Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XLVI
Welcome to the forty-sixth Weeknight Dinner Recap! And welcome to summer, officially. We're now into my favorite season of the year because it means loads of daylight, spending all of my time outside, warm (hot) air, and enjoying the freshest, local produce in our dinner each night.
For us, that awesome produce comes right from Wilson Farm in Lexington, MA which now offers all types of fresh, seasonal veggies that are harvested daily from the fields on their property. Can't get much more local than that!
We have partnered with Wilson's this week to feature their local produce, and most importantly, everything their Farm has to offer year-round.
This week, our dinners spanned the globe with meals featuring Middle Eastern flavors, Cajun spices, Asian sauces, a new-to-us pesto, and to round it out we made my personal summertime favorite that can be enjoyed whether you're based in New England or beyond. We covered it all dinner-wise and I cannot wait to tell you all about it.
Let's get to the plates, shall we?
Sunday’s Dish: Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Mustard and Parsley
Source: It’s All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen
GFMD: Not only was this meal healthy and ultra-green, it was naturally gluten free! Thanks, Gwyneth.. 😎
Outcome: OK, so whether or not you’re a fan of the Goop queen, I must admit she knows a thing or two about great food. Or at least knows who to enlist to create it because this book is full of recipes for healthy, easy, and super flavorful food, which is a combo that is sometimes hard to achieve.
I’ll give GP a chance because we were so happy with this meal. I have a feeling Julia Turshen, the co-author and awesome chef, was quite heavily involved.
While the turkey burgers were an awesome shade of green, and were really delicious, I was surprised at how dark they got when cooked. We didn’t char them too much, but they did get a little overly crisp on the outside - and we cooked them less than the recommended time! Perhaps if we had used an actual grill? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t say that this would stop us from making them again.
Thankfully, the bright and cool cucumber yogurt sauce covered that char right up! Why else do you think there’s a big scoop of it on top of the burger?! 🤗 I loved this sauce that was packed with greens, again, and was an excellent topping/dip for the burger. We doubled the recipe and had plenty! So much so that Seth had a whole container to go with the leftover burgers for lunch. Lucky him!
Just to clarify, we used Greek yogurt for this sauce, but I’m sure you could use any type of thick-style yogurt you prefer. The recipe recommended goat or sheep milk yogurt. 😬 I’m sorry, I couldn’t find either one. However, I bet they’re delicious?
The star of this dinner, for us, was the perfect roasted cauliflower and chickpeas that was dressed with an amazing mustard and parsley sauce. It had been a while since we’d roasted cauliflower and man, I still love it!
Add chickpeas to the pan and you’ve got a seriously great side dish. Silly us, we had got a small-ish cauliflower when we should’ve bought five pounds of it. This was definitely one of my favorite veggie-sides to-date and it went so well with the burgers. Admittedly, these two dishes were recommended to go together in the book, and so I happily say, “bravo! They do!”
Nice work, Gwyneth Paltrow! This book is filled with more health-focused recipes I’d definitely like to try in the coming weeks of summer. I can only assume that by making more and more from this book I’ll suddenly morph into a much taller, blonder version of myself, a lá GP. 😉
In all seriousness, this dinner was delicious, easily gluten free, and would be quite nice for a summer party in your backyard. Just remember, make plenty of cauliflower. ;)
Monday’s Dish: Quick Kickin’ Cajun Shrimp and Rice
Source: Half Baked Harvest by Tieghan Gerard
GFMD: We had to make a couple changes to this one, which I don’t think had a major effect on final flavor. We added wine instead of beer, and used GF flour instead of regular for the roux.
While the beer may have produced a different flavor tone, I’ll never know! With wine, it was divine! Also, we chose to use brown rice instead of white. Health!
Outcome: Let it be known that not all “heavy” meals should be reserved for winter. And not all meals that could be considered heavy, are time-consuming. What a joy this dinner, that could be considered “heavy” and not at all time-consuming, turned out to be.
