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Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.

Serious Entertaining: Dinner For Two

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[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

One question I hear all the time is, "Do you have any suggestions for a dinner for two? I'd like to make dinner for my boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife."

A ton of ideas always come to mind, but only a few of them are actually appropriate. The recipes that I end up choosing always follow a few key principles:

  • If there are two people eating, then there are (maximum) two people doing the dishes. These recipes should require as few pots and pans as possible.
  • Even beginner cooks should be able to cook a delicious meal for someone they love. These recipes should be simple yet tasty.
  • Busy people like to eat nice meals too. Another nod towards simple yet tasty.
  • A dessert makes any meal feel complete.

Another helpful tool is having recipes that are already scaled down for two. That's where this menu comes in: it's simple and delicious, with no leftovers assumed.

Lemon-Marinated Halibut and Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins

It's almost magical how the mild, slightly sweet flesh of halibut gets such a big flavor boost from a simple lemon marinade. The same goes for roasting it in the oven: The fragile flesh stays extra flaky and moist.

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Spinach with pine nuts and raisins is a traditional Spanish dish, and one that provides the perfect sweet, earthy contrast to the bright, citrusy fish. Pine nuts are sautéed in olive oil until they're golden and nutty. Raisins plump up in the oil, becoming sweet, juicy bursts of flavor dispersed throughout the earthy spinach. Lemon zest brings out the fresh flavor of the spinach while also complementing the marinade for the halibut. Finally, a few flakes of dried red pepper tie the dish together with a subtle heat.

This plate of food comes together in under and hour but has all the flavors: fresh, acidic, earthy, spicy, and sweet.

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Individual Blueberry Cheesecakes

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When cooking for two, my greatest challenge is always dessert. It's not easy to scale down a full size cake, and baking just a few brownies feels lame. Sure, it's great to have leftovers, but not when you know those leftovers are going to go to waste.

That's why I love this recipe. I scaled it down so that it makes two mug-sized cheesecakes— no more, no less. The body is a cool and creamy cheesecake that has the right balance between sweetness and tang. It hides a surprise: a layer of blueberries and a buttery, crunchy graham cracker crust.

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About the author: Carrie Vasios is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios

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