THE ADAGE says "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." As newlyweds Eric and Autumn Levine discovered, that wisdom also applies to women.
"When we first began dating, he made me these delicious scallops," said Autumn Levine. "I knew then he was a keeper, because I don't cook."
An attorney by day, Eric Levine enjoys cooking on nights and weekends. He has fond childhood memories of his mother's honey-mustard chicken and his father's grilling, but he didn't become interested in cooking until he hit college.
There, Levine started making sandwiches and sharing them with friends. His reputation grew. Inspired, he started watching TV shows such as "Chopped," "Top Chef" and "Hell's Kitchen."
These days, he enjoys grilling on the community grill at the couple's Conshohocken condo. And the menu has lightened up since meeting Autumn.
"I make turkey or chicken burgers instead of beef," Levine said. "And I buy my own meat and hand-form the patties with my own spice blend."
But don't think Levine's kitchen focus is all carnivore.
"If you have a sauté pan and olive oil, there's no reason why you can't have fresh vegetables every night," he said. His favorite veggie is the versatile zucchini.
"It's so easy. All you have to do is wash it, take the ends off and you can cut it into diced pieces, sticks or rounds," he said. "Then you can sauté it, bake it or steam it."
One of his more unusual zucchini treatments is to slice it, sprinkle it with a little cinnamon and bake it in the oven.
His signature dishes at the moment include homemade vinaigrettes for a variety of salads.
"Freshly made salad dressing is so much better, and all you have to remember is that there's a 3-to-1 ratio of oil to vinegar," Levine said. "I make all kinds using different oils and acids. I even add strawberries to make a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette."
Levine's most cherished kitchen tool is a sturdy pair of tongs. His best advice is to keep a watchful eye when baking nuts. "Yeah, pine nuts toast a lot quicker than I thought. I learned on that one, and thankfully didn't burn the kitchen down," he confessed.
So a romance may start with a delicious meal, but how to keep it going?
Said Autumn Levine, "We both clean up!"
The quantities for this salad can vary to taste or what's on hand. Autumn Levine doesn't like tomatoes or beets, so her husband reserves those for his portion. Eric Levine also suggests saving time by using the precooked packaged beets that have recently come on the market. He often adds some pan-seared chicken as well here.
ERIC LEVINE'S GREEK SALAD
1 1/2 heads of romaine lettuce, trimmed, chopped and well-dried
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 large cucumber, seeded and diced
1 cup bagged, shredded carrots
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup beets, roasted, diced
1 small tomato, chopped
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
To make the dressing, whisk together the last 4 ingredients above until emulsified (the oil and vinegar are well-blended).
Put salad ingredients into a bowl and toss with the dressing just before serving, adding pepper to taste.
Reserve additional vinaigrette for another salad or marinade. Serves 2 as main dish; 4 as a side.