With Valentine’s Day approaching, we’re spotlighting real couples who cook together, from our book Two in the Kitchen. Here, they share their tricks, first-hand experience and entertaining know-how gained from time shared in the kitchen.
The owners of the creative studio Tiger in a Jar in Salt Lake City, Utah, Julie and Matt Walker specialize in film and creative craft projects, and exploring new ways to make things less ordinary. They spend most of their free time obsessing about food.
How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you have a favorite dish to share or a favorite recipe for a romantic dinner for two?
We usually like to make a recipe we have been eyeing for a while. Long ago we gave up the idea of going out for dinner (too busy out there!), but we still wanted our meal to feel special. One of our favorites was a night we tried homemade pizza where we made the dough. It was a fun and rewarding, albeit time-consuming process.
Any advice for throwing a summer party?
Since there are a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit available in the summer, we like to utilize that time of year to the fullest. A lot of people we know have gardens, so we like to encourage them to bring a dish that originates from what they are growing. Of course, not everyone has the space and time for a garden, but bringing a fresh dish is really what it is all about.
What’s your favorite thing about cooking together?
We love that it is time spent together where we are interacting. We end up talking about things that don’t normally come up in our day-to-day conversations. We turn on our favorite music, don’t take ourselves too seriously and in the end we are rewarded with a delicious dinner.
What is your version of “soul food?”
An old-fashioned apple pie recipe that is a family favorite always seems to be a little bit of therapy for us, to make and eat.
What’s your favorite brunch recipe?
One thing we love to do for brunch is to make our own omelets. We have different approaches to how we like them, and this is a chance to custom build our meal. Matt likes to make his spicy by experimenting with a new hot sauce and likes his ingredients to be a little more “proteiny.” I (Julie) like mine to be light and fresh and filled with lots of vegetables.
What is the one kitchen item you can’t live without?
Cookie sheets, since it seems we always end up roasting some kind of vegetable for our meals.
Do you have any suggestions for must-have items when you’re just starting out?
Lots of good mixing bowls. When we first got married we would get midway through a recipe and find that we were short on bowls – a kitchen drama! Since then we have invested in two sets of nice mixing bowls and we can work on multiple recipes without any bowl mishaps.
Any tips for entertaining for a large group?
We always feel like entertaining for big groups tends to take a lot out of you, before the party even begins! We try to keep things simple before, so that we can enjoy our time with guests. As much as we want to do everything, we try to pick two things we are going to put a lot of effort into, and then let the rest be simple. The intent is that this keeps us from being too worn out, but we still feel like we are throwing a good party. Also, guests are more than keen to show off their favorite dishes, so don’t hesitate asking people to bring something; it makes your life easier, and everyone gets a little attention at the dinner table.
What advice did you receive when you first started cooking that has stuck?
We were told that more than being a good cook, it is the effort you put into finding good quality ingredients. That advice has really stuck with us and taught us that the process begins even before we get in the kitchen.
Any advice do you have for couples who aspire to cook or entertain more?
Don’t be scared of cooking. It is as hard as you make it, or as fun as you make it.
What’s the coolest thing your significant other taught you in the kitchen?
Julie: Matt has always loved fresh foods, especially fruit and the idea that instead of making a complicated dessert for a party you can just enjoy the fruit of the season. I guess you could say he taught me how to spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying company.
Matt: Previous to meeting Julie I had always been too busy to appreciate the time spent making food. But once we started dating she opened my eyes to see how therapeutic working with food can be. Now it’s less of a stress to cook and more of a time to decompress and enjoy working together.
Find more advice and recipes for cooking together in our book Two in the Kitchen.