasted vegetables: squash, leek, fennel, eggplant, beets

                    My favorite is a mixture of barley, tofu, wild rice, blueberries, almonds, walnuts, green onion, squash, and beets. He can have this over a roasted chicken leg if he's the kind who has to *see* the meat. But a good hunk of chevre on top with a hot cup of broth or butternut squash soup (epicurious has a recipe with roasted red pepper puree) and I'm happier than a clam.

                    1. For something simple, that tastes great but doesn't look like you tried too hard--I would probably go with homemade pizza with interesting combos of toppings (epicurious has lots of great ideas to get started). There are so many different combinations and it is easy to accommodate vegetarian/meat eaters and even picky eaters alike.

                      1. I like Honey's idea about the lasagne. I make great lasagne and saw Ina's mushroom lasage and thought it looked great.

                        Anyway, I was thinking about a pasta misto. A great presentation. Do the mushroom lasagne, and 2 gnocchi's, one with a creamy parmigiano reggiano sauce and one with a basil pesto sauce.

                        1. I had to chime in on this one - my best friend is a guy and what he told me is the thing a girl trying to impress a guy for her first "I'm cooking for you" meal is always lasagne. Note to self - if I need to impress someone, do not make lasagne

                          Seriously tho, if you're not too sure how adventurous he is, go basic. Since you're veggie and he's not, I think the idea of pasta is a good one - something that satisfies without having meat like a good puttanesca sauce over some killer fresh pasta with some better than .... garlic bread.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: AlaskaChick

                            Yeah, it's kind of a minefield, isn't it? :-)

                            1. re: AlaskaChick

                              I don't know if putanesca is the right choice...cough...

                              1. re: willownt

                                Lol, good call. Besides the connotations, it has anchovies, a no-no for me.

                            2. I also saw Giada make a KILLER mac and cheese (not your basic lunchroom version).

                              And who doesn't love mac and cheese?!

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Jennalynn

                                I'm a meat eating guy, and if you were making it for me, I'd rather you made something vegetarian that we could both eat rather than have to deal with the "I made this for you and that for me...." stuff. This is your dinner together - if he can't deal with eating veggie food once in a while, he's probably not the guy for you. That said, you want to make something good, that both of you will enjoy - mushroom lasagne sounds awesome - make it really cheesy. If you are good at making pasta alfredo, that would be great as well. Homemade pizza would be awesome too. Risotto would be great as well, but its more work.

                                1. re: cheapskate

                                  See, that's what I thought too. Turns out boy doesn't like cheese or mushrooms (thank god we ordered in instead). He's from a rural town where the exotic thing is Taco Bell.

                                  Sigh. Back to square one.

                                  1. re: piccola

                                    Sad. Although being from a rural community doesnt always mean you are so picky :P Usually all we have are things like tomatoes and mushrooms and cheese. So we like them, haha.

                                    It's difficult, because a "steak" would be a man's dish. And I still think pasta would be amazing. Maybe he can be won over? And you know what, if he doesn't like certain things... perhaps order in a main dish, and make amazing rolls or biscuits? I want to say mac and cheese as well, but if he doesn't like cheese then im not sure.

                                    How about mashed potatoes? A good roll or biscuit? And perhaps an ordered in steak? I wouldn't want you to cook it being vegetarian.

                                    As far as vegetarian dishes I like, I love couscous with sauteed mushrooms and onions.

                                    Like earlier posters have said though... if he can't conform to at least a few vegetarian meals though, maybe he isn't for you.

                                    If he can conform, try the pasta dishes. Maybe he'll like cheese in small quantities. Plus, often times, people like things once they are mixed together.

                                    Good luck!

                                    1. re: in_wonderment

                                      Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that all rural residents are picky eaters. :) Just that this particular specimen isn't used to ethnic foods - the basis of my diet.

                                      I think I'll mess around with pasta and potatoes to start. He's not opposed to trying new things but since I've always eaten "weird" foods, I don't know how to go about introducing them...

                                      1. re: piccola

                                        Yeah it's tough. I would stay away from anything spicy or herby (not a word, i know) for awhile though. My little sister survives almost entirely on our homemade tomato sauce, and our alfredo sauce. Really, over some fresh pasta, you can't go wrong.

                                        Also, you could always ask what his favorite meatless dish is and then perfect it.

                                        I always feel awkward giving suggestions. I'm sure you'll figure it out :)

                                        P.S. thanks to whoever posted the mushroom lasagna up there. It looks WONDERFUL.

                                        1. re: in_wonderment

                                          That lasagna is fantastic. I made it last week and froze in individual portions. Dinner almost every night (so maybe I shouldn't have bothered splitting it up...)

                                          And thanks for the ideas, it always helps. I guess it's trial and error from here.

                              2. Things I've cooked "for a guy" that aren't lasagna:

                                Spanakopita (a whole greek themed dinner with greek salad and saganaki)
                                Canneloni (ricotta and spinach)
                                Veggie chili (I use Yves Veggie Ground Round in place of ground beef)

                                Chili definitely doesn't look like you tried too hard. Cheese biscuits go nicely and are super easy (if he's not in to cooking he might not think so but they take just a few minutes to mix up and bake).

                                Let us know how your dinner date turns out :)

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: maplesugar

                                  The barefoot contessa has a four cheese pasta, a casserole type dish which is delicious.
                                  Maybe a nice cesear salad to go with.
                                  Potatoes are always a hit too. Not with pasta, but if you can come up with something else.

                                  1. re: maplesugar

                                    Canneloni is another one I was going to suggest. Yummy yummy stuff.
                                    Crab canneloni is wonderful!

                                      1. re: piccola


                                        pasta with vegetable bolognese?

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          That seems like the plan for now. :)

                                    1. Practically all guys like ravioli - reminds us of our childhood and that can o' Chef Boyardee when we had to fend for ourselves. A friend (vegetarian) recently made us dinner consisting of cheese ravioli with capers, artichoke hearts, olive oil and lemon. If he doesn't like cheese, would spinach be acceptable?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: ATaleOfFiction

                                        Oh, great idea! I hadn't thought of ravioli. Easy, yummy and not girly - a perfect combo. Thanks!