As our wedding day approached, we heard it over and over again. “Make a date night,” they said, “and stick to it.” We heard it in our marriage prep course at our church, from several other couples we knew, and in the books we were reading.
We decided on Friday night most weeks, but as soon as “date night” turned into watching House of Cards (again), we decided that we probably didn’t have proactive intentions for what date night could do for our marriage.
So we decided to trade off planning a date night, each taking a turn twice a month. This only just started, and so far we’ve been to the zoo and out for burgers and milkshakes, and then whatever I plan for this Friday. Ideas, anyone? 🙂
I (joyfully) cook most days of the week for the two of us, but I wanted to come up with a date night dinner that I knew Longe would love. Our honeymoon was to Greece—Crete and Athens specifically. We fell in love with a dish called Chicken Souvlaki, which we managed to order at least once a day for either lunch or dinner. The meat was threaded on kabobs, and it was always SO tender and grilled to perfection. They served it with a yellow-hued rice.
This Chicken Souvlaki is my re-creation of the dish we loved. After studying the photos we took from the trip, I discovered that the skewers are threaded tightly with the meat. It makes sense—the less surface area there is, there’s less of a chance that the meat will dry out.
To make sure the chicken stayed juicy, I first marinated it in a lemon vinaigrette, using the zest from the lemon to impart additional lemon flavor. Then I loaded up the skewers and grilled them just until cooked through, which is another key to keeping them juicy.
I also made two other favorites from our trip: tzatziki and a classic Greek salad. Tzatziki is a yogurt and cucumber based dipping sauce, and it’s the perfect cooling accompaniment to the meat hot off the grill. The key to creating the sauce is to make sure to press almost all of the water out of the cucumbers so the sauce stays thick. And always use full fat Greek yogurt here—it makes the richest sauce.
The Greek salad is simple yet delicious. It’s just a platter of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, feta cheese, and olives with a red wine vinaigrette drizzled over the top.
Finally, I served it all with white rice. For color, I added ¼ teaspoon of turmeric to the cooking water to create a lovely golden hue.
The verdict? He LOVED it.
Along with being more intentional with date nights, we’ve started asking each other check-in questions.
I got these two questions from Jeff and Alyssa Bethke, a husband and wife who author several books on dating, marriage, and relationships:
How can I pray for you or serve you this week?
Is there anything that’s gone unsaid or unheard that we need to talk about right now?
For two people who are more likely than not to sweep things under the rug, this has been a rewarding practice. Another rewarding practice? Eating dinner together as much as we can. We’re currently without a dining room table, so we dine on the couch, plates in our laps, with the tv off so we can chat.
Does anyone have any good date night ideas? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!
Chicken Souvlaki with Golden Rice
Yield 2 servings
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup white rice (I like basmati)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- To serve: skewers
- Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Place in a shallow bowl with the lemon zest and juice, oregano, garlic cloves, olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Place the skewers in a shallow pan of cold water and allow to soak for at least 30 minutes. This will protect them from scorching on the grill.
- About 10 minutes before you begin grilling the chicken, place 2 cups of water, rice, turmeric, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook until the water is absorbed, typically about 20 minutes though it depends on the style of rice (check the package for exact directions). Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and set aside.
- Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Thread the chicken onto skewers. Place on the grill and let cook for 2–3 minutes or until grill marks appear. Flip and continue cooking, turning occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, about 10–12 minutes total.
Yield 2 servings
- ½ seedless cucumber (use the other half in the Greek Salad)
- 1 (7 oz) container full fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Grate the cucumber using a box grater. Place the cucumber in a fine mesh sieve or strainer and place over a bowl. Use the back of a spoon or spatula to press the water out of the cucumber. Keep pressing until no more water is released from the cucumber. I got about ½ cup of water out of ½ of a cucumber (save it for a smoothie or juice!).
- Place the grated cucumber, Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Tip #1: You may find that the tzatziki separates slightly as it sits. This is normal—those cucumbers always have extra water hiding somewhere! Just give it a stir before serving and you’ll be good to go.
Tip #2: Instead of mincing a clove of garlic with a knife, you can grate the garlic on a microplane or rasp grater, which is a fancy word for a handheld grater with smaller holes than a box grater. It creates a garlic purée of sorts so you can avoid any large chunks of garlic in your dish.
Classic Greek Salad
Yield 2 servings
Exactly how they made it in Crete!
- ½ seedless cucumber (use the other half in this Tzatziki)
- 2 tomatoes on the vine
- ¼ of a red onion
- 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 oz feta, block or crumbled
- ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives
- Chop the cucumber into ¼ inch rounds and then slice each round in half to create a half moon shape. Using a serrated knife, cut each tomato into 8 sections. Cut the red onion into thin slices.
- Combine the red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Place the cucumber slices, tomato slices, and red onion slices on a serving platter. Crumble the feta into bite size pieces if it’s not already crumbled. Top with the feta and olives. Drizzle with the vinegar and oil and then serve.
Tip #1: I know, I know. ¼ of a red onion? Red onions is classic in a Greek salad, but you definitely don’t need a whole one. I’d recommend sticking it into a resealable plastic bag for another use (pico de gallo, guacamole, etc.) or grilling it as a side dish: brush with oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and grill until tender.
Tip #2: I almost always buy feta in the block form instead of crumbles. First, I can create larger crumbles that way. 🙂 And it’ll also keep longer in the fridge. Just remember to store any leftovers in the brine that comes in the package.