(jump to recipe)
Thanks to the unrelenting (!), ever-changing Bay Area weather (hey! we all need to find something to complain about), I was out of commission for most of last week, and unable to do the things I had set out to do – at work, at home and of course, in the kitchen. Since the weather improved a bit on Sunday, and thanks to the husband, I had my meal prep for the week (detailed post on that coming soon!) in the bag, I actually had the time, energy and freedom to make something new. Also, ingredients. And writing this up while holding my breath watching Beyonce do this at the Grammys was a nice end to a week-long illness.
Sometimes you need to put together a meal that scores on all accounts:
- Relatively healthy but not dull
- A li’l indulgent but not over the top
- Easily adaptable with ingredients available on hand
- Doesn’t require dirtying all the pots/pans you own
This dinner fared really well on all tracks. You could start the evening off with a light salad (may I suggest wedges of ripe tomatoes drizzled with some pesto and goat cheese crumbles) and end with a basic yet brilliant brownie (I always keep a double batch of these ready in the freezer) topped with raspberries+whipped cream, and you’ve got a quick, weeknight dinner on your hands to make any boring Wednesday special!
Thankfully I don’t eat mashed potatoes as often as I feel like it (which is almost every day). And while I love the traditional mashed potatoes served in most restaurants (innocent, tasteless potatoes trapped under a dairy avalanche which I can’t indulge in), I’ve always wanted to make my own version that’s lighter, fresher and brighter, but doesn’t feel like a punishment. Enter: Kale. Or Arugula. Or Spinach. Or anything bright and green that softens upon spending 2-3 minutes in a hot-potato bath.
The recipe below will work with any kind of potato you have on hand, along with any bitter, peppery green leafy vegetable. I used Russet Potatoes and Kale, and added some lemon zest to make it lighter and fresher.
If you don’t have milk, use cream or half-n-half. If you don’t have Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, use Parmesan or Mild Cheddar cheese. You can up the milk and cheese to make this richer and more decadent – I’ve used the minimum amount of milk and cheese required to make this taste rich yet still fit in the “healthy weeknight dinner” category. If you up the Kale further, you won’t have to make a separate salad!
We start by bringing the potatoes and garlic to a boil:
While that happens, we prep the greens:
And the cheese and lemon zest:
Once the potatoes have come to a boil, you can toss the garlic clove out if you’ve had enough of it. This will give your mashed potatoes a mild garlic flavor. If you want a more garlicky dish, keep the garlic clove in, and add the greens and bring the mixture back to a boil. After the greens have wilted, drain the water out, return the mixture back to the pot (# of pots used: 1), and mash, mash mash:
Add the milk, olive oil, cheese, salt and pepper and stir well. Off the heat, add the lemon zest, and you are good to go! You can serve these with grilled or braised meats, or a sausage or chorizo hash, or as a base for some delicious stew!
You can make it cheesier if you like, but you may not need to:
As adults, we need to at least pretend to care about eating proteins, and while I didn’t grow up eating fish and find most fish preparations “fishy”, I love this one! This delicious and bright salmon preparation will give you your protein fix while looking really dressy! It’s one of those dishes where the recipe title is the recipe: Baked Salmon with Lemon and Capers.
And white wine (which you can skip if you want to keep this meal alcohol-free).
The classic Salmon-Lemon-Caper combination in a very convenient package – literally, a tin foil packet – can proteinize (is that a word? it should be) a bowl of pasta, a farro salad, or those righteous Kale Mashed Potatoes from above!
Prep the fillets of salmon by brushing them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and set them on a large piece of tin foil. Add lemon slices, lemon juice, white wine (if using) and capers, seal the packets and bake:
While you toss together some pasta, or a salad, or do the dishes, the salmon will bake to perfection in the lemon-wine spa, and be ready to go wherever you want:
I can already picture this lemony Salmon fillet atop a garlicky white bean puree, or a farro salad tossed with peppery arugula, or a whole wheat pasta. I guess I’ll try those ideas out this week and let you know how it went, so we can also test its “make-ahead ness” for our next meal prep!
• Recipes •
Kale Mashed Potatoes
Makes 4 small or 2 large side servings
20 oz or 2 large Russet Potatoes scrubbed, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large clove of Garlic, peeled
3 oz or 5-6 stems of Kale, tough stems removed, rinsed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup of reduced fat or whole Milk
2 tablespoons Olive Oil (extra virgin)
1 oz Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon or to taste Salt
1/2 teaspoon or to taste Pepper
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest (from half a large Lemon)
Grated or Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese/Extra Virgin Olive Oil/Butter for garnish
In a medium saucepan, add the potato pieces and garlic clove with more than enough cold water to completely cover them, and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. (If you are holding on to the Parmigiano Reggiano rind after grating, add it to the cold water as well to extract all its cheesiness. Just remember to discard it later.)
Once the water comes to a full boil, let it continue boiling for about 5 minutes or until potatoes are knife-tender (can be easily cut with a sharp knife). At this point, add the chopped kale and give it a quick stir. Continue to cook for 3 more minutes, or until the kale is completely wilted but still bright green.
Discard the Parmigiano Reggiano rind, if using.
If you want just a hint of garlic flavor, discard the clove of garlic. If not, leave the garlic clove in.
Turn the heat to medium-low, and using a medium-sized colander, drain the water from the potato, kale and garlic mixture and return mixture to the same pot. Mash the mixture well and stir in the milk, olive oil, salt, pepper and cheese, mixing well. Make sure the softened garlic clove is mashed and uniformly mixed in. Warm the mixture through till the cheese melts.
Off the heat, add the lemon zest and mix well.
Serve warm, garnished with extra grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil (or butter, if you wish).
Salmon (baked in foil) with Lemon and Capers (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe)
Makes 4 fillets
4 5-6 oz Salmon fillets (thawed in the refrigerator if using frozen)
4 tablespoons Olive Oil (extra virgin)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
8-10 thick slices of Lemon (2-3 Lemons, depending on their size)
1/4 cup Lemon Juice (from 1 large Lemon)
4 tablespoons White Wine (I used Chardonnay, you could use Pinot Grigio or some dry white wine)
6 teaspoons Capers
4 large pieces of tin foil, each piece large enough to fold over a Salmon fillet to form a packet
Large heavy, rimmed sheet pan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Brush the fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper (on both sides).
For each fillet: Place fillet in the center of the tin foil, and top with 2-3 lemon slices and a tablespoon each of the lemon juice and white wine. Top with capers. Fold the foil over, tightly, to form a sealed packet.
Repeat with remaining 3 fillets.
Place (4) foil packets on a heavy rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes (for 1-inch thick fillets).
Let cool slightly, then unfold packets and serve the fillet topped with the juices (collected in the foil).