There is no bigger hiccup in my day then realizing I forgot to take something out of the freezer for dinner or didn’t make it to the grocery store like I told myself I would. Dinner is something I don’t enjoy making and I’m never really excited about it. Frankly, if I didn’t have a husband and child to feed, I’d be perfectly fine microwaving a Healthy Choice frozen dinner. I’m hoping this book, “Dinner: Changing the Game,” by Melissa Clark, will change that feeling, at least slightly.
Just in the Introduction, I’m hooked. Clark talks about how unconventional our eating habits can be and with good reason. We don’t always want a protein and two veggies for dinner. When I order out, just as she says about herself, sometimes I just order appetizers, sometimes just sides, or maybe no meat at all! And when someone tells me I’ll get more flavor with less work? Count me in.
Before we get to any recipes, you’ll find a list of things to always keep on hand. These include oils, vinegars, and ethnic ingredients such as sumac, harissa, preserved lemons, and kimchi – none of which I actually have on hand. Guess a trip to the store (or stores) is in order.
The book is divided into sections by the main ingredient/idea: chicken, meat, fish & seafood, pasta & noodles, grains, etc. AND the list of recipes is incredible! Over 200 of them! Not only are the recipes impressive, but the photographs of the meals make you want to dive right in and eat everything you see.
On to the recipes.
Whole birds are a great way to get lots of flavor and lots of meat without too much effort, but they’re somewhat intimidating. There are some helpful tips and lots of recipes like Smoky Paprika Chicken, Chicken & Grapes, or Roasted Sumac Chicken.
For those who don’t like to use whole chickens: Thai Chicken Breasts, Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Kumquats, Anchovy Chicken, Za’atar Chicken, or Pizza Chicken (interesting).
If you are tired of chicken, try: Vietnamese-Style Skirt Steak, Korean-Style Stir-Fried Beef, Georgian Lamb Kebabs, Crispy Salt & Pepper Pork, or Pork Scallopini.
It’s all about ground meats. Chorizo Pork Burgers, Ginger Pork Meatballs, Seared Sausage & Rhubarb…yum!
FISH & SEAFOOD:
I think I’m going to use these recipes ASAP since I’m in the Lenten season (which means no fish Fridays for all the Catholics). What you’ll find: Anchovy Salmon, Slow-Roasted Tuna, Thai-Style Shrimp Balls, Shrimp Banh Mi, or Warm Squid Salad.
There is a brief tutorial about how to make different types of eggs before you jump in. After, it’s all fun. Shakshuka (made a lot during Passover), Eggs Poached, Japanese Omelet, Frogs & Toads (in a hole – no frogs or toads used), Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby.
PASTA & NOODLES:
Pretty straightforward chapter. Stovetop Fusilli (with spinach, peas), Cacio E Pepe, Farro Pasta, Fried a Lemon Pasta, Coconut Rice Noodles.
I tried to make tofu once and it was a complete disaster. Haven’t eaten it since and that was probably 8 years ago. I may attempt it again with some of these recipes. They might make me a convert like: Sweet & Sour Tofu, Maple-Roasted Tofu.
BEANS, LEGUMES, & VEGETABLE DINNERS:
Great chapter for vegetarians, those who don’t like a lot of meat, or those who are tired of always eating meat.
Some great ideas: Sweet Potato Dhal, Tomato-Braised White Beans, Black Bean Skillet Dinner, Asparagus Carbonara, Pole Bean Salad, Fried Halloumi, Spicy Beets.
This group includes rice, farro, quinoa, and other types of grains. There is a small section at the beginning that instructs you how to cook each grain – very helpful, especially if you’ve never cooked some of them.
Some great recipes include the Summer Grain Bowl, Quinoa Egg Bowl (would be great for breakfast), Farro & Crispy Leeks, Farro-Lentil Balls, and Sausage Polenta.
PIZZAS & PIES:
Every pizza recipe must have a recipe for pizza dough. Clark’s pizza dough recipe states you don’t need water from Naples and flour from Italy to have delicious flavor. It just takes time.
Once you have your dough, you can try adding some broccoli rabe, ricotta, and olives, or maybe tomatoes, anchovies, and garlic. There are also a couple pie recipes using puff pastry and phyllo dough.
I love soups. I don’t make them often, except for my homemade chicken soup that heals your weary soul, but I wish I did. They’re so easy (usually) and full of flavor.
I wish it wasn’t getting hot here because my husband won’t eat soup when it’s warm outside, but if you don’t care, here’s a few to try: Creamy Caramelized Broccoli Soup, Leek &a Tomato & Farro Soup, Rustic Shrimp Bisque, Kimchi Soup, or Watermelon Gazpacho (great for hot weather).
It says this is about salads that mean it so I’m assuming they’re filling and substantial, unlike so many other recipes. For example, a hearty Nicoise Salad with a basil dressing, a Summer Vegetable Salad loaded with veggies and potatoes, Burrata Caprese (one of my absolute favorite meals in this whole entire world!), or a classic Roasted Chicken Salad (like a Cobb sort of).
DIPS, SPREADS, & GO-WITHS:
These recipes would be great to add to meals that need something extra, for use as appetizers at a party (especially a tapas party), or to put together when you don’t quite feel like a traditional dinner.
Recipes include Killer Hummus (I’ve been looking for a good go-to recipe), Carrot Muhammara, Pea Guacamole (hmm…not sure about this), Tuna &a Olive Spread, Spiced Lentil Salad, and a Citrus Salad.
Overall, I’m really excited to try a bunch of these recipes. The recipes do look involved, as far as ingredients go, but Clark says that after you learn techniques and get used to certain recipes, eventually you’ll be cooking meals quickly and effortlessly. What I really like is the diversity in recipes and the unique ingredients she uses. It spices up how mundane dinner can be and gets you out of your favorite-staples comfort zone.
I hope you give this book a try, especially if you’re a cookbook hound like me. Dinner is something we pretty much eat every night (unless you don’t want to cook and eat a bowl of cereal instead, like we do at our house), so why not make it enjoyable!?
Dinner @ Penguin Random House
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.