Your Own Private Dining Room
We're ditching our galoshes and dodging the cold in favor of a Big Night In all month long. Follow our lead right this way.
More often than not, we recommend going out for date night. But consider the perks of occasionally staying in, especially on Valentine's Day, when restaurants are often jam-packed. At home, you can make and eat exactly what you want, and you get to cook it with the one you love. And date night in means no drive home, which gets you that much closer to other date-night activities. Here are eight of our favorite new books to heat things up in the kitchen.
Date night in a flash: Good Food, Good Life: 130 Simple Recipes You'll Love to Make and Eat, by Curtis Stone (Ballantine Books, March 10, $35)
Just because you don't have time to cook an elaborate multicourse feast doesn't mean you should resort to takeout. Aussie chef Curtis Stone believes in the power of simple, delicious homemade meals. Here, in this sixth cookbook, Stone shares the recipes he makes in his everyday life—sure, he may be a chef by trade, but he's just as busy as the rest of us. There's a chapter devoted to light meals you can quickly pull together, and dinners include 30-minute options like Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe. When you do have more time, make Stone's Wedding Carrot Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting, inspired by the cake he made for his wedding to Lindsay Price, who memorably played Janet on Beverly Hills 90210.
Date night starts at the farmers' market: A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden, by April Bloomfield and JJ Goode (Ecco, April 21, $35)
Why limit date night to just one meal? With a little inspiration from Bloomfield's veg-centric book, you and your special someone can start the day strolling the stalls at your local farmers' market then head home to cook together. The Spotted Pig chef includes pointers for navigating the market, and though her tips will help you find the best zucchini, she also wants you to appreciate each ingredient and to enjoy the simple pleasures of cooking with someone you love.
Guaranteed date-night success: Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook, by Kristen Miglore (Ten Speed Press, April 7, $35)
On date night, you kind of need dinner to be a sure thing. Enter Food52 Genius Recipes, an upcoming cookbook based on Kristen Miglore's Food52 column, in which she tracks down the recipe world's greatest hits. Perfect Pan-Seared Steaks, Radicchio Salad with Manchego Vinaigrette and Chocolate Mousse will make for an impressive candlelit feast. But these are more than just really good recipes. Culled from chefs, bloggers and food world legends like Julia Child and James Beard, these are dishes that are so smart they'll change the way you approach food, making you a better cook. Thankfully, this doesn't mean a marathon of steps and fussing. Genius recipes aren't about more work; they're about better work.
Because sometimes "date night" happens in the morning: Breakfast: Recipes to Wake Up For, by George Weld and Evan Hanczor (Rizzoli, March 31, $35)
When date night goes particularly well, you might want to be prepared for date breakfast, also known as the morning after. Whether that means a quick egg dish, a simple pastry or a more involved feast, you can't go wrong with the recipes in this debut cookbook from George Weld and Evan Hanczor of Egg, Williamsburg, Brooklyn's beloved all-day-breakfast restaurant. Like Egg, Breakfast doesn't attempt to shock or surprise. The focus is on combining smart techniques with simple ingredients to create the kind of morning meals that will make you actually want to get out of bed.
Down-home date night: Home: Recipes to Cook with Family and Friends, by Bryan Voltaggio (Little, Brown and Company, April 7, $35)
Part of the appeal of spending date night at home is that you know you're going to be comfortable. Carry the comfort theme over to the food with Home, the first solo cookbook from Maryland-based chef and Top Chef Masters finalist Bryan Voltaggio. American favorites like meat loaf, fried chicken and banana pudding get the chef treatment, though Voltaggio keeps most of his recipes pretty streamlined. Even the more original offerings—and there are plenty, including Braised Greens with Smoked Turkey Tails, Everything Mashed Potatoes and Caramel-Popcorn Sundaes—stay true to the homey theme.
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Date night à la Paris: Jean-François Piège, by Jean-François Piège (Flammarion, March 17, $85)
If a trip to the most romantic city in the world simply isn't in the cards, get your date-night inspiration from Jean-François Piège, the two Michelin–starred chef at one of the most sought-after restaurants in Paris. Billed as a master-level cookbook, this clothbound beauty is definitely aimed at more ambitious home cooks. But for a serious book with some seriously involved recipes, it's not very rigid. Inspired by the unique dining experience at his eponymous restaurant, Piège encourages mixing and matching the recipes to create original menus. And with that same spirit of freedom, he wants his readers to make his dishes their own, calling that an essential part of cooking.
Project date night: Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto, by Marc Vetri and David Joachim (Ten Speed Press, March 17, $30)
When it comes to dishes to cook together, homemade pasta is easily one of the sexiest. Here, in his third cookbook, Philadelphia chef and respected authority on all manner of Italian cookery Marc Vetri dives into the art—and science—of making pasta by hand. You'll find chapters devoted to baked sheet pasta, ravioli and stuffed pasta; extruded and dried pasta; hand-formed pasta, gnocchi and flavored pastas; as well as pasta's culinary cousin, risotto. Once your noodles are ready, go the classic route with dishes like Bolognese or carbonara, or try something more original, like Pig's Foot Ravioli with Fennel Pollen or Open Lasagna with Scamorza and Asparagus.
Lightweight date night: A Modern Way to Eat: 200+ Satisfying Vegetarian Recipes (That Will Make You Feel Amazing), by Anna Jones (Ten Speed Press, April 21, $35)
Date night is a special occasion and deserves some fanfare, but if you're going to make these evenings a regular thing—and you should—you'll probably want to kick healthier food into the rotation. Here, in her debut cookbook, stylist, writer and cook Anna Jones, who spent seven years working for Jamie Oliver, shares the kind of simple, seasonal, nutrition-led dishes that are at the intersection of healthy and delicious. You'll see of-the-moment, good-for-you ingredients like millet and amaranth, but Jones also isn't above using butter and sugar. She has a talent for layering flavors and textures, such as in Warm Salad of Roasted Kale, Coconut and Tomatoes, or Walnut and Marjoram Pesto with Radicchio. It's food that satisfies without weighing you down, which is something that should come in handy later on in your date night.
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