Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XXXVII
Welcome to the thirty-seventh Weeknight Dinner Recap! Spring seems to have finally arrived and we are welcoming it with open arms, and lots of green goodness! We teamed up with Wilson Farm of Lexington, MA for this week’s meals and I think you’re going to really enjoy them.
Packed with veggies, protein, and all the deliciousness we could find, this set of dinners really has us excited for the change in season. With good reason! ;)
As always, all ingredients used for these recipes can be found at Wilson Farm. We’re there every Sunday - maybe we will see you next time? :)
Enough with the small talk! I’m hungry. Let’s get to the plates, shall we?
Sunday’s Dish: Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Peas, and Ramps
Source: Food52 (Online) - recipe by gourmettenyc. Search for “ramp risotto,” and it will pop right up.
GFMD: One of the best parts of risotto is that it’s naturally gluten free! Just make sure to use chicken stock (or whatever the recipe calls for) that’s labeled GF as well. Of course, if you make your own stock, then it would be gluten free, too. :)
Outcome: As soon as we began planning for this week, and the weather was looking shiny and bright, I knew that this dish had to be included. I mean, look at it! 😍 Risotto in general is one of my lifelong favorite meals and the fact that it can be customized for the season and your mood makes it even better in my book. Custom-made to suit (not custom-made-suits) your tastes? What’s better than that?
Spring’s arrival definitely meant it was time to focus on the seasonal veggies which for this bowl included asparagus, peas, and ramps (yahoo!). All the greens, please! I loved the flavor that was created by having all of these mixed together. Light, fresh, a little earthy, and a lot healthy.
Risotto itself isn’t entirely the healthiest (I disagree), but by making it full of good-for-you greens it kind of balances out the wine and cheese. 😉 Either way, it’s incredibly yummy and one of those meals I will always be excited to eat.
While we really enjoyed this spring bowl, I do think we will doctor it a bit next time. I ended up adding a little extra salt and pepper, Parmesan, and even declared, “I think it needs something else.”
As I’ve discussed in the past, we rarely edit the recipes we choose, but when we do it’s usually to add in more protein. And this risotto was a similar situation. For next time, Seth and I decided that we would probably incorporate mushrooms, onion, and perhaps even chicken or shrimp. Just for a little extra oomph. This spring-forward meal was cheerful and delicious, but for us, some extra cheer would not be a bad idea. ;)
Monday’s Dish: Seared Sausage and Rhubarb with Swiss Chard
Source: Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark
GFMD: Naturally gluten free! Per usual, always check labels on products such as spices, sauces, and seasonings. They all need to be labeled gluten free and cannot be made in a facility containing wheat (that’s my personal rule and choice given my Celiac requirements). What a thrill that this dish needed no adjustments whatsoever!
Outcome: If you had told me a few years ago that I would be excited for a veggie-filled dinner that included rhubarb, I’d probably laugh. A lot. Like, a real lot. Now, I have nothing against vegetables, but just a few, short years ago my mind was not nearly as open to trying new flavors, foods, and most certainly not rhubarb. Joke was on me! It’s delicious.
And while I’m not sprinting to every rhubarb recipe out there, this dinner was a great introduction to a vegetable most people usually associate with sweets (read: dessert!). Have you had rhubarb pie before? Pretty sure I need to try it now. Especially since it’s spring! :)
Cooking-wise, I loved that the rhubarb was sautéed with red onions and Swiss chard as it kind of melded everything together, without losing their individuality. Plus, a number of awesome flavors got thrown in to the pan as well: garam masala, currants, and maple syrup (and more). While this was cooking, the aroma was insane! I was so excited to eat.
Topping it all off with crispy, hot Italian sausage was another fabulous element that I would never have thought of on my own. The cookbook we used for this recipe, Dinner, is such a staple in our home. It consistently introduces us to new flavor combos and dinners we would never have dreamed up on our own. Kudos to Melissa Clark, she really changed our dinner game. 😉
Each bite of this meal with all of the greens and sausage was so flavorful and unexpected, we couldn’t get enough! That being said, there are no leftovers. 🙄 However, if we had added in a grain such as quinoa or polenta, as suggested, we may have had some extra. But, alas, we skipped it this time around.
Future note: as we were chewing away, I said that this would be an awesome meal for a hot dog bun! Stay with me. Wouldn’t this mess (artwork) of delicious veggies and a sausage taste great inside a crispy, toasted bun? I think it would!
A very modern, spring-forward, more exciting take on an Italian sausage + pepper combo that’s seen at ballparks throughout the summer. Personally, I think it would be great. So we’re definitely going to save that thought for a future meal plan. ;)
In the meantime, this was a really delicious dinner with pops of new flavors and my proud declaration that I can finally say I enjoy rhubarb. 🙂
Tuesday’s Dish: Grilled chicken with ramp pesto and Butter-Tossed Radishes
Source: The ramp pesto recipe is from Bon Appètit and the radishes are from the book Dining In by Alison Roman.