Once again, the great Half Baked Harvest proved to produce a dinner time win that was delicious, flavorful, filling, and easily made gluten free with very minor changes.
Sure, we had to use wine instead of beer for the liquid, but we could’ve found a GF beer substitute (we didn’t bother). I’m not sure how the flavor would have changed, but the way we made it, with wine, was really great.
Also, using GF flour in the roux-making process, yielded great results. If you don’t use it yet, then get yourself Cup4Cup gluten free flour. Works like a dream for everything. I have complete confidence in the product. And this is not an ad. However, if the nice people over at Cup4Cup want to chat, then by all means, let’s chat. ;)
This dinner may look like a heavy, winter-ish bowl, but I promise you it’s anything but. Bright, spicy Cajun joy covered the shrimp, andouille sausage, green bell peppers, and cubed pineapple which led to an awesome spicy + sweet bite. But fear not, the spice level was not out of control. In fact, I’d possibly make it a little spicier next time!
I loved the shrimp, sauce, and sausage combo that briefly transported me far from our dinner table to a Cajun spot nowhere near home. Including this meal in the week’s plan made me realize that there are so many other foods, cuisines, and flavors we need to begin to include. Bring on the spice!
Served over brown rice with a splash of lemon juice, our dinner was a terrific surprise of new flavors and texture combos I’ve had in restaurants, but now know the fun of having it at home. And I can’t wait to have it again. With a little, extra spice. 😉
Tuesday’s Dish: Hot Pepper Beef
Source: Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young
GFMD: As with most Asian-flavored dishes, always purchase soy sauce (Tamari) that is labeled gluten free. In regard to this meal, the hoisin sauce needs to be labeled GF, too. All other ingredients used were naturally gluten free!
Outcome: Well, after a long day and an even-worse commute, and a full gym session, I was thrilled that this was on our dinner plan. Not only did it require pretty quick prep, the actual cook time was blazingly fast and all of a sudden Seth said, “dinner is ready!” Music to my ears! And stomach. I was famished.
We are loving this stir fry book that we’ve had on the shelf for a few years, and enjoying even more now that our gas range is equipped properly for wok-necessary dinners. What a joy! And even better: what a yummy result.
Simply sliced bell peppers and onions are stir fried with pre-marinated (not for long) flank steak, and tossed together with an awesome, but straightforward sauce that hit all the notes: spicy, sweet, savory, yummy. Not too spicy, either, so relax. ;)
Dare I say I was surprised, happily, by how delicious the fairly simple sauce turned out to be. It included a small number of ingredients, including fresh smashed ginger, which I joyfully helped smash upon request! Incidentally, smashing something (edible) felt kind of gratifying after a frustrating situation (my commute).
While I loved this dinner for its simplicity, I think next time we will make it with a different steak cut. Flank was just a little chewy, in my opinion, and was a teeny bit distracting from enjoying the rest of the meal. It did not ruin it, but I like steak that’s a little softer, easier on the teeth, if that makes any sense. I don’t mind chewing, obviously, but it shouldn’t require too much effort.
Thankfully, the awesome sauce and veggies made up for my slight indifference toward the steak and I ate it anyway. Some may have totally loved it, but for us we will probably swap it out next time.
All in all, this was a fantastic and flavorful meal that was quite welcome after quite a day. We will definitely be making it again and I can’t wait to try out a few other protein options for it. I’m sure they will all be delicious!
Wednesday’s Dish: Crispy Tofu and Broccoli with Sesame Peanut Pesto
Source: Smitten Kitchen Everyday by Deb Perelman
GFMD: Gluten Free, dairy free, vegan! Just make sure to use gluten free soy sauce, of course. :) And for safety’s sake, make sure the tofu is labeled GF!
