Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XXI

Hi, everyone! Welcome to the twenty-first edition of Weeknight Dinner Recap! No, you didn’t miss one, but yes, this Recap is coming to you quite a bit later than usual, especially since this set of meals is from before the holiday break. Please forgive me! I had every intention of preparing and posting this set before Christmas, but time ran away from me amidst finishing tasks at work, attending a lot of family gatherings, and getting some much needed sleep! And baking a lot of cookies. :)

And while I don’t really consider those truly acceptable excuses for the tardiness of this article, I’ve come to terms with the need for a break. And I hope you got one too! As I write this, the year 2017 is coming to a close, New Year’s Eve is tonight, and Seth and I celebrated 17-months of marriage (yes, we toast every month. Why not?). So let’s kick back, relax, and review the last full of week of dinners we made in 2017, shall we? It was a delicious bunch, and set the tone for what will be a very wonderful, and yummy, 2018!

A note on this week’s dishes: every meal made came from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. A wonderful cookbook that’s both inspiring to read and use for cooking great dinners. Any adaptations we made to make recipes gluten free will be mentioned, as usual! But joyfully, very few adjustments had to be done! :) 

Full Recap begins after the jump! 

 A sneak preview of what’s to come! Brass hashtag coasters FTW.  

A sneak preview of what’s to come! Brass hashtag coasters FTW.  

 Potato latkes with parsnip, and a side of sour cream for dipping.  

Potato latkes with parsnip, and a side of sour cream for dipping.  

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Sunday: Way back on the Sunday night of these latkes, we were midway through Chanukah, and I couldn’t imagine going through the whole holiday without making some version of the classic dish. And so we did! It was the first time Seth and I made latkes together, in our apartment, and I have to say they were a success! 

Growing up, my family made latkes every Chanukah, as you do during the eight nights of celebrating, and every year they were even more delicious than the last. We had “latke fest” (!!) yearly and it was always a highlight and great start to the holiday season. My mom had a few different recipes, but for the most part the potato-focused delicacy remained the same. And I loved every crispy, oily, salty, perfect ‘pancake’  that she made. I’m pretty sure if you count the number of latkes I’ve eaten over my lifetime - oh wait - let’s not count. I’d like the total to remain a mystery. Forever. Let’s just say it’s way more than necessary, for the sake of potatoes and oil, and all that crispy joy. :) 

So back to this year, and our latkes. I saw numerous recipes online and while I could have selected any number of delicious-looking options, majority being naturally gluten free, I decided on one in Jerusalem, which used potatoes and parsnips to form the “batter.” I was fairly skeptical of the parsnips as they definitely added a hint of “health” to the final flavor profile, but overall, I would say they contributed a great bite to the latke itself. We followed the recipe as written, using our preferred GF flour instead of regular, and it worked seamlessly as usual. The latkes were crispy and scrumptious. 

Making the latkes brought me back to all of those years watching my mom make them; filling multiple fry pans with oil, making many latkes all at once, and trying to make sure our smoke alarm didn’t go off in the process of managing multiple pans with burning hot oil. It was a regular Chanukah event! Seth and I had a lot of fun making rounds (and rounds) of latkes, eating bits and pieces of them while keeping the majority warm in the oven as new ones were put into the pans. Quite an operation!

After all was said and done, and the burners were turned off, we got to sit down and enjoy the “fruits” of our latke labor. And boy, were those some good latkes! It made me nostalgic for the years making them with my family, and I know we will do that again, but it did make me proud to know that Seth and I can start having new traditions in our house, and that “latke fest” will always be a part of our lives during the holidays. Happy Chanukah! 

PS - this recipe made a lot of latkes. We ate most of them. 🤭🤗 

 Roasted butternut squash with red onion and warmed pine nuts, parsley, and Aleppo pepper. Paired with Panko-breaded chicken. 

Roasted butternut squash with red onion and warmed pine nuts, parsley, and Aleppo pepper. Paired with Panko-breaded chicken. 

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Monday: Tonight’s dinner was one that warms you from the inside out and has several great colors and textures. It was also a meal that focused on a side dish as the main feature, so we needed to add in a protein to round it all out. 

I was feeling squash-y which led me to select this roasted squash with red onions and warm pine nuts. Have you ever eaten/made warmed pine nuts? It’s incredibly easy and they are a delicious accompaniment to any vegetable on your table. The process basically involves heating a little olive oil in a pan, adding the pine nuts, and stirring them occasionally. This results in a super-flavorful and very aromatic garnish. My second favorite way of preparing pine nuts is adding them to a sheet pan meal, roasting them in the oven. So good!