GFMD: Naturally gluten free! Fresh and local and all natural for the win. Again!
Outcome: When it comes to Earth-tones and flavors, you cannot get more Earthy than this dinner. Well, maybe, if you just had a salad instead of chicken, but why on Earth would you do that? Protein is important! Stick to the mix, my friends. Veggies and protein and you’re good to go. Until the weekend, at least. ;)
And while the star of this plate looks to be the bright, buttery radishes, I must declare that the chicken, grilled with a super-awesome ramp pesto, was the winner for me. 😮 Don’t get mad, don’t walk away, and don’t stop reading. I just needed to be honest. That’s fair, right?
The ramp pesto, which Seth blended up right before marinating the chicken in it, was bright, flavorful and really screamed, “spring!” You can say that aloud in a cheery, semi-dainty voice because I imagine ramps to have the voice of a confident, yet small, child. Seriously, don’t stop reading. Even if my statement was ridiculous, ramps are really awesome.
What I also found interesting about the pesto, besides its flavor and joyful tone, was that it had no dairy in it! Our usual basil pesto has a heap of Parmesan, but this one had none of that. So, if you’re in need of a dairy-free pesto selection, I’d suggest this one! Of note, the recipe called for pancetta or bacon, but we skipped it. Maybe a mistake? Possibly. But for this meal, leaving it out was just fine. :)
Radishes! I was eager to make these due to the promise of the butter-coating and quick turnaround. I was not let down. However, I did learn that radishes definitely taste a bit different once cooked and that adding the requested amount of za’atar is a lot of it.
Fine for others, this flavor was a bit overpowering in my opinion, and kind of stole the show a bit from the radishes. While still yummy and interesting, I may lessen the amount of za’atar next time and increase the garlic. The butter content meanwhile was perfect. ;)
I had not yet had the pleasure of eating radishes in this form before so I was delighted by the result! For next time, I may make a couple tweaks based on my own flavor preferences, but by all means, follow the recipe as written for the first time. Use your own judgement and be ready for a very cool dish.
Quick bite: fresh ramp pesto is so delicious that we are going to use the leftover for tomorrow night’s meal! Never let a yummy flavor go to waste. ;)
Wednesday’s Dish: Asparagus Polenta with Burrata, and ramp pesto grilled shrimp.
Source: Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark
GFMD: Another naturally gluten free meal! Who can possibly say that it’s hard to eat gluten free when amazing, all natural, and naturally gluten free dishes are all around us. For this dinner, just make sure your polenta is labeled as GF and of course, the burrata as well (there’s no reason it shouldn’t be!).
Outcome: Now this is what I call a sunny, happy dinner. Fresh produce, some oozing cheese, a warm grain, and an ocean protein - what else do you need? Pretty much nothing. Except the promise of being able to have seconds. ;)
Once again, Melissa Clark’s dinner-time delight of a book won us over with a bowl that was scrumptious and simple to prepare; and it took so little time to make that I had barely set the table when Seth told me to grab the bowls! A major mealtime success.
The focus of the bowl seemed to be the asparagus, which is finally in season again, as well as the dreamy burrata and hot, perfect polenta. Of course, that’s almost everything in the bowl, but you know, I like to emphasize just how much each ingredient contributed to the overall awesome flavor.
Our decision to add shrimp was to make sure we had a little extra protein on our plates, and we still had ramp pesto left from the night prior and needed to use it. Never let something so delicious go to waste! So, we did a quick marinating of the shrimp (in a plastic bag with the pesto) and then threw them (placed carefully) on the super-hot grill pan on our stovetop.
I need to say that our Le Creuset grill pan works like a charm and that it’s quickly become one of our most-used weeknight dinner tools. I love that you don’t need to add any oil to it before you cook the food and everything gets those fun “grill marks,” which are a staple when outdoor grilling. While we don’t have an outdoor grill setup yet, this situation is working wonders for right now.
My favorite part of this dinner was that despite its simplicity, and ordinary ingredients, the overall flavor and effect was incredible. I loved bites of polenta, burrata, and asparagus all together (and on their own). And I repeatedly swirled my shrimp in the sauce that formed at the bottom of the bowl from buttery polenta, a little burrata “juice,” and balsamic vinaigrette. So much yum!
I cannot recommend this dinner enough for when you need a quick, healthy, scrumptious meal that features a seasonal veggie and other crave-worthy, complimentary flavors. Don’t forget the shrimp! ;)
Thursday’s Dish: Surf and Turf Black Pepper Shanghai Noodles
Source: Myers and Chang at Home by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz
GFMD: Quite frankly, this was much easier to make gluten free than I expected! Simply make sure to use GF soy sauce (Tamari) and rice noodles instead of regular. There is one ingredient included that’s tough to find and tough to confirm if it’s gluten free, so we opted out and followed the instructions for an alternative option (mixing GF soy sauce and a little brown sugar together).
