August 04, 2013: From Small Acorns

August 4, 2013

Bachelor's RavioliOK…in my constant effort to leave the world a slightly better place than when I came into it, here’s one really for the girls, by way of the guys.

Seriously guys,  you already have mad skills that women appreciate. That changing of the tire, the dark, rainy night you were stranded in the middle of nowhere…she thought that was pretty cool. Facing the bat that invaded the house…she saw this as very brave and was glad you were around to handle it. Your ability to rewire the sound system for surround sound…very impressive. Your teaching her the phone apps and connecting her to her friends on Facebook she will always love you for. But…you need one more skill, ‘tho that may lay a tad out of your comfort zone:

You need to be competent with at least one meal or culinary skill.

You have to trust me on this guys. The time invested in a single culinary ability is minimal compared to the benefits. Staying out of the kitchen is an old-fashioned attitude and is not as macho as you might think. I am always amazed at men who lack a single skill making food. It comes off with you appearing incomplete and pretty pathetic, and while she probably doesn’t say so, I’m betting that she thinks so too.

I’m not suggesting you take a cooking course or anything. We’re talking one meal, or one skill. It will take a bit of research, a tiny amount of time, and perhaps (god forbid) a bit of soul-searching. Just make it something you can repeat, make it good, and look easy. I think I can promise you a favorable response from your loved one. You just might find it is easier than you think and it just may lead to other culinary endeavors.

“From small acorns, great oaks are grown.”

Proof? Sure. My first year out of school, I was dating an older woman who happened to be my project manager (i.e. “boss”). Wanting to impress her in an adult way, I offered to make dinner for her. I’ll never forget her reaction:

She: “You can cook?”
Me: “Can’t everyone?”
She: “I’ve never gone out with a man who has cooked for me.”

Never turning my back on an opportunity, however unimagined, by my completing a fairly competent meal, I scored in every way imaginable.

A few years back, my nephew was dating a woman and during one of my visits back home the idea came up for me to coach him on making a meal for her. Between he and I, we settled on a menu of Minestrone Soup, Seared Tenderloin Steaks (with a port reduction sauce); Broccoli Gratin, Duchess Potatoes, Endive Salad (with home-made croutons) and Chocolate Truffles for dessert. Some of these I made ahead, but the onus was on him to follow directions and square it all away. This was all a tad out of Jon’s comfort zone, but he loved the girl, and stepped up to plate…all for her.

I guess all’s well that ends well…and while I’m sure the meal was only a small piece of what Jon brought to the relationship, I can guarantee that the meal did no harm.  In fact, he married that lady and now our family is blessed with a charming and delightful addition! They were in town last week and asking her about her memory of the meal, her response was “Best meal of my life!”

If I could do it all over again, however, I think it would’ve been better to have taught Jon to make a meal that was more simple, something he could do easily and completely, himself. The other night I wanted ravioli. Now, sometimes I make my own ravioli from scratch, but that is a big process that I usually reserve for guests. On my own, I resort to frozen, pre-packaged variety. I usually make my own sauce, but this night I was feeling exceptionally lazy so made a dish so simple, anyone could do it:

Bachelor Ravioli
Remove a bag of pre-packaged ravioli from the freezer (most brands are pretty good. For variety, some brands have spinach and broccoli with the cheese inside.) You will split the bag between the two of you. It should be about 16-20 pieces altogether. In a large, non-stick skillet, heat 2 Tblsps. olive oil over medium heat for about a minute and reduce heat to medium-low. Add ravioli and immediately turn with a spatula. Gently turn ravioli every minute or so until golden brown (the cheese filling will slowly defrost and by the time the outside of ravioli is golden, the filling will be cooked.) In the last-minute of cooking, add spices. I added a grind of fresh pepper, a Tsp. each of basil, oregano and herbs de Provence. One last gentle stir and take off heat.

Serve with a side of meat if you like and a good salad. At the table squeeze half a lemon over both of your ravioli. A topping of fresh parmesan cheese would not hurt at all. Practice this recipe by yourself a couple of times so that you feel comfortable and facile doing it under the gaze of that special lady.

only_you1994OK. If you’ve come this far, I’m going make one more suggestion. I hear a lot of couples say that they never agree on the films they watch together. Traditionally, a lot of guys want the shoot-em-ups, sci-fi, or action, women want the films with a bit more depth. As with every part of a relationship, an even give-and-take is healthy. Now I see a lot of films of just about every genre. I can usually take or leave the “chick-flics” but I saw one the other night that was pretty palatable. Checking IMDB, it turns out a number of the comments were from young-ish, hertero males that liked it as well.  The film was “Only You” (1994) and stars a very young Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei as the leads in love (and a more handsome couple I cannot imagine!) Outside of the two leads, “Only You” is pretty standard RomCom but it has the benefit of having most of its action take place in Rome and other Italian cites, and it also plays tribute to the most delightful scene in any RomCom: the “Mouth of Truth” scene from “Roman Holiday.” “Only You” has a couple of character surprises, and has enough humor to appeal and hey guys…it stars freakin’ IRON MAN!

OnlyYou1The only bad point of the film is that it makes much of every man being a liar. Really, Hollywood??!!! EVERY man???!!!! So guys, if you take this one on, be prepared to possibly discuss a very invalid premise. Hopefully this will be a point of humor for the both of you.

There you go. Dinner and Movie from The World of Okonomy! Think of us the next time you pass an oak. Enjoy!


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