The easiest thing to cook is chicken leg quarters. You can even get the pre-seasoned ones if you like. Trim the excess fat. Put them in a baking dish. It would be nice to have them on a rack so the fat drains away but not absolutely necessary. Put a little oil on the skin. Season with salt, pepper and maybe some smoked paprika. Put them in a 350°F oven for 75 minutes. That's it.
Serve with one of those boxed rice kits. They are easy and cheap. Make a salad. Have some french bread and some white wine. Wow... you're a gourmet cook!
This dish and that boxed rice is pretty good all by yourself, too. It's one of the cheapest ways to eat.
If you feel you must make a dessert, buy a pint or even half a pint of premium vanilla ice cream and a lemon pound cake, sliced. Leave the ice cream on the counter in a bowl. That's right let it melt. Refrigerate once it is melted. Spoon the melted ice cream which is now "creme anglaise' (Make sure you call it that. After all, your a gourmet.) into the bowl 3/8 inch deep maybe. Put the slice of pound cake on top of that. There you go... lemon pound cake with creme anglaise. Some berries on top would be great.
This is a dessert that should be made right before you eat it.
Faux Bananas Foster is very simple, yet impressive (without the fire hazard!) You could even cook this together, since that makes for conversation and a nice shared experience. My husband and I love to cook together, even though he's a mediocre sous chef! The journey is as good as the meal, that way.
Slice your bananas, 2 or 3, depending on their size.
In a nonstick pan, combine bananas, 1/3 c brown sugar, 3 T butter, and a little maple syrup. Cook until bubbly and beautiful over medium-medium high heat about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and spoon over icecream!
To answer the rest of your question... Don't make anything too heavy or gas-inducing. A nice spinach salad with toasted pecans, pear slices, and some crumbled bleu cheese would be delicious and VERY easy to put together...
Pasta is very nice as well as unfussy. Try pan-searing some chicken breast strips to put on top.
Best of luck, and remember, even if the food isn't perfect, or if something goes freakishly wrong, the effort that you are putting into this is what really matters. :)
First what can you cook? How proficient are you in the kitchen? You don't want to go too far out of your wheelhouse.
Have you gone to lunch or dinner with your crush before to see what she likes to order?
Pasta is easy with a nice salad. Also, if you have a good bakery in your area, you can pick up a dessert so you don't have to worry about baking a cake.
Personally, I think you should not knock yourself out over cooking for her the first time. You'll set the bar too high and she'll expect that from you all the time.
Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Butter on top of pasta, good bread (bought), a green salad, a bottle of wine. For dessert,buy some high end ice cream or if you want to make something, a crumble is pretty foolproof and can be made ahead -- assemble the whole thing, pop it into the oven when she arrives, and it should be warm in time for dessert.
When I was 19 my boyfriend made me chicken tikka masala with sauce from a jar and candles stuck into 2 liter coke bottles. Reader, I married him.
How about something like this? You can prepare it before she gets there, pop it in the oven at the appropriate time so you don't have to be spending a lot of time fussing in the kitchen http://cookbookrecipemom.blogspot.com...
A little dish of good ice cream makes a totally acceptable dessert in my mind.
I'm in agreement with many of the other posters here who recommend roast chicken as your main course. It is easy, inexpensive, yet can be impressive; most (unless she is vegetarian) people will eat chicken, and it goes with so many side dishes (mashed potatoes, veggies, salads) that you have heaps of choices in what to "go with" your meal.
I like this very easy, yet impressive buttermilk roasted chicken recipe because it uses already cut-up pieces of chicken (rather than a whole chicken which can be tricky in terms of timing when it is done; plus it is less work for you), it uses buttermilk (which tenderises the chicken during the 24 hours in which you let the pieces soak overnight & gives it depth of flavour), and it recommends using a kitchen timer so you'll know exactly when it is done: http://pickyin.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/buttermilk-roast-chicken.html .
I also like this 8-minutes from start to finish Nutella Espresso Chocolate Mug Cake (yep, you 'bake' it in a coffee mug in the microwave, but check it out, it is beautiful and with Nutella, it's got to be good!) for dessert. http://www.mandyashcraft.com/post/163...
Roasting a chicken is a nice thing to do, and it makes you look really competent.
Ina Garten's (the Barefoot Contessa) recipe is my favorite. Instead of the fennel, which you may or may not like -- I don't -- I use a half a pound of new red potatoes (don't peel 'em) cut the same size as the carrot pieces. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...
It's simple -- a whole meal in one roasting pan -- but it's a bit of chopping. Just give yourself some time.
I agree with those who said to buy dessert.
Before dinner, you can have a piece of cheese and either bread or crackers. I like St. Andre (leave it out for 12-24 hours to ripen) with some kind of Italian bread. Or just put out a bowl of cashews or pistachios.
re: Jay F
OMG. I roasted a chicken with tarragon in the cavity once, and I used so much (a whole bunch IIRC) the tarragon flavor was so strong, I couldn't eat it for dinner. I saved it for chicken salad the next day, when I could doctor it up.
So...if the OP opts for tarragon, GO LIGHTLY with it.
I love the cucumber salad idea. And it's so easy to do ahead.
My first date meal was always salmon with an apple cider and whole grain mustard glaze, mashed potatos, asphargus and a good salad. Promise you'll be off to the races:-)
To make the mustard glaze buy the best apple cider you can find ( a quart should do note: not apple juice get the best organic cyder you can afford) about a good couple table spoons of whole grain mustard, a shallot. Put in a sauce pan and reduce by half - until it's thicken. Do this before.