Outcome: Well look what we have here! One of the most colorful, fragrant, delicious, and fun meals ever! Giving in to the joy and amazing flavors that live inside this cookbook, we continue to be amazed and thrilled with each new dish we make. And this was the best one yet!
Despite the ingredient list being long, and the prep being fairly involved (read: not fast), this meal actually came together very quickly once everything was chopped and ready to go. Hints for this to go faster: Seth made the Black Pepper Sauce ahead of time, chopped all of the peppers and other veggies ahead, and had the noodles pre-cooked as instructed.
So, once he began to cook it all in the wok, the process was seamless and was very quick. In fact, he made two entire batches of this awesomeness in far less time than it took to prep everything! And the result was spectacular. :)
I admit that picking a favorite element of this dinner would be nearly impossible because each time we try, we find that a different piece is brought up. The beef was tender and juicy, the shrimp were cooked just right, and all of the veggies remained crisp, yet super flavorful from the Black Pepper sauce which coated every last bite.
And the noodles!! What a treat to be able to make this with rice noodles, entirely gluten free, and have the dish as authentic to the recipe as possible. I’m often wary when we need to use noodles in dinners that aren’t Italian since the quality/texture of rice nooodles is so different than that of wheat noodles used in Asian dishes. However, these ones worked perfectly despite being not quite as thick as a non-GF version would be.
Luckily, my worries vanished and I got to thoroughly enjoy a dinner that I may not have even deemed possible just a few short years ago. Hooray! I love being surprised by dinners that are so incredibly delicious and that I never would have dreamed to enjoy as gluten free, but am now able to, easily. This one in particular was just perfect.
Garnish-wise, the fresh peanuts and cilantro on top were terrific accompaniments to the rest of the flavors, and I’m glad we decided to include them! Crunchy peanuts were such a fun flavor to have against the slightly salty and sweet backdrop of the veggies, shrimp, beef, and noodles. I’d highly recommend including them when you create this meal.
Finally, keep in mind that this recipe results in two full “batches” which creates a massive amount of food. Fantastic! While we had more than enough for hearty portions and leftovers, I could see serving this for a dinner party as it would easily feed six adults who are very hungry! And I’m sure it would be a major crowd pleaser. I’m sure everyone would ask for seconds. 😉
Friday + Weekend: What a beautiful weekend! Well, Sunday was slightly damp, but that was OK since Saturday was the most beautiful day we’d seen in two months!! And for that I am feeling rejuvenated and so happy.
Also, the weather Friday night wasn’t exactly perfect, so we stayed in and cooked! I know. Major surprise since we almost always go out to cap the work week. But! Times have shifted and on this night we decided to stay in and have the comfort food right in the comfort of our own kitchen. :)
We made queso!! A delicious dish I usually reserve for exclusively eating at restaurants, it is getting difficult to find places where I can have queso and enjoy tortilla chips with it, safely. Essentially, if those chips are fried in the same oil as gluten-containing items, then I cannot eat it. And then I am sad.
Eating queso off of a spoon is not quite as fun and kind of takes the joy out of it almost completely (which is why I rarely order it anymore). But when you make queso at home and buy your favorite tortilla chips that you know are safe, then it’s a happy dance from start to finish!
We used a recipe from Half Baked Harvest, which is available online, and it came out amazingly well and so delicious! We followed it as written, but made one change: we added corn! And used GF flour, of course. The result was a super cheesy, super flavorful, and just plain awesome queso. I cannot recommend the recipe enough, especially for a party. We had a lot left over!! Snacks for days. 😎
Saturday was spent outside! Long walks in our neighborhood, and in neighboring towns, as well as our first trip to Woodman’s in Essex, MA for gluten free fried seafood joy! In case you haven’t been, the entire menu is gluten free except for 3 items!! If that’s not a sign to jump in the car and head north, then I have no idea what your idea of a fun day would be.
Fried clams, fried shrimp, and smiles all day, I loved going to this historic spot for the first trip of the season. However, they are open year-round so I’m surprised this was our first venture. Most certainly, it was not our last! 😎
Because food determines all of our activities apparently, we then attempted to get ice cream at two different spots, both with lines out the door. Line-waiting isn’t my favorite so we ended up skipping the cold sweets and eventually went to dinner at The Bancroft with my parents (hours after clams. Don’t worry). Yay! More food! And at our favorite spot, no less. ;) A joyous, delightful, and delicious time was had by all. 😊
Taking a right turn on to Sunday and we’re back to routine: writing, cleaning, organizing, and planning our dinners for the week! This was one of those weekends where we actually did a bunch of activities that were not only fun, but also relaxing which isn’t always the easiest combo to achieve. And we ate a lot of great food. Of course!
We hope you had a wonderful weekend and got to enjoy some time outside - maybe even some awesome food as well. Cheers to spring! 😎
Mollie and Seth