Outcome: When it comes to roasted veggies, I’d say we are reaching near-expert level, and that means whenever we select a dinner that features roasting everything, then that’s a secret for extra-easy dinner. This meal, in all its glorious flavor and goodness, did not disappoint in that manner. We roasted everything, tossed it all with an awesome sauce, and enjoyed. OMG YUM.
Shockingly, this was our first recipe from this cookbook, but not our first from Smitten Kitchen. But let me tell you, this will not be the last! We loved this simple, yummy meal and its promise - addictively scrumptious pesto - proved completely true!
Also, we now know that roasted tofu cubes are pretty great and probably much healthier than when we crisp them stovetop in oil. 😉 However, life is all about balance and there is certainly room for oven-roasted and stovetop-crisped tofu in our lives. And when the dipping sauce is this good, it doesn’t matter at all how you prepare it.
The sesame peanut pesto is a recipe you should learn, memorize, and make weekly. With the power of toasted sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce, and crushed peanuts, the flavors together are unreal (there’s a few more items in it) and I could see us making it often for any number of delicious dishes.
In fact, I feel like it would be a great sauce on any type of roasted-veggie dinner, or a stir fry because of its bright, unique flavor that’s like a peanut sauce, only way, way better. Trust me, you will love it! Note: I’m sorry if you cannot eat peanuts. And definitely avoid if you have a nut allergy. There are many other pesto-like options out there for you that I’m sure would be just as awesome.
Overall, I loved this dinner for its simplicity, and enjoyed it even more for it introducing a new pesto style into our home. Delicious on roasted broccoli and tofu, but I have a feeling the options are endless on the foods it would greatly enhance.
Editor’s note: we strongly recommend drizzling a little sambal oelek over this dish too for an added spice element and another bright flavor to compliment it all. :) Yum!
Thursday’s Dish: Crab cakes with Corn Tomato Salsa
Source: Cherry Bombe the Cookbook by Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu. Recipe by Renee Erickson
GFMD: The only change we had to make was to use gluten free breadcrumbs in the crab cakes. Our preferred brand is Aleia's Gluten Free Foods which has several options for gluten free breadcrumbs. Everything else in the entire dish is gluten free - rejoice!
Outcome: Maybe you haven't heard, but you should probably know that I absolutely love crab cakes. Like, they may be in my top-ten favorite foods of all-time, which is nuts, because think of all the foods out there. Including crab cakes in my top-ten is fairly bold, but you know what? I really, really love them.
And when I was deciding on a final meal to close out our week, I chose crab cakes because they scream SUMMER! Well, they do to me, and I hope you agree. If you don't, then go enjoy your non-crab-cakes and we'll chat later.
While another recipe we've made before had Indian spices incorporated, this one was decidedly "traditional-ish" and allowed the crab to shine with the other flavors there to keep it balanced, but not hide the crab whatsoever.
The indulgent aspect of these cakes, besides the beautiful jumbo lump crab, was the heavy cream and smidge of Parmesan included in the making of them. It wasn't much! Don't worry. Just enough of each ingredient, I'd say. I could barely taste either of them once the crab cakes were cooked so I think it added a hidden richness. Yum!
Interestingly, the crab cakes were sprinkled with cornmeal on each side right before being cooked, which gave them a great, slightly-crisp outside but not a thick coating. Once again, this ingredient (cornmeal) was necessary for the final outcome, but didn't overpower the crab, which made me happy.
I mean, I've had some really delicious crab cakes that have a rich, crusty outside, but more times than not I prefer the lightest outer crunch so that the main focus and flavor is the crab.
Let us not forget the corn tomato salsa! An essential piece to this dish, we loved how the salsa complimented the crab cakes and was awesome even on its own. Sweet corn isn't available around here quite yet, but Wilson's still has it available, of course, so we could easily make this fabulous topping.
Sweet corn, tomatoes, white onion, mint, and basil all came together to make this incredible salsa that I could easily see topping any number of seafood dishes, not just my beloved crab cakes. I think it would be great on baked fish, seared scallops, or maybe even a lobster tail?! The possibilities are endless.