For the salmon you can either sear and put in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes, (this is best). Or just put the glaze over it and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes. Note don't get steaks get fillets. About 6 oz's each is a good portion.
is there a regional specialty food where your college is located?
do you have a family specialty (ethnic or just family tradition) - that might be an interesting conversation starter - maybe if you've been on an overseas exchange and she is familiar with that country too - or are you in a class together - maybe that could be a jumping off point for your menu inspiration --- or maybe her favorite book / author could inspire your menu --- you know what i mean?
do you know if she likes to cook at all? Maybe you could enjoy cooking together -- if not, make sure it's something that won't keep you trapped and frantic in the kitchen while she's sitting on the couch wondering what she's doing there.
do you know anything about her preferences -- vegetarian, pescatarian, no red meat, no pork (could be preference or religious grounds) --- etc. But don't make it too creepy (ie where it seems like you've been almost stalking her and finding out every detail about her from everyone but HER! that might put her off - you can tell her later as the friendship progresses, at which point it might be cute funny to own up to your research)
keep it fresh, simple, and something that is "date friendly" (no girl really wants to be eating embarrassing dribbly food on a date! ... or loaded with garlic or something (that said - i realize some hummous can be really over-garlicked))
remember that the overall experience matters - freshen the air in your apartment/house --- some simple flowers or fall leaves will look really pretty - make it look like you put some easy effort in to it
i think a picnic style would be fun - does your house have a fireplace or a really pretty view?
maybe you could invite her for a nice autumn walk to the farm market followed by your dinner plan at your place
*salad of fresh baby greens, diced farmer market pear, pecans, dried cranberries, and crumbled blue cheese and a "clean" vinaigrette (good olive oil and really good balsamic, ideally a reduction of balsamic - which is easy to make tho air out the house - you can often buy reduction type balsamic product which will last a long time tho it is not cheap. Maybe Trader Joe's has a product like this. you could carefully assemble the entire salad in one wide bowl (tho watch out cuz the pears will go brown once cut up) --- or you could make a nice looking platter deconstructed so your guest can assemble how she likes ... in case she doesn't eat nuts or doesn't like blue cheese or something like that.
*soup is simple - lots of nice vegetables at this time of year in many regions - you can make a broth soup or a puree (like smokey pumpkin soup at this time of year) --- those Tetra Pak soups at Trader Joes are pretty good - just garnish like it shows on the label.
i*f you make pasta - make sure it's easy to eat (ie not long noodles)
*apples, grapes, pears (find some nice small ones at the farm market and good Tillamook sharp cheese and some nice bakery items for dessert
*hummous is an easy starter (can buy from a good greek restaurant in take-out) along with decent pide bread or some of the better chips like at TJ's (not gas station convenience store chips usually)
make sure it's easy for you and your guest - don't want any awkward crashing and slamming about in the kitchen or smoke alarms or over-the-top obligation - you want her to feel NOT pressured by your interest in her --- dinner for a nice friend sounds a good place to start
have a great time - i hope it turns in to a wonderful story you can share w/ each other in many years to come. Let us know ; )
i hope that helps
So sweeeeeet! First it's important to find out what she likes to eat, second make sure what you make is easy to eat (no spaghetti), she probably wants to make just as good an impression on you, stews are good, hamburgers,steak, chicken breast, sides of mashed potatoes, broccoli or spinach. Nothing with too much garlic, will make her self conscious.
Oh, one more tip, buy a loaf of Italian bread, the type that's crispy not chewy and soft on the inside. Wet your hands (I assume your hands are washed) and sprinkle water all along the top and bottom of the bread (very little water) wrap it in tin foil, put it in a preheated oven, 225 degrees for 20-30 minutes just to fill the room with warm bread smell, carbs are comfort. Dish of extra virgin olive oil with fresh pepper or room temp butter, yum.
I agree w/ the other poster that said not to worry about making dessert. I personally love good cupcakes, and with the abundance of gourmet cupcake shops these days, that might be a good way to go. Chocolate flavored anything will usually work for most women (although my personal favorite ones are the "breakfasty" types that involve bacon and maple flavors).
For a main dish, that will depend on your skill. If your skill level is low, just doing a simple pasta dish will be good, but nothing with spaghetti or linguine or fettuccine noodles, that's messier to eat. Stick with something like farfalle or penne or rigatoni. If you're a bit more skilled, doing steaks on a cast iron skillet (Or grill if it's available) is good. A man that can cook a good steak gets points in my book, and surprisingly, a lot of men suck at it.
Of course all of this will depend on her tastes too... do you know anything about what she likes to eat? The advice in the thread the others linked to is good too. I would avoid doing fish unless you know she likes it, many people are picky about fish/seafood.
How many people is a crush? That is going to make a big difference. Like 20-30 or 5-10?
For lots of people, a slow cooked oven meal like brisket or pulled pork is easy and gets raves.
For smaller groups, something like a really well done sauce & pasta may be in order.
There was another young man with the same dilemma recently. I think this thread might help you.
It really depends on your skill set and what kitchen supplies you have to work with. I wish you all the luck and let us know how it comes out!
Edit: LOL - Looks like fourunder and I had the same idea!