Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XLII
Welcome to the forty-second Weeknight Dinner Recap! While it was a short work week, it wasn’t a shortened dinner week as we even cooked on Sunday night! Yes, even before a holiday Monday, we decided to stay in and make something delicious. If that isn’t dedication to homecooking, then I’m not sure what is! 😮
This week featured an interesting variety including two nights of seafood, one night vegetarian, and a couple meals done in the wok! My favorite food weeks are those that take us on a flavor adventure with a cast of characters (flavors) not too similar to one another. That’s what makes dinner time most exciting to me and that’s why I’m always so excited to share new recipes I’ve found with you!
Great food is meant to be shared and I love discussing my passion for it with you, dear reader. So, let’s get to the dinners, shall we? 😎
Sunday’s Dish: Crispy Chickpeas and Lamb with Greens and Garlicky Yogurt
Source: Dining In by Alison Roman
GFMD: Naturally gluten free! Yup, this entire meal was gluten free without a single change needed. Now that’s my kind of dinner.
Outcome: When the generous people over at Jovial Foods sent us some of their great beans, I knew immediately that I wanted to make this dish. While the last time we made it was January, and I hate to repeat, the jars of chickpeas were calling my name and I just couldn’t resist adding this stellar, scrumptious dinner to our week’s plan.
The best elements of this dish are everything. And what’s fun about eating it is making sure you have some of everything in each bite. The chickpeas and lamb (we used merguez sausage) are cooked in the wok (or skillet) until absurdly crispy. Like, super crunchy, crunchy and super crispy. Their flavors become unbelievably good.
Once that has been achieved, you cook the greens separately in the same skillet/wok very briefly, and then arrange all of the hot food on your plate, add some sliced tomatoes, and put it all on top of my always-enjoyed Garlicky yogurt. In fact, this is one of the recipes that got me on the garlic yogurt train! So simple, absurdly flavorful, and pairs well with countless dinners, ingredients, and just about anything that needs to be dipped or swirled in tangy, garlicky yogurt. Which, if you ask me, is almost anything! I love it.
What makes me smile and beam about this dinner is the surprise element: it’s super straightforward and nothing too overwhelming in terms of preparation. When you actually stare at the plate, it’s not that many ingredients, but they are cooked fabulously (read: made to be crunchy and crispy) and when you eat it all together, you can’t help but be happy and smile about it.
I love this dinner for the terrific flavors, easy ingredients, and how each time we make it (twice now, many more to come) I can’t stop talking about it for days afterward. And that’s a sign of a successful, homecooked dinner. :)
Monday’s Dish: Roasted Cod with Garlic Butter and Spring Pea Salad
Source: The cod recipe was found online and is available through Coastal Living. The salad recipe is from Dining In by Alison Roman.
GFMD: The salad is joyfully, naturally gluten free! The cod is gluten free on its own, but the topping recipe requested flour, which we substituted with gluten free. However, while we ate dinner, Seth said he’d leave out the flour entirely next time since it didn’t do anything noteworthy for the flavor and seemed to “gum up” the delicious topping. So, if you leave out the flour, then the fish recipe is entirely gluten free, too! Excellent.
Outcome: Let’s talk about this fish dish. We started with the salad because this was one I’d been wanting to make for a while. And we thought, with a springy, bright salad, a nice seafood accompaniment would be great. So that’s when Seth found this cod recipe!
I had originally been thinking pan-fried/breaded fish, but we skipped that in favor of trying something new, and perhaps a little healthier than just fried fish. I’m glad we stuck to a new plan because it was seriously delicious and most certainly something we will make again this summer.
My wishy-washy feelings on the dinner overall, despite loving each part (salad and fish) was that I think we mixed and matched incorrectly. I love this salad and it’s a strong one, but it needed a bolder protein. While I was chewing I determined that my salad needed a steak. Or a roast chicken. Or maybe even a heartier fish - tuna? Swordfish?
Either way, I enjoyed all of the elements in the salad and adored the crunchy and crisp peas and radishes, but it may have enjoyed its spot on our dinner table more if there was a bigger, juicier protein alongside it. A daring proclamation!
For the fish, I would say my reaction was similar. I loved this roasted cod and the garlic butter on top was amazing - it even included prosciutto! But, as with any white fish, it wasn’t extremely flashy despite the yummy flavors encompassing it.
So once again, I think this fish would be best paired with a bolder side dish! Perhaps fingerling potatoes? A variety of mashed? A more deeply flavored roasted veggie? Even fries? 😮 What I loved about the cod was it’s delicate appearance and incredible topping, but I think it needed a stronger, heartier side to balance it out.
