Get to Your JDate’s Heart Through Their Stomach: An Interview with Chef Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman has published two books, the most recent being Dave’s Dinners: A Fresh Approach to Home-Cooked Meals. He was previously the host of Good Deal on the Food Network. Here, he talks to JMag about his belief in chocolate and fondness for his grandmother’s tongue, and leaves us with a few romance-inducing recipes.
JMag: You have a few shows on Food Network. Which is your favorite and why?The most important thing is that the food is tasty and simple and the atmosphere is comfortable.
Dave: My two Food Network shows are Dave Does and Good Deal with Dave Lieberman. Dave Does is a food trend/travel show and Good Deal is a straight forward cooking show about taking common, inexpensive supermarket ingredients and making them into something nice. Dave Does was more fun to shoot than Good Deal because I got to travel around the country, see a ton of interesting food-related things, and meet interesting, passionate people in the food business.
JMag: Are you currently single? If yes, have you ever tried JDate?
Dave: I’m very lucky. I have a great girlfriend. It took me a long time to find her though. JDate may have sped things up, but on second thought, she’s not Jewish so she probably wouldn’t have been a user.
JMag: Has being a personal chef helped your dating life?
Dave: Honestly, being a personal chef, in the true sense, sucks up all your time and the hours are very unpredictable so there’s no consistent quality for a relationship.
JMag: Do you have any friends or family members who have tried JDate?
Dave: I heard that some of my friends from college have used it!
JMag: What should JDaters consider when choosing a restaurant for a first date?
Dave: I never pick anything too fancy or innovative. The most important thing is that the food is tasty and simple and the atmosphere is comfortable.
JMag: Your second book was entitled, Dave’s Dinners: A Fresh Approach to Home-Cooked Meals. When do you think it’s the right time in a relationship to invite that special someone over for a home-cooked meal?
Dave: I think it’s a case by case basis. If you have a shared passion for cooking then it would make sense to do it sooner. If it’s a big undertaking and something really out of the ordinary, I guess it would be something for a more momentous, or at least a later time.
JMag: What are the implications of cooking for a date? Does it mean you’re getting serious?
Dave: Again, I think it probably signals more for someone for whom cooking is a big undertaking.
JMag: What are some common mistakes people make when cooking for a date and how can they be avoided?
Dave: The most common mistakes people make are that they cook too much and try and be too fancy — simple, rustic, comfortable food is best. And don’t try and cook too much. If you’re worried about baking, just buy dessert, pick up some ice cream, or put out some fruit.
JMag: What types of food should you avoid cooking for a date? What types should you cook?I don’t believe in aphrodisiacs — except for chocolate. I believe in chocolate.
Dave: I think really heavy, creamy, fatty foods are a no-no. It’s good to stay light on your toes. Fish is my go-to food because it’s so light.
JMag: Is there any truth to the idea that some foods are aphrodisiacs? If so which ones?
Dave: I don’t believe in aphrodisiacs — except for chocolate. I believe in chocolate. But it has to be pure and quite a bit of it.
JMag: What are your favorite classic Jewish recipes?
Dave: Challah bread, brisket, gefilte fish and my grandmother’s tongue.
JMag: Will you fill in the blank? “JDate has more Jewish connections than…”
Dave: a shadchen from the shtetl
JMag: What’s next for you — another book or a new program with The Food Network?
Dave: I’m working on a new book that will be part cookbook and part travel narrative. And I’m starting to do programming that deals with some of the more serious issues and questions surrounding food, so keep a look out!
Dave’s Delectable Date Dishes
Fennel, Baby Arugula, and Green Apple Salad
This is one of my standby winter salads. In fact, if I have to cook in a new place and I’m unsure of the quality of fresh greens available, I put this salad on the menu because you can get these ingredients consistently all year-round. If you can’t find baby arugula, just use the regular kind.
1 cup walnut halves or pieces
1 small bulb fennel with top
1 Granny Smith apple
5 ounces baby arugula
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Lay the walnuts out on a baking sheet and bake in the oven about 7 minutes, until toasted and fragrant.
Cut the top away from the fennel bulb. Pinch off a small handful of the fronds, coarsely chop them, and reserve. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and carefully cut away the core. (Fennel turns brown if left out in the open for too long, so if you want to prepare it in advance, submerge it in a large dish of cold water and squeeze a lemon into the water.)
Fill a large bowl with cold water. Slice the fennel crosswise and as thinly as possible, either with a chef’s knife or a mandolin, and then transfer to the water. Core the apple and slice it as thinly as possible. Add to the bowl with the fennel.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients or shake well in a sealable container.
When all the elements of the salad are ready, strain the fennel and apples and lay out on a kitchen towel or paper towel to soak up the excess moisture. Toss with the arugula, and then lay out on a serving platter. Pour the dressing over the top of the salad, then top with the walnuts and reserved fennel fronds.
Orange and Five-spice Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potato Smash
Five-spice powder screams for sweet elements, which is why I pair it with oranges and sweet potatoes.
1 (3- to 4-pound) chicken, cut into pieces
1 large navel orange
5 tablespoons five-spice powder
10 dashes red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sweet Potato Smash:
2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted margarine
1 large onion, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
Put the cut-up chicken in a roasting sheet or broiler pan. Slice the orange into ½-inch slices and squeeze over the top of the chicken and then toss in the rinds. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the chicken, then add the remaining ingredients. Toss vigorously until the chicken pieces are fully coated with the spices.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is well browned, the orange slices have withered, and the chicken juices run clear when a piece is cut at its thickest part.
In a large pot, submerge the potatoes in cold water. Bring to a boil, and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender; about 20 minutes, and then strain well. In a skillet, heat the margarine over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until translucent, then add to the potatoes. Mash the potatoes together with the onion until a rough mash forms. Season to taste with salt.
Serve the chicken with the sweet potato smash.