Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XIX
Welcome to the nineteenth edition of Weeknight Dinner Recap where we discuss the meals we made this week as well as wherever we found ourselves dining out on the weekend! As always, locations mentioned here can also be found in Bar Bites for a full review and link the restaurant’s website.
This week we enjoyed an eclectic mix of cuisines, some extra spicy feasts, and a couple dishes that felt welcomingly light and refreshing amidst winter’s arrival (and our cookie consumption may need to pump the brakes).
I’m feeling ultra festive now that we decorated a tree last weekend and my mind has a sole focus on gift shopping for others and finding as many excuses as possible to gather friends for holiday cheer through the New Year. And while these few weeks can feel like a sprint to NYE, let’s always take a moment to reflect that spending time with those we care about most is the best way to get in the holiday spirit. Well, that, and blasting holiday music every night while we make dinner.
Note: This actually happens and I freaking love it. I had some reservations about the Google Home Mini, but since learning to holler at it to play any (holiday) song at any time, I’m pretty much sold. Music sets a tone no matter the activity and I’m also known to listen to movie soundtracks often as well (You’ve Got Mail!) to set the joyful mood of our home. :)
Recap begins after the jump. Happy Holidays!
Sunday: While some Sundays call for elaborate meals that require much labor and time, others call for dishes that look elaborate, but are actually quick and pretty painless to make. Hence why I love keeping my eyes peeled throughout the week on Instagram and other sites for recipe inspiration. Sure, we usually look through a cookbook stack to plan it all, but sometimes we strike gold from a recipe I catch in someone’s Stories or on a feed’s thread somewhere in the vast food-filled internet we all share. Luckily, this week I found a bite of weeknight recipe joy from Bon Appetit and it was just perfect for Sunday night.
Now, if this were summer, I may have opted for a salad or veggie to pair with these fantastic scallops, but since it’s basically winter we went full potato. By serving them with sweet potatoes. The brown butter and lemon pan sauce covering the scallops blended a bit with the potato’s skin, which would usually bother me (similar colors, oh no!) but for this instance I thought it just made the whole meal warmer and more inviting. And even more delicious. Yum!
The recipe, which I found online in an article about easy and quick weeknight options that the editors of Bon Appetit rely on for their own dinners, was very straightforward and naturally gluten free. Seth has become a natural at searing scallops so as soon as we added in this dish to the plan, I knew we were in for a treat! We don’t buy the local sea scallops all of the time as the prices can get high when they are the larger, awesome ones, but this time around we splurged.
PSA: I strongly recommend buying your fresh seafood at Wegman’s. We have had great luck buying their fresh fish frequently and do encourage shopping there if/when you need it. Of course, it’s a large chain, but they do source responsibly and we’ve found their seafood prices are pretty good in general. In addition, they offer great quality frozen shellfish (shrimp) that we have purchased often and deemed excellent for our shrimp dinner needs. And before you think I’m shelling (HA) for Wegman’s, please know this is not sponsored whatsoever. I just simply enjoy spreading the word about where we buy great quality shellfish (or produce, or meat, etc). :)
Last note on this meal: could it have easily served four people? Yes. Did we race to the kitchen, a mere few feet away, for seconds of scallops and to make sure we each got the same amount? Of course. But did I end up getting one more scallop than Seth? Yes. Yes I did. ;) (He’s the best!)
Monday: Ever since we made the original version of this dish (it had shrimp, not chicken), we talked about wanting it again every single day. Truly. The flavors, the veggies, the spice, everything. It was awesome! So, in the spirit of making a favorite again (not a frequent occurrence!), but with a slight alteration, we agreed to have another weeknight of Red Coconut Curry Chicken (not shrimp).
The recipe came from Dinner by Melissa Clark, published by Clarkson Potter, and the only change we made was using chicken as the protein instead of shrimp. We also chose to double the recipe. Yes, we loved this curry so darn much I encouraged Seth to double everything, then he could take leftovers for lunch, and we’d have enough red coconut curry for longer than we could imagine. But honestly? That was A LOT of curry. We had large portions for dinner, and Seth took it for lunch at work for several days. And we STILL had some left. I couldn’t believe it.
