Sunday, October 02, 2016

Cookbook Review: Curtis Stone - What's For Dinner?

I used to love to watch chef Curtis Stone on his TLC show, Take Home Chef. Besides his rugged good looks (who wouldn't want this handsome Aussie to find them in the grocery store and ask to come home with them?), I loved his approach to cooking. Even back then (before it was trendy), he focused on whole, fresh foods simply prepared.

So, I was thrilled when my son gave me one of Curtis Stone's cookbooks for Christmas last year: What's for Dinner?: Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life I was determined to make immediate use of it - often I flag dozens of recipes in cookbooks or magazines but never get around to trying them!

What's for Dinner? has turned out to be one of my favorite recipe sources. All of its recipes are simple, fresh and full of flavor. My son and I eat a mostly Paleo diet for medical reasons (it's supposed to be best for  people with immune disorders), but even with those restrictions, there were plenty of recipes in here that I could use because of Curtis' focus on fresh, whole foods.

Since this cookbook is meant for busy everyday cooks, he has divided into daily sections:
  • Motivating Mondays
  • Time-Saving Tuesdays
  • One-Pot Wednesdays
  • Thrifty Thursdays
  • Five-Ingredient Fridays
  • Dinner Party Saturdays
  • Family Supper Sundays
  • Something Sweet
Most of the recipes we've tried so far have been in the first two sections (I don't know why - maybe just because there is so much to choose from, I haven't made it further into the book). The photo below shows how the cookbook is laid out - with easy-to-follow, simple recipes on one side and gorgeous, full-color photos on the other side that make you want to make every dish immediately!

Here are some of the dishes we've tried so far:

Grilled Chicken with Arugula and Zucchini Salad with Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette - a simple and delicious summer dinner that was very quick to prepare. My husband isn't fond of arugula, so I mixed in some fresh lettuce from our local farm CSA.

Fennel-Roasted Chicken and Winter Squash with Endive-Apple Salad - another dinner salad but filled with fall flavors! The first recipe we tried - we both loved it (I left out the fennel - not a fan). In fact, I just got some apples and acorn squash from the farm, so I think it's time to make this one again.

Poached Salmon with Green and Yellow Bean Salad - perfect for summer (I never know what to do with all the radishes we get from our CSA!) and good, though not as flavorful as some of his other recipes. I might add something extra next time, like capers or olives for a bit of zing.

Cauliflower and Spinach Dal - OK, funny story behind this one. I was dying to try it because my husband and I love Indian food. I couldn''t find the yellow split peas called for anywhere, so I used red lentils instead. The finished dish was delicious, with wonderful spices. We both loved it...but our stomachs both exploded in the hours after dinner! Might try it again if I can find the yellow split peas...if we dare!

Korean Steak Tacos - hands-down, our favorite recipe in the book so far! It's very simple, but his marinade for the steak is just blow-your-mind fabulous. Wow. Our picky son even loved this one.

Grilled Steak and Broccolini with Parmesan Tomatoes - I think I subbed either broccoli or asparagus for the broccolini. This was tasty but not as amazing as some of the others. My husband and son were just so-so on this one, though I enjoyed it.

Steak and Green Bean Stir-Fry with Ginger and Garlic - delicious and simple weeknight dinner, with great flavor.

Grilled Pork Chops and Vegetable Gratin with Caper-Parsley Vinaigrette - I made this for a Sunday dinner with everyone home, and it was well-liked by all. His vinaigrette adds amazing flavor to simple grilled pork chops.

Halibut and Spinach with Orange-Pine Nut Vinaigrette - I think I subbed mahi-mahi, but the mix of flavors was delicious (and the preparation very easy).

Chicken Cassoulet with Fennel and Bacon - Cassoulet is one of my favorite dishes, but the traditional recipe takes hours to prepare. This is a quicker, easier version but still full of flavor. I left out the fennel (it's the only produce I don't pick up when available at our CSA!). Our family loved it - the only complaint was that Curtis' recipe didn't make quite enough for our four hungry appetites!

NOTE: You can see photos and/or recipes of many of the above recipes when you click on the "Look Inside" feature at the Amazon link below.

That's what we've tried so far, but looking through the cookbook just now made me realize how many more great recipes are left that I still want to make! And how did I miss the whole dessert section?

This cookbook is well-worth the purchase price and one of the few I've made room for on my crowded kitchen shelf.

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  1. I bought an eBook version of one of Stone's books because so many of my Internet friends love him. I need to dig it out and actually read it! I love the sounds of all the recipes you mentioned.

    1. I definitely think you'd love his recipes because I've noticed we have similar tastes in food/cooking!

  2. I've had several of his books out from the library, including that one, and have enjoyed what I've made so far from all of them. Now will have to try a few of those you mentioned, as they all sound so good.

    1. I'd like to try some of the others, too, Claudia!