Check out some more dishes that are perfect for a table for two
I’m a ways behind Cara in the relationship department. Josh and I just celebrated our 1-year anniversary a few weeks ago, and for the first time, I finally made it to the second level of the dating game. What does that mean? Dodging speeding taxi cabs, calendars of doom, and roommates lurking around every corner for long enough to actually have a successful relationship. Some people call it a juggling act. But the day to day of dating in New York—where work never seems to end, dinner dates are made three weeks in advance, and your best friend and boyfriend have separate birthday parties on the same night—can sometimes feel as frustrating and consuming as Angry Birds.
All of this is to say, I’m thrilled we made it past this mark, and I recognize the accomplishment, even if most of the time our relationship has felt easy. Part of the journey, or at least, the part that can be shared with you without TMI-ing, has been learning how to cook for two. We started a category in our recipe index for this type of meal, and Cara has been sharing her wisdom on cooking for Alex for the last two years on BGSK. Now, I get it.
There were a few game changers when it came to cooking for Josh on a regular basis. For one, he likes his meat, more specifically, his chicken. While I would usually rely on a vegetable from the farmers’ market to dictate the direction of a weeknight pantry-based meal, with Josh on board, we start with protein.
Luckily, Josh lives near an awesome butcher in Carroll Gardens (Los Paisanos), which means I can usually leave this part of the meal to him (a “secret ingredient” strategy, à la this shrimp Alex salvaged from his freezer to add to Cara’s pasta). The other nice thing about cooking for two is that you can indulge in a more expensive protein without breaking the bank.
Steak doesn’t show its face too often on BGSK. But Josh and I have actually been eating a lot of it lately, thanks to our anniversary dinner at Peter Lugers (which I am still recovering from), and the secret-ingredient cooking-for-two strategy we employ at home. Josh will pick up ¾ pound of well-priced, delicious rib eye or sirloin steaks (for under $13 a pound), and I’ll whip up a simple and cheap side dish—sometimes roasted potatoes to soak up the steak juices, but more often rice.
We binge on rice bowls a lot on BGSK. This is for budget reasons, and also because we’re a little weird. When Cara and I go to sushi together, sometimes we both order just a miso soup and a side of sushi rice (with a side of ginger dressing or spicy mayo) instead of actual sushi. It just hits the spot. Ironically, it also the dish I recommend to people going through a breakup because it is too basic and plain to become a reminder of your failed relationship every time you eat it. During happy times with your current boyfriend, rice bowls like this sesame rice salad or Cara’s Miso-Marinated Flank Steak with rice are also great ways to stretch a protein like, say, ¾ pound of steak.
The last consideration I’ve found when cooking for two is that you want the meal to still feel special. After the schedule juggling, the taxi-cab dodging, and the 45 minutes on the subway it takes for us to get to each other’s apartments, dinner is a time worth savoring. So sign me up for another year of steak and rice bowls, and we’ll see what other meaty recipes level two brings.
From my kitchen, savoring steak at my table for two, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Seared Steak and Sesame Rice Salad
Makes 2 servings
Steak sounds fancy, but you can make this meal for 2 for less than $15. Just make sure to buy an affordable cut of steak for under $13 a pound. So long as you have the rice and condiments in your pantry, the veggies won’t cost you much more.
1 cup short grain white rice
¾ pound flank or sirloin steak (whichever is cheapest at the market)
6 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce (gluten-free or regular)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Cook the rice according to package instructions. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, in a large cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over a high flame. Dry the steak with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot (flick some water off your fingers and see if it sizzles), add the steak. Cook for 4 minutes on each side, until very brown. Remove to a plate and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, oils, and soy sauce. Whisk to combine. Toss together with the cooled rice, radishes, and scallions. NOTE: you can make the rice up to a day in advance.
Slice the steak as thin as possible. Mound the rice on two plates and top with a few slices of steak.