I knew that doubling the recipe would make more, but wasn’t quite ready for the reality of how much more and that it filled our fridge for a week. We also came to the less-joyful realization that we actually preferred the recipe with shrimp! The chicken was great, but in general the flavors really popped a lot more with shrimp. Live and learn, right?
We don’t alter existing recipes too often, and primarily changed this one to just see what would happen, assuming (naively) that we would love this other version just as much (all we did was add chicken! Nothing else!). However, one vat of curry and many days of leftovers later, we realized we should have just stuck with the original! What’s that saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? Well, that was the case here and next time we make this dinner, which I guarantee we will be doing, I’ll make sure we have shrimp ready to go. A lot of shrimp - just in case we want to make another vat. ;)
Tuesday: Well, for starters, let me say this: these tacos were yummy. But let me also say this: I found them to be too spicy and could barely finish two of them, which is two less than I’d normally eat on a taco night. Yipes. For the record, I was not sick (which is really the only reason I would eat fewer tacos than normal).
Once more, we decided to slightly alter an existing recipe, which led to a delicious creation on one hand - we love beef tacos - and a slightly overly-spicy dinner on the other- OMG Heat. Since we loved this recipe so much the first time (Spicy Chicken Tacos from Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen), I somewhat expected it to taste similarly (save for the beef), but it’s a nice reminder that if you keep in all of the seeds from your hot peppers, the heat of the dish rises exponentially! My science may be a little off there, but you get the idea.
The end result was a great idea, the beef worked nicely in place of the original chicken, but I would say sticking to the recipe’s recommended amounts of hot peppers would be best for future iterations of these tacos. Lesson learned by all and here’s a tip, spicy taco fans: I have to say that sometimes less is more, in regard to heat.
Shocking, as I usually love the spice, but in this recipe the other flavors are too good to get covered up by hot pepper. In general, I would strongly recommend these spicy tacos for weeknights as they are quick and packed with flavor, but only make them extra spicy if you dare! Note: they are definitely spicy as-written, so use your own spice judgement when turning up the heat. Best of luck, spice lovers. ;)
Wednesday: Well, we needed a major break from the heat of last night’s tacos, so we flew in the other direction for this night’s meal. A beautiful dish that I had been wanting to create at home for a while, this Cacio e Pepe is a classic that gets the added bonus of crisp asparagus and peas. And while usually these veggies aren’t in season when it’s cold here in Boston, we’re lucky that the farm where we shop stocks all produce year round. To which we say “season shmeason,” let’s make what we want!
We followed the recipe as written from Dinner, and used our go-to Jovial Foods GF brown rice pasta. I can’t speak highly enough about this brand and company overall. Check them out! I feel so grateful to be able to use gluten free pasta that (to me) tastes like the original and is offered in all of my favorite pasta shapes: fusilli, spaghetti, capellini, elbows, penne, and more. Plus they make GF flour blends for cookies, bread, and pastry dough. What more do you need? And they’re from Italy. Grazie!
What I loved about this dinner was the simplicity of ingredients that came together to make a very flavorful dish. Not only did it prominently feature some great vegetables, but it mixed them with a slightly cheesy pasta making the entire bowl one mouthful of awesome after another. No joke; I ate my (first) serving in mere minutes. Even faster than Seth! Which is funny since he often finishes his meal first, making me anxious about getting up for seconds, eating far more quickly than I should. I realize this sounds insane. Dinner is serious business in our house. ;)
Looking forward to having this meal again throughout the colder months as a sweet reminder that spring will eventually come back to the Northeast. And by then, the local veggies we will need for this dish will be in season, once again. :)
Thursday: As a fan of any dinner/meal with the word hash in it, I was pretty excited to try this healthier version of the brunch-time favorite. Little did we know just how flavorful, and filling, this winter vegetable hash would turn out to be!
Some weeks lean more toward heavier meals in the beginning, when we’re itching for delicious hearty fare to balance out having to go back to work (Mondays!), and that means by the end of the cooking week, we are excited to try out lighter options that are still filled with joy, but not exactly a plate of meat balls. Although, as I write this, I would love meatballs. Lesson learned. 🙄 When wouldn’t you want to have meatballs?! But I digress...