Toasting the start of summer with one of my dearest favorite foods was an excellent way to welcome the season, close out a busy week, and remind me that making my favorites at home + gluten free is always possible. :)
Friday + Weekend: Oh hello, weekend! A heat wave has struck Boston so we spent the days trying to stay cool, eat well, and enjoy our time off without sweating to death. Miraculously, we still managed to get in our early-morning walks each day and by Sunday evening, the temperature was decent enough so that I could sit outside typing this Recap. :)
Here are a few highlights of the weekend and Bar Bites: To Go which lists everywhere we ate (names are clickable!).
- Embraced summer by being outside as much as possible, weather permitting. I know the heat can be tough, but that didn't stop me from going on my morning walk. A little sweaty, a little tiring, but overall a great way to begin each day and I'm proud we're keeping up this weekend morning routine. Besides, when it gets this hot, it's better to do your main exercise as early as possible. And stay hydrated!
- We hung with friends Saturday afternoon at their house for a low-key BBQ which included some yummy food, lots of dogs, and a few babies as well. Welcome to parties in your thirties: they're during the day and will always include small children. I loved catching up with my friends and seeing their sweet kids. And amidst the heat we were still able to relax on their lovely back deck.
- Enjoyed a very low-key Sunday with temps in the 90s. We didn't do too much except wandered a mall, loosely planned meals, grabbed ice cream, and figured out how to set up an auto-watering station for our balcony plants. Each one has its very own "plant IV." Haha!
Bar Bites: To Go
Red Heat Tavern: On Friday night we made our way to this nearby restaurant that boasts a casual atmosphere, friendly waitstaff, and a menu that is 99.99% gluten free!! Literally, the server told us that the entire menu, including desserts, could be made gluten free, except for one item (pretzels). I was amazed and overly excited, almost ordering the entire menu.
Since it's part of the same restaurant group as Burton's Grill, I'm not shocked by their allergy awareness, but knowing that I could essentially have anything was a big thrill. I know we will be back for their vast gluten free menu that's filled with every comfort food and a few desserts I cannot wait to try.
Burro Bar - Brookline: Before seeing friends on Saturday, we got brunch at this wonderful spot in our old neighborhood. Accommodating for my gluten-free needs as always, I had a delicious meal that was safe and made me really miss the days when we would walk here after work on Fridays, grab bar seats, and enjoy our favorite margaritas and tacos.
We love our new home and neighborhood, but there's something about being walking-distance to tacos that you will just always miss. Just a note: always be wary of cross-contamination here - avoid the chips!
Myers and Chang: Later on Saturday evening we decided to venture further into the city and see if we could wrangle seats at this always-packed South End favorite. Not only did we wait a while past one hour for seats, we got to see (from afar) Chef Karen Akunowicz's final shift end after years of being Executive Chef.
The now-famous Chef Akunowicz is off to start her own restaurant, James Beard award in tow, and we cannot wait to see (and eat!) what she creates.
In the meantime, we'll still be visiting this awesome spot. They have a gluten free menu filled with delicious dishes (chicken and broccoli chow fun is unreal) and you can chow down safely, since all gluten free meals are served in their own GF-specific red bowls.
We love the bar seats facing the open kitchen - it's so fun to watch the cooks work and the fire from the woks soar. Make reservations though if you prefer not to wait - it's always busy!
Rancatore's: An ice cream shop that we went to on Sunday afternoon as we tried avoiding the heat with a sweet treat. Many flavors are gluten free and if you tell them about your dietary requirements the scoopers will open up a fresh tub of your preferred flavor - avoiding the chance for cross-contamination.
They also offer frappes, sundaes, and even GF cones! An easy little shop that has ice cream for all.
Well, we hope you had a delicious weekend and stayed cool if you're amidst the same heat wave as we are in Boston. The summer's continuing to heat up and we've got a lot more gluten free food coming your way next week. Cheers to summer!