We chose to pair the squash with our go-to Panko-breaded chicken because it seemed to be a natural choice for the squash. Would something else have gone nicely, too? Probably. But when we’re making a new-to-us side dish, we usually opt for a simple-to-make protein so that our focus can be on the new item, first and foremost. And I just love this Panko chicken. So crispy and yummy, and I wanted that crunch against the very much not-crispy squash. A good pair! 

Another great result of this dinner were the colors! We work hard to make sure our plates are as colorful as they can be, and the vibrant squash and red onion were great contrasts to the orange-toned chicken. Plus, the flecks of parsley and pops of pine nuts really brought it all together, in my opinion. A delicious dinner, indeed!  

As such, it was another recipe from Jerusalem that we followed as written. And it was naturally gluten free! Hooray! :)

 Personal-size Shakshuka. 

Personal-size Shakshuka. 

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Tuesday: Our plan for this meal was to use the shakshuka recipe from the Jerusalem book, since that was the week’s focus, but alas, time got away from us, and a couple ingredients we didn’t manage to get on the weekend did not make it into our kitchen for this exact recipe. So, we predominantly used the recipe from Dinner, another weeknight favorite, and kind of blended the two recipes to create our desired dish.

The main difference this time around, versus the first time we made this fairly recently, was that we cooked the eggs in the pans on top of the stove, instead of baking them in the oven. This technique was used in Jerusalem, and while it did yield the desired yolk-y egg on top, it was not a quick process. In fact, it took a lot longer than I anticipated, resulting in me snacking pre-dinner way more than I should have! What can you do?

My favorite part of this dinner, besides the fact that it was just as awesome as I remembered, was that we served it in individual cast iron pans that are one of our cutest kitchen accessories. I love these as they are just the right size for personal-size portions of whatever you’re cooking (we actually ended up having seconds).

I do think the single, large batch of Shakshuka in a big cast iron pan works well for a crowd, or for a bit less work creating the dinner, but these little ones were too cute to pass up. We had these small pans around for a while and all of a sudden I knew exactly how they should be used. Personal pan shakshuka is a great dinner - or brunch! And I think they came out just perfect! Even though we had to wait a little longer to eat. ;)

 Swiss chard fritters topped with feta, served with chicken sausage.  

Swiss chard fritters topped with feta, served with chicken sausage.  

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Wednesday: Now, this dinner was a joyful surprise! I selected the recipe, Swiss Chard Fritters, based solely on the fact that I love fritters of any kind, and I enjoy Swiss chard. No brainer; this would be a great dinner, despite not having a photo of the finished product in the cookbook. Thankfully, this was the case! Paired with oven-roasted chicken sausage because we like to do one protein and one veggie (of some kind) on our plates each night. 

These fritters were quite simple and only required the easy substitution of GF flour instead of using regular for the fritter batter. Otherwise, all gluten free! And packed with chard. A lot of chard, a little flour, a couple eggs, and some feta, all blended together in the food processor, and we had a very quick pancake-style batter ready to go. Yum!

What we didn’t realize (or notice?) was that the recipe made a lot of these fritters. But that’s par for the course around here as we tend to make recipes as written, and end up with food for at least six people, most nights. 🤭 I kind of love it though as we always have plenty for seconds, and almost always have leftovers for next-day work lunch or pre-dinner snacks. Win!

The fritters were awesome topped with feta cheese and some fresh lemon juice on top. Amazing flavors and I really loved the green tones running throughout. There’s that chard! We roasted gluten free chicken sausages to go with the fritters because we thought it would be best to not just have the fritters for dinner; but I’m sure I could easily be convinced otherwise next time...

I must say, I would love to make these again, in a more bite-size version, and top them with something decadent like a seared scallop or bite of lobster. That would be delicious, and fancy. 😎 But we aren’t going into the wedding catering business, so we will just keep on dreaming. Unless we have a fancy dinner party?! I’ll keep you posted. :)

 Lemon leek burgers topped with yogurt sauce, side of arugula.  

Lemon leek burgers topped with yogurt sauce, side of arugula.  

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Thursday: We made it to vacation! And what would a Thursday night (start to vacation) be without a long, involved, but ultimately delicious dinner?! As usual, I chose a meal that took hours to prepare, without realizing it, and we ate (finally) at almost 10pm! Joyfully, we had nowhere to go the next day so this wasn’t much of a real problem, and the resulting meal was actually really good. Thank goodness. 😉

For our last dinner of our week featuring Jerusalem, I chose lemon leek burgers because, honestly, I liked the title! I love leeks and I’m learning to love the level of lemon that has found its way into our kitchen. For a very long time, I only liked lemon in lemonade and nowhere else. Yikes!

