Cooking the Book, Vol. 2: Dinner: A Love Story


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know how much I love Dinner: A Love Story. The recipes are approachable while still being interesting and creative. Jenny Rosentrach is amazing at being able to write about a dish in a way that makes me immediately add it to my meal plan for the week. But how did her first book stack up? Here are the recipes I made: 

Chicken Pot Pie: 5/5 stars. This is a very basic chicken pot pie recipe, but it's a good jumping-off point. I changed it up by using a regular potato instead of sweet potato, throwing in some celery (I felt like its flavor was important), and increasing the amount of chicken broth to 2 cups (because 1 cup is just not enough liquid to attempt to cook the veggies in). The result was shockingly tasty and comforting. We've made this again a few times since it's the perfect way to use up leftover chicken. Recipe here. 

Black Bean Burritos: 5/5 stars. I made a modified version of this from Korena in the Kitchen (she doubles the seasonings and adds a few teaspoons of chipotles in adobo rather than jalapeno). I don't normally love Mexican food or beans, but I devoured two of these burritos in no time. They were that good. We will definitely make them again, and even better--they're vegetarian! My adapted recipe is here. 

Salmon Salad: 3/5 stars. I actually made this a couple of years ago after seeing it on her blog. It's basically a nicoise salad with salmon instead of tuna. I realized that I don't actually like nicoise salad all that much and felt like the beautifully roasted salmon (this part of the recipe was perfect) got lost in all the veggies and potatoes. My husband thought this was fine, but I ended up eating the salmon and the rest of the salad separately. 

Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies: 5/5 stars. Genius. This was my first foray into spicy desserts, but I know it won't be my last. I baked these to bring into work, but my husband loved them so much that he wouldn't let me. "These are too good to share." This went into my heirloom recipe notebook. Recipe here.

Turkey Chili: 5/5 stars. Another recipe I found a few years ago on her blog. I don't actually like chili all that much, but this one is special. The cinnamon makes the dish. I throw in a tablespoon or two of brown sugar as well because I like my food sweet, and it's just addictive. This went into my heirloom recipe notebook. 

Butternut Squash Soup with Apples: 3/5 stars. My husband and I both found this to be too sweet. I thought it was okay enough, but my husband didn't like it and only had one small bowl. 

Spicy Shrimp with Yogurt: 3/5 stars. This was just okay. It wasn't bad, but I was expecting the shrimp to have more flavor. 

Basic Vinaigrette: 4/5 stars. A basic, simple vinaigrette recipe. Vinaigrettes like this aren't my favorite, but it does its job if you want a bright, light salad dressing. 

Pork Shoulder Ragu with Pappardelle: 5/5 stars. This recipe is the crown jewel of this cookbook. It is so genius that it made it into the Food52 Genius Recipes Cookbook. My husband was floored when he tasted this, and I loved how easy it was to make. We used homemade tagliatelle instead of pappardelle because we couldn't find pappardelle anywhere near us. I actually prefer it without the pasta and think it would be better suited over mashed potatoes or polenta. Anyway, you need to make this yesterday. This went into my heirloom recipe notebook. Recipe here.

Great-Grandma Turano's Meatballs: 5/5 stars. This is a very good meatball recipe. I actually bake these instead of frying them because I'm queasy about the amount of oil involved in frying meatballs, so they're not exactly tender, but they have good flavor. The fennel seed is brilliant.  

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Caramelized Onions, Spinach, and Parmesan: 3/5 stars. For something that Jenny calls her "favorite dinner on earth," this was disappointingly bland. Even with extra parm and salt. I think it would benefit from doubling the amount of caramelized onions, but I didn't care for it enough to try again. 

Todd's Minty Pea Dip: 5/5 stars. I was so intrigued by this combination that I just had to try it out. It tastes just as surprising as it sounds. I ended up making a version of this that she adapted into a pasta recipe on her blog, and while it was pretty good, I think this is best left as a dip. 

Beluga Lentil Soup with Anchovies: 3/5 stars. I'm not sure how to feel about this soup. It wasn't bad, but I didn't necessarily want to eat more of it either. The appearance was super unappetizing due to the black lentils (a dirty dishwater gray), and maybe that affected my perception of it? 

Asparagus with Chopped Egg and Onion: 3/5 stars. For all the little steps involved in this (blanching asparagus, making a vinaigrette, boiling and chopping an egg, mincing red onion), it was just okay. I prefer simply tossing asparagus in olive oil and roasting it, which is easier and more delicious. 

Pizza Crust: 5/5 stars. This is now our go-to pizza crust recipe since I discovered it at the beginning of the pandemic. It comes together so easily (no kneading!) and is fairly easy to work with. This went into my heirloom recipe notebook. Recipe here. 

Mushroom and Onion Pizza: 4/5 stars. A nice pizza recipe. Not groundbreaking, but pretty tasty and easy too. The amount of toppings was perfect for a sheet pan pizza. 

Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks: 2/5 stars. This was a miss for us. It had such potential, but the chicken was tough and not very flavorful. In addition, the sauce was too runny, and this led to it being bland. 

Average Recipe Rating: 4.0/5. 

Another solid cookbook! Although not all of the recipes were successes, there were some really outstanding recipes in here, and overall I was happy with the food we made. This was one of my favorite cookbooks to read because of the autobiographical format (she tells the story of her family and the recipes are woven in throughout). Jenny actually inspired me to keep a dinner diary myself, which I've been doing faithfully for a few months now. 4 of her recipes ended up in my heirloom notebook, which is amazing. I really recommend giving this a read, and checking out her food blog, which is one of my all-time favorites. 

I'll update this as I continue to cook from this book.

Recipes I'm Excited to Make Next:

  • Arroz con Pollo
  • Lamb Kibbeh with Mint-Yogurt Sauce
  • Apricot-Mustard Baked Chicken
  • Mustardy Pork Chops with Apples and Onions
  • Kale with Avocado and Pickled Onions

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