Active time: 6 hours
Ingredients: 1 man. 1 woman. Many good intentions and a healthy dash of ego.
Ten minutes ahead of schedule, DW called and said “I’m standing outside by a beautiful cathedral.” That meant he had arrived, so I went downstairs to let him in. We hadn’t seen each other in awhile, and with the prospect of this dinner date, there was a good spark in the air that continued throughout the evening . . . or at least most of it.
Given that our connection was new and we weren’t eager to define anything, we never put any terms to our relationship. I knew he had a date earlier in the week, so I was planning my playful inquisition to get some of the details. I would wait until the end of the meal.
For the night’s menu, I instinctually decided to use figs as my guide. They’re so sweet and sensual, and on some level I thought their history as a sacred fruit might appeal to a literary bohemian who doesn’t eat meat or cheese. And I was right. He even got nostalgic when he saw the package. He said he used to eat figs all the time, but considered them empty calories and decided to eat nuts instead. Go figure. He also eats eggs raw because it is faster and healthier than cooking them. (And with that disclosure, he suspiciously seems like a guy who has no need for a chef-girl in his life, don’t you think?)
One of my favorite food combinations is white beans and sage, so to start, I made pan-fried white bean fritters. I mixed a batter of flour and cornmeal with cannellini beans, peppadew peppers (I love those things), and sage. I pan-fried it by the tablespoon on high heat. With a dusting of salt, I had a flirty fall appetizer. Share, dip, repeat.
To dress up the sacred fruit, I made fig and fennel pizza starting with a creme fraiche base that included lemon zest, cinnamon, cayenne, and a little sugar. On top of this base, I added fennel (sliced thinly and caramelized in balsamic), steamed spinach, figs, garlic, and rosemary. This combination proves strange enough to get anyone’s attention but satisfying enough to be eaten indiscriminately.
Toward the end of dinner at what seemed like an appropriate juncture, I decided to say, “So? How was your date?”
He paused. “Do we have to talk about that now? I think we should just enjoy the moment,” he said, diving back into his meal.
Nutritional information: On a short-term basis, the undefined Almost-Vegan Date is very good for you. Long-term potential should be defined in traditional terms for maximum health benefits.