My enjoyment of this meal was not solely based on how I thought the two items didn’t go well together. I loved them both separately for many reasons, but together I just think we slightly missed the dinner duo mark. Would I have each of these items again? Most definitely! Will I ever pair them together again? Most likely not. ;)
PS - you may love this combination together! I actually didn’t hate it! I just thought each one may be even better, and more enjoyable, if made with a bolder protein (for the salad) or a bolder side (for the cod). And that’s the dish on fish.
Tuesday’s Dish: Sautéed Scallops with Tomatoes and Preserved Lemon
Source: Favorites from Melissa Clark’s Kitchen by Melissa Clark
GFMD: We decided to serve this dish over gluten free pasta, specifically Jovial Foods GF Fettuccine. Otherwise, this meal is naturally gluten free!
Outcome: Due to the suddenly gorgeous weather, we broke out the summer fare immediately! Not only was this dinner delicious, but it really harked on those summer flavors and summer feelings of spending time by the ocean when the temperatures rise. And since we recently got back from Maine, this meal made me even more excited for our next trip north.
Have you cooked with preserved lemon before? Well, if you haven't I'd recommend it, and if you have, then you'll understand how intensely it changes a somewhat basic set of ingredients. Without the lemon, these scallops were cooked with a tomato, a little butter, and chopped garlic. Classic items for a summery seafood dish. But once the lemon was incorporated (or because of it), the flavors really popped!
Preserved lemon is a unique flavor that goes beyond the regular lemony goodness. A bit tangy for some, I would say maybe lessen the amount (an entire lemon) if you're wary on how much you'll enjoy it when combined with everything else. I did like it, but am well aware of its presence in the dish. If you prefer it blend into the background more, I'd say use much less than the recipe's direction.
Also, can we take a moment and declare how delicious scallops are in any shape or form?! I'm loving them in this method of being sautéed with tomatoes, butter, and garlic - super scrumptious! And despite adoring them when seared - omg - I dare say that this sauté method comes in a close third. Second only to baked scallops because once they're baked with breadcrumbs, and tons of garlic, well, you cannot beat that. Man, I really do love scallops, huh? :)
For the record, I always ordered fried scallops growing up (very much not GF) so those have a special place in my heart, too. However, with my health in mind, and general preferences nowadays, I save the fried for other sea-dwellers. ;)
I loved this dinner for its fresh, summery vibe, and for the welcome introduction to preserved lemon. We served it over GF fettuccine which was a winner, in my opinion, really making the plate feel complete. :)
Wednesday’s Dish: Hong Kong-style Mango Ginger Chicken
Source: Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young
GFMD: Aside from using gluten free soy sauce, this dish didn’t require any adjustments. And, for your awareness, GF soy sauce (Tamari) tastes exactly like regular soy sauce (which contains wheat).
Outcome: One of the major perks of our new apartment is in the kitchen: a gas range! Not only does it make all cooking a lot easier, and faster, but with gas we can use the wok! And anytime a wok-required meal is on the plan, I know it's going to be a great night. Another example of that would be this yummy dish.
Simple ingredients (chicken, pepper, onion, mango) and a pretty easy sauce combined together for a light, quick dinner that left us full and happy, but not overstuffed. I chose to serve this without rice (oh no!) to keep things a little more relaxed. While it may seem ridiculous, how dare I leave out rice, it's part of an ongoing effort around here to be more mindful about what we're eating. Call it a health kick, call it a silly idea, but whatever you say about it, I know it's right for us right now.
Previous me would be horrified to have any form of stir fry without rice underneath it. And I can't blame her. Rice makes the dish more filling and is a great absorber of sauce. Especially the extra-yummy ones! But, I've been noticing my rice-to-stuff ratio has been off lately, so I am working hard to adjust that. Since my natural instinct is to take way more rice than I need, I'm cutting the rice out of the equation entirely, at least for a little while. But I digress...
The flavors of this dinner were just perfect; an awesome combination for a warm summer evening. I loved the sweetness of the mango with the semi-spicy sauce all mixed with the chicken and other veggies. However, fear not if you are not a spicy food fan. I'd say this sauce was quite mild! In fact, we added extra spice to our bowls by throwing in a little sambal oelek to enhance the spiciness. But I learned my lesson on that one: a little goes a long way! ;)
I would strongly recommend this meal for a very quick weeknight stirfry since it doesn't need too much preparation and once you're cooking it's done in mere minutes! I had barely finished setting the table and Seth said, "time to eat!" :)
PS: this night/day (May 30) was the 1-year anniversary of this blog! Cheers to a ton of amazing food and all of the discussion about it. Thank you so very much for reading! :)
Thursday’s Dish: Stir-fried Tofu with Spring Vegetables
Source: Dinner by Melissa Clark
GFMD: My friendly reminder to always use GF soy sauce! No other changes necessary!
