Dinner for two Menu

Smoked Chicken and Roasted Pepper Dip*

1 6-ounce boneless chicken breast
1 medium red pepper
1 shallot
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces Montrachet cheese
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste

For marinade:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (rice wine)
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon fresh garlic
pinch of black pepper

Combine all ingredients for the marinade. Marinate the chicken overnight, or at least 4 hours. Rub red pepper and shallot with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Using a smoker, smoke the chicken, pepper and shallot till the chicken is fully cooked (165 degrees internal temperature). Shred the chicken, fine chop the shallot, and puree the red pepper. Combine with the remaining ingredients and mix well. When ready to eat, bake at 350 degrees till hot and bubbling. Serve with crackers and sliced French bread. Serves 6.

No smoker? Create one by using two disposable aluminum pans. Simply put wood chips (soaked in water) in the bottom of one pan, place a cooling rack or roasting rack on top and place the items to be smoked on the rack, using the other pan as the lid. Close the sides with aluminum foil, tightly sealing the edges. Place on grill and fire up. When smoke starts to seep out of the sides, turn the heat down to low to slow cook for a lot of smoke flavor. Do not overcook the chicken or it will be dry and hard to eat.

Marinade can also be used for seafood, vegetables and pork, and serve as main course.

Basil Vinaigrette*

2 cups fresh basil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh garlic
1 cup olive oil

In a blender bowl, mix all ingredients except the olive oil. Blend until liquid consistency. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the blender is running.

Herb Parmesan Risotto

2 cups risotto rice
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup pinot grigio
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme and parsley, combined

Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil. When translucent, add the risotto and stir to coat with the oil. Add the wine and simmer slowly until wine is absorbed. Add the chicken broth all at once and simmer to almost dry, stirring occasionally. Add the cream and Parmesan and cook at barely a simmer till tender.

Grilled Filet of Salmon

2 pounds boneless, skinless salmon filet
garlic, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Rub salmon with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Grill on hot grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from grill and serve with sauce, below.

Roasted Fennel and Chili Cream

4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup onion
5 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped roasted fennel
2 roasted chili peppers (vary amount depending on desired heat)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and bring to boil. Lower heat to medium. Simmer slowly and let reduce until of sauce consistency, while stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Once the sauce is of desired consistency, strain and season with salt and pepper. Serve under the salmon for better plate appearance. Garnish with grilled chilies and slices of grilled fennel. Serves 6.

Chocolate Pâté*

12 ounces semi-sweet Belgian chocolate
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Over a double boiler, slowly melt the chocolate. While chocolate is melting, whip the heavy cream till very firm. After the chocolate is melted and the cream is whipped, fold together gently until fully mixed. Place in loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Chill overnight. Remove from pan and slice with a clean, warm knife. If desired, complement with raspberry sauce, fresh whipped cream and a sprig of mint.

Hints when melting chocolate:

  • Use a clean stainless steel bowl.
  • Do not boil the water.
  • Do not let the bowl touch the hot water.
  • Do not get any water in the chocolate.
  • Mix the chocolate as it melts.
  • Remove from heat before totally melted.
  • You may use the microwave, but be sure to turn it on in short spurts and stir in between.

Executive Chef Greg Lewis presents his dinner for two menu, advising cooks to keep things simple.


  • Market first: Check available ingredients, then plan menu
  • Be flexible: Try ingredient substitutions
  • Watch the numbers: Be sure your oven is properly calibrated and preheated
  • Heat: Sauté pans should be hot before adding ingredients
  • Mise-en-place: Measure out ingredients before you cook (it’s French for ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’)
  • Zoned: Stay in your menu comfort zone to choose guests over food prep
  • KISS: Keep it simple and social

Cooking professionally for 37 years will teach you a thing or two about food. But above all, this local chef says, don’t favor it over your special someone.

Chef Greg Lewis, executive chef and owner of Catering by Design, abides by the KISS theory when entertaining: Keep it simple, and social. By way of example, he created this dinner for two from “tried and true” recipes including Chocolate Pâté, a sophisticated dessert that’s actually easy to make at home.

“Don’t reinvent the wheel,” Lewis said. “Stay in your comfort zone when you’re entertaining or you will be nervous. You do not want to spend too much time on the food. You want to spend time with your guest, not in the kitchen.”

He advises heading to the market to check the availability of any seasonal foods before fully developing a menu. Then, get creative.

“Be flexible, even in following recipes,” Lewis said. “For example, if the recipe calls for salmon but you find grouper, try it. You can ask your butcher for the differences in preparation.”
Once the menu’s in place, Lewis’ counsel becomes plan, plan, plan.

“It’s called mise-en-place, French for ‘a place for everything, and everything in its place,’” he said. “Be ready when you start; that means having your pans out, the table set, and all your ingredients measured out. Dice, chop and refrigerate ingredients till cook time. Do everything you can the day before.”

Then, when your special guest arrives, make him feel more relaxed by serving wine and hors d’oeuvres right in the kitchen, for happy conversation while you cook.

Have options on hand to add color to your plated meals, such as fresh herbs or peppers, and for best presentation, don’t overload the plate, Lewis says.

Catering by Design serves food for as many as 15 corporate events each day and for 100 weddings each year. Lewis has even created meals featured in the Academy-Award-winning film, Girl, Interrupted.

In August 2012, Lewis also became proprietor of the Pittsboro Roadhouse & General Store, pittsbororoadhouse.com.

Catering By Design, Cary
(919) 481-2366


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