What’s your weeknight dinner philosophy? It’s a question we’re constantly asking, in search of that Holy Grail tip or trick that will help us streamline the Witching Hour. So we asked our go-to celebrity chef & food stylist, Ashton Keefe, to help us hack our dinner routine. She showed us how she keeps things simple, starting with her favorite fleece.
What’s your weeknight dinner philosophy for those (like us!) who find cooking a challenge on a busy week?
Simple assembly. Salads, pastas and pizzas are perfect as blank canvases for dinner. You can literally take whatever you have on hand and top a pizza or throw into a pasta. It's the ultimate trick for dinner in a pinch.
A big issue for families is making a meal everyone loves. I'm a huge fan of one-pot meals with a family-favorite protein like chicken. Sear the chicken and create a sauce-in-the-pan with wine, butter and any herbs you may have on hand.
Cooking for one or two can be almost as expensive as dining out! If you're making something that requires a lot of sauces or condiments (say, taco night), visit grocery store salad bars to get little bits of things such as shredded cabbage, olives or cheeses. This way you don't need to buy in bulk. Because tomorrow night you may be dining out (or want something besides tacos!).
What are your go-to sources for simple yet delicious weeknight meals?
I love social media for inspiration—if you understand simple cooking techniques and are open to tasting as you go and using what you have, it's an easy, fast and beautiful resource. I have never made anything from Ina I didn't love, and I always seek out recipes from favorite chefs and restaurants (but I always go off book—can't help it!). I post more tips on my site and social handle @ashtonkeefe.
Tell us about these recipes.
I love the Pumpkin Linguine because it's stunning and little bit indulgent; the fried sage and cheese adds a restaurant touch, so a fancy dinner at home feels more elegant. The Endive Salad is five-ingredient SIMPLE: endive, shallots, lemon, olive oil and salt. And the Simple Chocolate Mousse is two ingredients for a, "Shoot, I forgot dessert!!" moment.
Simple Endive Salad
This is hands down the prettiest, easiest and lightest salad you could have. Pairs perfectly with the indulgent Pumpkin Linguine.
3 endives, trimmed
Walnuts, for garnish if desired
1 shallot, minced
Salt, to taste, about ½ teaspoon
1 lemon, zest half of it and then juice the entire thing
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Scatter endive leaves on a large plate and sprinkle with walnuts.
In a small bowl whisk together, shallots, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil until emulsified. Makes more than you need, last for 2 weeks.
Drizzle desired amount on top of salad.
Pumpkin Linguine with Fried Sage & Gruyere
Decadent, indulgent and a little too much. This dish requires three pans, but it’s easy and worth it. A special night in sometimes calls for a little extra love… and cheese.
1 lb. linguine pasta, cooked al dente
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 shallots, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
1-1 ½ cups whole milk
½ can of pumpkin puree, about 1 cup
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 bunch sage, leaves picked
Few slices of gruyere cheese
In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until fragrant. Whisk in milk and allow the mixture to reduce by half and thicken slightly. Whisk in pumpkin puree and season with salt. Add cheese and reduce the heat to low.
When pasta is done add pasta and toss, loosening with cooking water as needed.
In a small skillet heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat and fry sage until crispy. Remove to a paper towel and wipe out oil from pan.
Heat the skillet again over medium high heat and sear cheese slices in a dry pan (I swear, it won’t stick!).
To enjoy, plate pasta and top with sage, gruyere and a sprinkling more of Parmesan cheese, if you desire.
Easy “I Forgot Dessert” Chocolate Mousse
This is so easy! Don’t be intimidated. And yes, whip the cream by hand, it takes a little more love but assures you won’t over whip it.
6 oz. high quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 cup heavy cream
Maldon or finishing salt
High quality extra virgin olive oil
In a microwave safe bowl melt chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring between each 30 seconds. Cool until room temperature. I find moving the melted chocolate to another bowl helps immensely.
In a large bowl, while the chocolate cools, whisk heavy cream until soft peaks form.
Working in small batches use a rubber spatula an add some of the chocolate to the whip cream and fold into the whipped cream. Continue to add chocolate and fold. When all chocolate is added, fold until no streaks.
To serve, place in bowls and top with flake salt and/or a drizzle of olive oil.