Learning to become a grown up (haha), and a human who actually appreciates lemon, I now realize how great this bright fruit truly is and how nicely it can enhance any number of dinners and foods we make quite frequently. In fact, I have become the person that always has extra lemons around. That’s how much I now love lemon! Who am I?! Pretty sure I’m now like everyone else. Finally. 🙈

In regard to the recipe itself, Lemon Leek Burgers (made with beef), we followed it as written, using GF breadcrumbs when necessary, but otherwise everything was gluten free! Exactly how I like it. Minimal adjustments make dinner all the more rewarding when trying a new recipe. And for the sauce, there actually wasn’t one listed, so I whipped up one of my favorite combos that I learned from another Jerusalem recipe that I thought would go nicely with these burgers: yogurt sauce! 

Measurements are not exact at this point since I’ve made it a handful of times and like to adjust as I go, making me essentially a real chef. Just kidding!! I’m still learning a lot and Seth is the primary chef in our house. However, I do proudly hold the title of “sauce maker, rice cooker, and cheese plate creator.”  :)

So, for this instance, I made the sauce with Greek yogurt, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and freshly mashed garlic cloves. Amounts of garlic and lemon vary depending on your taste preferences, of course. I love them both so they were generously added in this variation. Yum! 

Finally, the somewhat involved process of making these burgers wasn’t that they were difficult to make, it was that several steps involved the joyous act of waiting. Waiting for leeks to be steamed. Waiting for the burgers to sit in the fridge. Waiting for the burgers to braise fully in the chicken stock and lemon sauce. And eventually, finally, eating them!

Considering we started cooking fairly late, consuming some wine and cheese crunchies (that’s a real term, people) along the way, and eventually eating this wonderful dish, I was quite thrilled with the finished product. I was also psyched that it made enough burgers for about eight people and the leftovers the next day were unreal.

The braising process really brought out the great flavors and made them a truly scrumptious burger. Plus, my yogurt sauce was a stellar addition. And of course, we had to serve it on a bed of arugula which has become our staple salad green of choice. A very late dinner that was a fabulous dish to welcome a much-deserved holiday break! 😊

 We had a double Christmas! Once with my family and another with Seth’s family. Their tree has so many beautiful ornaments! 

We had a double Christmas! Once with my family and another with Seth’s family. Their tree has so many beautiful ornaments! 

 Gifts were given and received! ☺️ 

Gifts were given and received! ☺️ 

Friday: Hello, vacation!! For the last week-plus, we have been spending lots of time with family, eating whatever we want, doing whatever we want, and sleeping past six in the morning. It’s been glorious!! 

We hope you had a merry Christmas, a happy Chanukah, and a lovely end to this packed, but pretty fun 2017. There’s a lot of excitement coming up in the New Year and we can’t wait to share all of our nightly cooking adventures with you! Thank you so much for being a part of this gluten free food journey with us. We cannot thank you enough for your support and interest in our food! 

Wishing you all the best for a happy, healthy, and delicious New Year!

 Our holiday card. Super-relaxed and carefree, in Maine (after a lobster-filled dinner, I’m sure). 

Our holiday card. Super-relaxed and carefree, in Maine (after a lobster-filled dinner, I’m sure). 

See you in 2018 for many great meals, stories, and a whole lot of fun. 😎🍽❤️ 

Eat well,  

Mollie and Seth 

PS: some extra photos of our vacation week below! 

 Enjoyed a great lunch at The Bancroft! Still frozen, but we had a fun time! 

Enjoyed a great lunch at The Bancroft! Still frozen, but we had a fun time! 

 My new passion: polenta fries with rosemary, served with truffle aioli at The Bancroft. Amazing. 

My new passion: polenta fries with rosemary, served with truffle aioli at The Bancroft. Amazing. 

 Athens hoping for some of our food, as usual.  

Athens hoping for some of our food, as usual.  

 Another great food find: GF avocado toast at The Friendly Toast. Unreal and so delicious! 

Another great food find: GF avocado toast at The Friendly Toast. Unreal and so delicious! 

 I made a lot of cookies this week!! 

I made a lot of cookies this week!! 

 We made the favorites when we felt like cooking and that included red coconut curry shrimp. So scrumptious and perfect for this absurdly cold week. 

We made the favorites when we felt like cooking and that included red coconut curry shrimp. So scrumptious and perfect for this absurdly cold week. 

 I craved pasta one night to curb the cold. We made meatsauce pasta with Italian sausage and topped it with a three-cheese blend made by me!  

I craved pasta one night to curb the cold. We made meatsauce pasta with Italian sausage and topped it with a three-cheese blend made by me!  

 Celebrating 17 months of marriage at The Four Seasons, Bristol Restaurant. Our photos there are always blurry, for some reason. But they are always some of my favorite images of us. :)    Happy New Year!

Celebrating 17 months of marriage at The Four Seasons, Bristol Restaurant. Our photos there are always blurry, for some reason. But they are always some of my favorite images of us. :)  

Happy New Year!