Dinner (ideas) for Two

Feb 5, 2023

Today’s entry was made possible through the words and encouragement of a fantastic human being, whom, when I asked for advice on which topic to write about, she threw down the challenge of recipes and menu ideas designed and suitable to feed a household of two.  I love a good challenge, and I very much appreciate when someone offers me a subject on which to ramble. Before I dive into some of those ideas, however, a quick bit of the backstory…

Since the day our paths crossed, this individual has been a constant source of support, guidance, humour, inspiration and, as it relates to today’s entry, she is a fellow epicure.  It is a fascinating and important thing to stop now and again and recognize how people come and go in your life, and how they that impact you in ways you don’t expect; that there are people who truly listen, care and understand.  Through the few years we’ve known each other, she has shared with me wonderful stories of life, parenthood, and travel, and has even gone so far as to provide activities and entertainment for our daughters in the thick of school shutdowns.  She is the model version of a human being who does these good-natured gestures of kindness for everyone around her, with the only hopeful expectation in return is that the gesture is paid forward in equal parts kindness and consideration.  I just didn’t want to start today’s blog without offering a few words of ‘thanks’ for the many ways in which she has shown support and made me feel like someone is paying attention.  You listen when people speak, and so: thank you for the inspiring challenge, and everything else, too. I now feel the ample portion of embarrassment has been served, and so I will continue to the main course.

I love food.  Love it.  Every day, every plate, every meal is a blank canvas for me, and I am always experimenting with new takes on familiar dishes.  I am not the type of person who could eat the same thing every day, and while I do appreciate and indulge in certain familiar comfort foods which require planning and consideration, I very much enjoy the spontaneity of opening the fridge to see what’s there, or waking up in the morning feeling inspired to try something different.  I say this because meal ‘planning’ for the week with me in the house can be somewhat of a challenge that I fully own and recognize.  It has been an adjustment in my life that I am still getting used to, though I do 100% recognize the significant efficiency, stress reduction and savings to the wallet that the task produces.

See, I am a notoriously guilty ‘grocery store impulse shopper’.  Lamb is on special?  Sweet, toss it in the cart.  Ohhhh, we haven’t had zucchini in a while, let’s get some.  Pomegranates?  Yes please.  In my most comfortable skin, more often than not the first three items in my cart were not on my list.  I’m that guy.  The way I think about it is that I not only don’t know what I’ll crave on ‘Thursday night’ but I also don’t know what I’ll be in the mood to make.  So, yeah, meal planning is a life challenge for me, but I’m working on bettering my ways.  That said, I do like to consider how the things planned earlier in the week might be manipulated to produce something completely different come Friday.  I think this is an especially helpful approach when shopping and cooking for two, given the volume of produce and and goods you’re faced with purchasing by default.

So, here are some ideas that came to mind when thinking about the shopping list and the meal planning, while holding on to a sense of spontaneous inspiration.  You will note that these are not necessarily ‘recipes’, but rather menu suggestions and a few basic guidelines to get you started.

Sunday -Roasted Chicken

For two people, sure, a whole chicken is likely more food than you’ll need in one sitting, but the leftovers are great for salad lunches throughout the week, plus you can make a stock for soup down the road.  It’s one $8-10 purchase that can actually feed you multiple times.

Keep the seasoning simple: salt, pepper, and tuck some pads of butter under the skin.  Toss some onions and carrots at the bottom with a bit of liquid (stock form the last chicken you roasted, perhaps?), then roast at 350, basting every so often, until internal temp is ~165 in the meatiest parts of the breast.  Let it rest 15 minutes before you cut into it.

Why not serve it with a coleslaw and maybe some roasted veg – zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, red onion?  However you’re doing your coleslaw, be it fresh-made or from a bag, you’ll likely have a high yield, so don’t dress it all, save some for later…

Monday – Focaccia Pizza

Two ways you can do this really:

  1. buy a plain focaccia from the grocery store or local bakery
  2. make your own.  It’s bit of a process, but totally worth it; I can share a recipe if you want it.