For this meal, it involved chopping a few veggies up and cooking them together in a cast iron pan, and then slowly but surely creating a “semi-solid” vegetable hash/pancake that could be served in pieces, almost like a not-quite-a-slice of veggie pie. Then, we topped each piece with a sunny side up egg, done by yours truly, and sprinkled some sliced jalapeños because I had finally recovered from Spice Night 2017 (the beef tacos).
Oh my, what a delight this dinner turned into with the crispy edges of the veggie hash and the egg yolk covering everything. I was thrilled. And it was quite healthy! The veggies did not have anything binding them together and there were no breadcrumbs in sight. In fact, you could easily adapt this recipe to be as health conscious as you please: topped with eggs or even tofu would be a great healthy choice, or you could jump into the more decadent end of the world and top the hash (all veggies) with slow roasted pork or beef... ahh, the possibilities are endless! And that’s why this recipe, in particular, is a weeknight winner. But, truth be told, I could definitely imagine serving this for a weekend brunch/lunch. Bloody Mary on the side. ;)
Friday: And we made it to the weekend! Did anyone else feel like this was a long week? Some fly by around now, but this one was somewhat of a crawl. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I decided on a last minute, at-home pizza party, so most of the week was spent anxiously awaiting it, and making sure we had all of the necessary ingredients!
We had been wanting to make homemade pizza for a while, but for some reason every Friday night that popped up we ended up going out to toast the weekend instead. Not this time around! To cement Friday plans of staying home and cooking, I invited a couple friends over to join us, which made me stick the plan knowing we were having an “official” dinner party. Four people is still a party!
For the pizzas, we used one bag of Cup4Cup gluten free flour pizza crust mix (makes 2 crusts), and tried the new-to-us Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free pizza crust mix (makes 2 crusts). Since this would leave us with 4 pizzas, more than enough, I was excited to try a variety of toppings!
And let’s be real for pizza’s sake: we truly adored and preferred the Bob’s Red Mill mix as it created the most delicious GF crusts I’ve ever had at home. I’d say it was a flavor mix of pizza crust/pie crust/biscuit which is far yummier than it sounds (or maybe you agree that combo sounds awesome?). We made the dough from scratch and it took under 30 minutes, plus pre-baking the crust which didn’t take long either (follow package instructions).
While we don’t discourage the Cup4Cup brand whatsoever as we rely heavily on their basic flour blend, the pizza mix yields dough that is very fragile and difficult to roll out into a pizza-pie shape. It’s also somewhat brittle once baked. Almost a thick cookie texture. I don’t hate it! But now that we’ve tried the Bob’s Red Mill one and had such great results, I’ll probably stick with that for the future.
In regard to the pizzas, we made a variety, two with meat, and two without, for everyone’s preferences. My favorites were the ones shown in the photos above (all of them!). I adore pesto on pizza and while I kind of over-cheesed and over-pesto’d, the pizza turned out quite well. We also had a fantastic sautéed mushroom and onion pizza that was a crowd favorite. Yum!!
What I loved about an at-home pizza party for our Friday night was that it still felt like we did something fun and out of the ordinary from a regular weeknight (having friends over), and we cooked a meal that doesn’t show up in our ovens too often: pizza! A major weekend treat and getting to enjoy it with friends, chatting for hours while eating something delicious, well, what more can you ask for to begin a holiday season weekend? Cheers to that!
In case you’re wondering, the rest of our weekend included the start of holiday shopping (finally), getting caught in the snow, having a late lunch with cocktails at The Oak Bar, relaxing at home Saturday night, ordering our holiday cards, and then having dim sum brunch at Myers and Chang with more great friends on Sunday! Plus meal planning and grocery shopping! What a packed couple days, but especially around this time of year, I love it. Spending time with friends, eating fun foods, and keeping ourselves absurdly busy is really the only way I know how to “do December,” and that’s perfect for me.
Hope you had a delicious week and weekend!