We're almost at the 3 month mark for quarantine and although many states are starting to reopen, you may not feel 100% comfortable dining out. We FEEL YOU.
Even though having a date night out is still an iffy situation, it’s important to set aside time with your partner and have intentional date nights. Whether you prefer to get dressed up for fun or amp up the coziness with your favorite sweats, Mackenzie is bringing you two recipes today that incorporate pantry staples that will help you make a delicious, nutritious, special date night dinner!
Wine: Gewurztraminer! This sweet wine is actually known as an aromatic white wine, and mainly is grown in Europe. It’s full-bodied, which means it coats your mouth (think of full-bodied wine as coconut milk and light-bodied as light soy milk). It often has notes of rose, ginger, and grapefruit, making it a great partner for Indian food. It also can be used as a dessert wine because it is so sweet, which is perfect if you want to pop just one bottle for the whole night. However, if you do this, we would recommend adding a little additional sugar to your mousse or possibly a sweet whipped cream, as gewurztraminer pairs best with sweeter chocolate dishes. If you're looking to enjoy two beverages with dinner, though, we suggest ruby port for your dessert. I could drink port everyday: It’s rich, syrupy, boozy, and holds notes of chocolate, raisin, and spices: a perfect pair for a bitter chocolate dessert.
Beer: For the entree, IPAs and other hoppy beers will be able to stand up to the spice in the dish. If you’re like me and aren’t a gigantic fan of IPAs, anything from a lager to a pilsner will do well with this dish. For dessert, we recommend stouts and other heavy, malty beers. These beers already have notes of chocolate in them and their bitterness will bring out the sweeter elements in the dessert.
Cocktails: For your dessert, we’d suggest any kind of whiskey/scotch based cocktail. If I was ordering at a bar, I’d probably go with a Manhattan or something similar: the sweet vermouth and luxardo cherry will pair with the sweet elements of the dessert, and the bitter elements will be rounded by the flavors of the alcohol.
Non-Alcoholic: If you want to go all-in on a cultural experience, lassi is a wonderful accompaniment to any Indian cuisine. A traditional yogurt-based drink, there are many vegan recipes available, including this one for a vegan mango lassi. If you want to end your date on a relaxing note, try pairing your chocolate mousse with a fruit tea.
For the main course, I chose a curry that I make all the time. Like no joke, I make this curry probably 3 times a month. It’s quick, easy, and can be modified in so many ways to use veggies that are about to go bad. I’ve made this recipe so many times that I don’t even have to look at the original anymore, and I’ve added my own twists. Here is the original recipe, but I’ll tell you how I put it together.
I start with getting my pan hot with oil. You can use olive oil, coconut oil, or any other oil you have around. Next, I put in a half an onion and a tablespoon of pre-minced garlic. If you don't have onions, any allium will do. After they begin to simmer and cook down, I add my spices. You want to add your spices at the start of a dish to build flavor up and allow the spices to cook. Unlike salt and pepper, you can’t really throw them in at the end of a dish and expect your dish to be flavored properly.Plus, adding them at the start of the dish makes your kitchen smell AMAZING. :) I don’t measure spices, I always organically add as I go. And, if this is your first time making a dish like this, I’d suggest you do the same and constantly taste. A curry dish is all about personal preferences: I love my dishes to be spicy and exploding with flavor, and others might like it on the milder side. Add a little of this, a little of that, and once you find the perfect combination for you, it’ll be your curry recipe and unique to you.
Once the spices are fragrant, I add in about 3 tablespoons of peanut butter. Peanut butter is truly a secret weapon in this recipe. It adds a creaminess, nuttiness, and (sort-of) Thai influence to the dish (even though this dish is in no way authentic Indian or Thai cuisine!). Once the peanut butter goes in and is incorporated with the rest of the dish, you can add your veggies and chickpeas. Because of quarantine, I used a half a bag of mixed veggies I had in my freezer, but I’ve made this with a TON of different vegetables. You can use basically anything from broccoli to cauliflower to succotash. The only note I’d make is that you probably should cook raw veggies in the oven or pan before tossing them in, since they aren’t likely to cook in the sauce completely and might still be crunchy.
Finally, you add your tomatoes and dairy-free milk. Any type of tomato-- crushed, stewed, diced-- and any type of plain milk-- almond, coconut, soy -- will work! This dish truly is a quarantine grab bag, which is why I love it so much. Mix, let simmer, and then ENJOY! When I made this dish recently, my husband and I just so happened to have a bottle of gewurztraminer on-hand, and they tasted delicious together!
So this dessert was, ahem, a struggle. It took three tries before I got anything remotely close to what it was supposed to be. I had to adjust the recipe and utilize my knowledge of making meringue to get the aquafaba to stabilize. That being said, when it did work it was really tasty and I’d definitely make it again; I just would never follow the instructions in the video again.
Here is the original recipe: https://tasty.co/recipe/vegan-chocolate-mousse
The first two times I attempted making this recipe, I followed the instructions in the video without checking the comments to see what others had found (because not reading the comments is self care). The first time I made it, the aquafaba wasn’t beaten stiff enough and when I added the sugar and cocoa at the end, it deflated too much. The second time, the consistency of my chocolate just wasn't right, and it separated from the aquafaba creating a weird pool of slivered chocolate in the bottom. I was pretty done with attempts to make this dessert for the day, so I took a deep breath and decided to try again the next day.
The next day I had to use the aquafaba from great northern white beans, which was fine: basically any aquafaba will work. I decided to toss the recipe and follow my instinct instead, so I added sugar at the beginning as well as about a half teaspoon of cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is vegan, and helps stabilize meringue or anything similar (enter aquafaba) to create stiffer peaks faster. I and I beat this aquafaba silly. I mean I really, really, let it go for like 20 minutes. Then, instead of using melted chocolate that would be sure to deflate, I added cocoa powder. While it does have a more bitter taste, I compensated by adding a bit more sugar. I enjoy desserts that aren’t too sweet, so it was just right for me.
Here is my re-write of the recipe:
Drain aquafaba into bowl and add 3 TBLS of sugar and ½ tsp of cream of tartar.
Beat the heck out of the aquafaba.
When the aquafaba begins to foam/stabilize, add 1 tsp of vanilla and 1 TBS of cocoa powder.
If you’re not a huge fan of chocolate or want an additional a element, you could add:
1 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice for a cinnamon sugar dessert
4 drops lemon extract for a lemon dessert (lemon juice could also work here, but adding too much moisture to the mousse will ruin the texture)
Cayenne pepper for a spicy-chocolate flavor
2-3 drops mint extract for a mint-chocolate flavor (be careful with this one--no one wants a dessert that reminds them of toothpaste!)
Once your aquafaba has developed stiff peaks and all the cocoa powder is incorporated, put it into a glass, mason jar, or container to chill for 3 hours. Then, enjoy!
If you plan to make both of these recipes for a date night, be sure to make your dessert first, since it has to chill in the fridge in order to set.
We hope you're able to enjoy a delicious date night from the comfort of your home using these pantry staples! Join us next week for ________________
The book “What to Drink with What you Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea -- Even Water-- Based on Expert Advice from American’s Best Sommeliersi”