Whichever you choose depends on how much time and enjoyment you get from the process; regardless the end results are delicious.

Before you begin, consider the size of the focaccia you have and how many mouths you’re feeding.  Chances are that, if it’s only two of you, then you don’t need the full loaf, so cut it in half and stick it in the fridge, we’re going to use it later.

Dressing a focaccia is just like a pizza: it’s a blank canvas for you to create your masterpiece.  If it were up to me, however, I’d do the following in a 450 degree oven until toasty and melty:

  • Olive oil
  • Roasted Garlic
  • Caramelized onions
  • Sautéed enoki and cremini mushrooms
  • Mozzarella and Goat cheese
  • When finished cooking, top with some micro-greens, and a lemon-garlic aioli.*

*don’t be intimidated to make this yourself.  Simply set a couple of peeled and smashed garlic cloves in a couple tablespoons of lemon juice for 30-minutes or so.  Strain the juice and add it to some mayo with a bit of cracked black pepper.  Boom.

Tuesday – Green Salad

We buy a lot of mixed greens for salad lunches throughout the week; but you can also make a great salad for dinner.

Toss your greens in some olive oil and a bit of lemon, top generously with parmesan shavings, the leftover micro-greens that you didn’t use on the focaccia, some sautéed asparagus, toasted pine nuts, a bit of prosciutto, and a couple of soft-poached eggs.

Wednesday – Panini

Remember that focaccia we had set aside from pizza night? Well it’s time to turn it into a grilled or toasted sandwich (if you have a panini press, now is the time to use it).  This is also where inspiration comes into play.  Yes, you’ve planned out the week, but I don’t necessarily think that needs to mean every single component of a meal needs to be written ahead of time.  Just like we did with the pizza, this sandwich offers a blank slate to deliver whatever flavours to our gullet however we deem fit.  This is why keeping a few pantry and fridge staples on hand is a must.  Immediate to mind for suggested fillings:

  • Pear (or apple), brie, drizzle of honey, and leftover prosciutto from your salad night
  • Chicken (from the Sunday dinner), goat cheese, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Roasted zucchini, peppers, tomato, red onion and goat cheese…also a great use of Sunday night’s leftovers.

Thursday – Perogies.  Or take-out

I love perogies.  Boil them, then pan fry and top with whatever cheese titillates your senses, as well as some fried bacon, scallions and sour cream; classic.  They’re easy, fun, filling and cheap.

That said, give yourself a day off!  Order something indulgent and throw on the streaming service of your choice.

Friday – Cheese

At this point, based on other meals, it’s likely that you have a great selection of cheeses, bread, prosciutto or other cured mets, and perhaps even come cornichons that you served along side your panini on Wednesday, so why prep anything else?  Slap it all on a cutting board, pour some wine and sit, not in front of the TV, but in front of each other and chat about your week.  What were your rose, bud, thorn, and sunshine over the past 5-days?

Saturday – Fish Tacos

Another easy one that’s light on cost and prep, but is fun to eat and

  • Coat the tilapia in a light dusting of flour and pan-fry for a few minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
    • didn’t manage to flip and fry perfect looking filets?  Who cares!?  You’re going to chop this up into pieces anyway
  • Toss onto a tortilla with some of the undressed coleslaw that we set aside earlier in the week
  • Squeeze on some lime, crumble some feta, and drizzle a kicked-up ‘crema’ (or at least my version of it)* on top.
  • You’re welcome.

*Crema

  • A couple of healthy spoonfuls of sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp each of:
    • cumin
    • paprika
    • garlic powder
    • onion powder
    • chili powder
    • lime zest
  • pinch of cayenne
  • salt to taste

 

 

So, there you have it.  A few ideas to get you going.  Also, I didn’t realize how much I like goat cheese until writing this; in any case, I hope I passed the challenge and would love to hear some more inspired ideas from you, I’m always looking for a reason to go to the grocery store for something not necessarily on the list…

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