Monday, February 7, 2011

Romantic Date Night: Roasted Shrimp with Feta

You might want to grab a cuppa and sit awhile. This post is packed with pictures. 

Friday was our 16th anniversary and due to circumstances out of our control we weren't able to go out to our favorite restaurant as planned. I decided to go over-the-top romantic and make a really nice dinner and romantic environment at home. I didn't want to skimp, or break the bank, and you'd be amazed at how special you can make things with a few luxe details and what you have on hand.

 My first priority was to make the area look different from everyday. I didn't want him glancing over at the sink and remembering it needs to be re-caulked. YKWIM? So I cordoned off the area with a tulle tent - sorta - enough at least to imply separation from everyday.

All I did was tie long pieces of tulle to an embroidery hoop and thumb-tack it to the ceiling. You can buy tulle spools that hold 50-100 meters of tulle. Mine cost about seven bucks and it had a huge amount of impact. Here's a not so great pic of how to do it. I promise, once the candles are lit, the scene is set and the dishes are done it looks fab.

To help it stay spread out, I ran a safety pin through the back side of the table cloth, grabbing the lengths of tulle and affixing them to the table corners. Then I took the ends and tied a big bow. With a little fluffing they looked fantastic and provided a nice nod to weddings.

See, pretty :-)

For the table, I bought red votives at an after Christmas sale - 12 for seventy-five cents. I knew with Valentine's Day etc. they would come in handy. Always check to make sure your candles are unscented if you plan on using them on your table. Scented ones compete with the smells and flavor of your meal.

All we have for fancy linens is these gold and purple ones from years ago. It really wasn't the color scheme I wanted to go with so I decided to lay them down as a base layer and add more interesting pink, red and white items to distract from their PURPLE! and GOLD! -ness.

Cinnamon hearts were a great "camouflage" , they were inexpensive, breath-freshening and had a confetti-meets-candy vibe that was also unabashedly romantic. We loved them and I loved the effect.

Texture and touchable elements add WOW to a table scape, so I filled in a lot of the space with gathered crepe streamers. I used most of a whole roll, $1.25, and it was well-worth the time it took. The technique is identical to the gathering steps of Crepe Paper Ornaments, although I stitched it directly off the roll and left the edges straight.

I added some inexpensive flowers in pink, white and mauve (trying to work with that purple). Cheaper flowers tend to look best clustered in low arrangements. I cut the stems short and crowded them into low glasses. The impact was greatly improved and we didn't have to crane our necks to see around taller displays. 
The candelabra was from the head table at our wedding and the glass candle holders were a treasured wedding gift. I wanted to have the table be filled with memories from that time in our life so I printed out a photo booth picture we took a week or so before the wedding. It made the place settings a lot more personal and inspired lots of reminiscing.

Dinner required crusty bread for sopping up all the tomatoes and vegetables so I continued my theme with heart-shaped bread. To do this, make a long skinny baguette and form it into a heart. Use water to attach the ends and let it rise. When baked, the center of the heart fills in and you keep the shape. 

Here's a quick video I made, candles lit, house tidy. Hope it captured the mood.

For dinner I made roasted shrimp and feta, the recipe is from Ina Garten's How Easy is That? cookbook. It's a marvelous resource and we can't wait to try everything in it.  She's my cooking hero. The shrimp was the best we've eaten and had a real five star restaurant feel to it. I loved having the pan on the table so we could dip our bread in the sauce. Very casual and fancy at the same time.


Serves 4 (we thought it serves 6)

Good olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced fennel (1 bulb)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Pernod (I used Ouzo and it worked perfectly)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 pounds (16 to 18) shrimp, peeled and deveined with the tails left on
3-5 ounces feta cheese, preferably Greek or French, coarsely crumbled
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (see note)
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 lemons

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in 10- or 12-inch heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat. Add the fennel and garlic and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits clinging to the bottom of the skillet, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, Pernod, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the skillet. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Arrange the shrimp artfully in one layer over the tomato mixture in the skillet.
Scatter feta evenly over the shrimp.
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle evenly over the shrimp.

5. Bake the shrimp for about 15 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through and the bread crumbs are golden brown. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shrimp. Serve hot with wedges of lemon.

NOTE: To make 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs, remove the crusts from 3 to 4 slices white bread and place in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the bread is in crumbs.

Assemble the shrimp right in a 10- to 12-inch stainless-steel sauté pan, and then put the pan in the oven for 15 minutes before serving. This was a lifesaver for me as I could have everything ready and then pop it in the oven once Chris was home.

It was delicious!

For Dessert We had Saltine Toffee, Chris's favorite (mine too!)

Saltine Toffee

40-ish Saltine crackers, plus 1/2 cup crushed Saltines for garnish (about a sleeve and 1/2)
2 sticks butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350
Line your baking sheet (jelly roll pan) with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.
Arrange your crackers snugly on baking sheet.
Over medium high heat melt butter and sugar together.
When mixture comes to a rolling boil let boil for 2 minutes, stirring.
Pour mixture over crackers.

Bake in oven for about 10 minutes.  Toffee will be bubbling.
Let cool for 1 minute and then sprinkle chocolate chips on top.

Let sit for 2 minutes and then spread the melted chips with an off-set spatula.
Sprinkle with reserved crushed crackers.
Refrigerate pan for approx 30 minutes so chocolate and toffee sets.
Break or cut into pieces.
Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

With the mood set, all I need to add was a pretty dress, nice lingerie, high heels and some music. 

Thanks so much for sticking it out through this very long post. Hope there are a few ideas that you can adapt to your situation.

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Tiff said...

You are such an amazing wife! Love that you made an ordinary space extraordinary! The bread, dinner, and dessert look fab! Thanks for inspiring me once again :)

Sarah said...

If my fella came home and found me in that underwear, he wouldn't even notice the lovingly dressed table and the food would go cold lol :)

But seriously, wow what a great wife you are!!

Darcy Marshall said...

wow to that underwear....ermmmmm oh yeah sorry distracted much!

Love it all, I think the purple works really well, or that you worked really well with the purple... the bread really made me smile, I am gonna do that for valentines day.

Great video too, so nice to hear your voice.

Congratulations both of

Juls said...

awhhhhhhhhhhhh I have a wee tear in my eye...this is so gorgeous and romantic and special...probably far more so than going off to a resteraunt!!! and a huge congrats on your 16th wedding anniversary!!!

hugs Juls

Dara Lynn said...

First, congratulations on 16 years!!! We celebrated 15 this year...we still can't believe it has been that long. Superb job on dinner and decorations! Giving me lots of ideas for upcoming holiday. You are always such a joy and a great wife to boot!

Yummers! said...

WOW!! That's the way to keep a marriage alive... and I'm not just talking about the undies. If more women put more effort into their marriages/relationships, there would be a lot less divorce.

Can't wait to try both of your recipes! They look and sound yummy!

Kathi said...

Chris is so lucky to have you as a wife! Everything was gorgeous. Especially you. You've gotten toned and taut!

I loved the video. It was great to hear your voice!

Happy Anniversary, Birthdays, and Valentine's Day. February is a big month for you all.

kitchen flavours said...

Happy Anniversary! You are amazing! It is absolutely beautiful! Your hubby must be really touched!

Mahmudul Hasan said...

Thanks for the share. Great stuff, just awesome!
Romantic dinner recipes

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