Dates, man. They’re tough. Even if you’re not picking up the entire tab or grabbing the check yourself, a split down the middle is still an unscheduled uppercut to the checking account. Especially on a Tuesday night, when you should just be sitting at home, eating leftover pasta, and telling yourself that you’ll definitely be at the gym tomorrow (Sure, you will. Sure). There’s a way to avoid weeknight date spending though. Make something yourself.
But there are questions to answer. When was the last time you cleaned the kitchen floor? Will your cooking impress? Chairs? Do you even have those? Will there be awkward silences? No, there won’t, because I made this Dinner at My Place playlist (perfect for impromptu kitchen dancing and totally free of charge) for such an occasion. You’re going to nail this whole thing. Your date is going to catch feels. And it’s going to be affordable.
What you make should be easy, not ambitious. Flavorful, not single-noted. Quick-ish, with room for your date to help out. Approachable, but as memorable as that joke you told when you started the 30-second tour of your place. This is still a Rent Week meal. We have limitations to consider. It’s time for crispy, herbed chickpeas, over some perfectly steamed rice, with a bit of black pepper yogurt and sambal.
Crack the funky pet-nat or the tart, local, barrel-aged saison you picked up after work. Saving money on dinner allows you to really impress with the beverage. Tap water just doesn’t have the same effect, at least not since the last time I checked. Whatever you pick doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be tasty and interesting.
Start to make 2 cups of white rice however you make white rice. Everyone has their own method, so just do you. Know yourself. If you need a quick primer, here you go. While the rice is coming to a boil, drain, rinse, and pat dry 2 cans of chickpeas. Toss them in ⅓ cup olive oil in a skillet that’s been warmed over medium heat. Season with salt and add 2 chopped shallots and 4 chopped cloves of garlic after about seven minutes of cooking. That whole no garlic on a date thing? Bullshit. If both of you eat it, you’re immune to bad breath.
Stir the chickpeas whenever there’s a lull in conversation. Just kidding. There never will be. You’re a great conversationalist. But still, stir them occasionally. After 12-15 minutes, the chickpeas should have started to crisp. Some may have split open. That’s good. We’re going for crispy, not crunchy here. The center should be tender and creamy.
While the chickpeas cook, ask your date to help chop some herbs. Approximately 2 cups of parsley and chives will work perfectly, hitting the crispy chickpeas with some bright, herbal flavor. Pour the chickpeas and the pan’s remaining olive oil into a bowl and mix in the herbs.
Take about 10 oz. of plain Greek yogurt and crack black pepper into it. Stir in a pour of olive oil and set to the side. Whoa. You guys killed that bottle already. Nice job. Let’s crack something else. A couple pilsners? A wild cider? A natural red? Your date should choose. That’s what, I believe, they call manners.
By this point, your rice is finished. Plate two portions into shallow bowls (if you have them) or a regular bowl (if you don’t). Bowls are good. Bowls say, “Hey, this is casual. We’re having fun. Look, spoons too. This is great. I bet you’re glad this isn’t a plate date, right?” Top the rice with a couple scoops of the herb and chickpea mixture. Add a generous scoop of the Greek yogurt and finish it off with with another drizzle of olive oil, some flaky salt, and a drizzle of hot sauce. I like to use sambal, but sriracha definitely works too. Make sure to ask before putting anything spicy on your date’s bowl, for obvious reasons.
Go for seconds. Thirds. Keep filling glasses with wine, beer, Kool-Aid, whatever. Laugh. Talk about the wonders of chickpeas. Compliment the precise knife skills of the herb chopper. Have a good time.
I know, you’re thinking, this meal doesn’t have meat. Where are the expensive steaks? Where’s the homemade pasta? There’s no substance. What am I even doing here?History shows that you can have an Annie Hall lobster moment without the lobster. Trust me. This meal is flavorful, filling, and delicious, but really, it’s secondary. The vibes are the substance. You’re the substance. You made dinner and mopped the kitchen floor, after all. That’ll do just fine.