Outcome: As has become fairly common in our house, this week included one dish that was entirely meatless, and vegan! Not exactly on purpose, but it’s happening with greater frequency. I don’t know why! But I do know that I enjoy these changes here and there as it has led us to some really delicious meals; especially this one!
Tofu is an ingredient that I steered clear of for years and years, deeming it unnecessary for me to consume since I loved chicken, meat, and fish. However, my silly self was late to the party realizing that some dishes just feature tofu. As the protein! Call it ignorant or just plain ridiculous, I had been avoiding eating it for no reason other than I thought it was a useless ingredient for me. Welp! Wrong again. I’m so glad we are now actively including tofu-centered meals into our weeks.
This stir fry, made entirely in the wok, featured tofu that’s made crispy by simply cooking it when the oil in the wok is ridiculously hot. Like, turn on the fans and open the windows hot. Fearful of that smoke alarm going off again, I spent all of the cooking time pacing in fear of that noise. Spoiler alert: it didn’t go off! Yay!
Previous tofu-focused recipes have involved dredging the tofu in GF flour or cornstarch first to get an extra crispy layer, but this one didn’t require any of that and I’d say it was just as delicious as the others before it. Thankfully. ;)
The other stars of the bowl were the countless freshly-shelled English peas! A springtime delight! Seth painstakingly shelled a large amount of peas for this dish and his major effort did not go unnoticed. These peas were so fresh and yummy! Ultra-local too, which made them even better!
Note, we incorporated sliced red pepper instead of the recipe’s listed pea shoots. Shoot! We forgot to buy them so peppers worked instead. Merrily we roll along because I loved the brightness from the peppers and we had no time to search for pea shoots...
What we loved about this dinner, while slightly long prep time, was that it was QUICK to cook! Before I had barely set the table and yelled at the cat for jumping on it, Seth said dinner was ready! That’s the joy of wok cooking as well as these meals that are meatless. Yes, other proteins do cook up quickly, but when you don’t need to worry as much about accidentally eating something raw, it does speed everything up. :)
I really enjoyed this dinner for its fresh ingredients and light flavor base thanks to chopped ginger, garlic, and an easy rice wine vinegar sauce (including Tamari). I look forward to having it again during the summer as we feature the various in-season veggies amidst the tofu! Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. ;) Grateful for my expanding palette and willingness to embrace all that’s fresh, local, seasonal, and naturally gluten free!
Friday + Weekend: This was one of those rare weekends that we literally had no set plans and nothing we had to do. What a feeling! It felt like a funny form of weekend freedom since our weekdays are very structured and most other weekends have some plans already included, so this was pretty great!
I took it upon myself to begin a new weekend exercise routine as we are set on a fierce health-forward lifestyle right now (or always, but moreso). However, I’m still on the lookout for delicious dishes and I haven’t given up cocktails, so balance is key.
Here are the highlights of our weekend, including the restaurants we went to in bold.
- Dinner at Legal Seafoods in Burlington Friday night and lunch at the brand-new Legal Seafoods in Chestnut Hill on Saturday! Yes, we went twice in 24 hours and yes, I ordered the same meal each time! Creature of habit. 🙄
The new location is simply gorgeous! Get yourself to Chestnut Hill because the new restaurant includes a beautiful, extra-long bar in a room made entirely of windows! And the roof retracts! I have a feeling we will be frequent visitors of this location especially since there’s an outdoor dining area as well.
- Shopping (new shoes!) and errands on Saturday led us to a few spots in the afternoon including Nightshift Brewery (for Seth), Short Path Distillery (for me), and Lone Star Taco Bar in Cambridge (for us). We had not yet been to Lone Star’s second location and I’m so glad we finally went! Same great menu, a few different drinks, and a bit more seating! Since it’s slightly more convenient to our new apt, I bet we will be there fairly often, too. They have the best carnitas.
- My May baking feature is now available! Have you read it yet? Click here to read all about the sweets and treats that took over our kitchen in May. 😉
- Both weekend days included early morning walk/runs which I enjoyed immensely. While it’s tough to get up earlier than necessary on days off, it is great to feel so accomplished even before breakfast.
- We had Sunday brunch at Daedalus in Harvard Square! I hadn’t been in many years and it was just as good as I remembered. Easy for GF needs, I had a veggie omelette and side salad. Yum! This venture also reminded me of how difficult it is to find parking in Cambridge - yikes! 😮
By Sunday evening after all of the meal planning, grocery shopping, and laundry was done, and enjoying some time outside in the great weather, it was time to gear up for another week of dinners! Stay tuned because we have some delicious, new dishes coming up!
We hope you had a great weekend, too, and had time to relax, unwind, and have fun!
Mollie and Seth