I used to hunt for two kinds of recipes: everyday food for my husband and me, and “company-worthy” dishes for entertaining. The two sets of recipes hardly ever overlapped—neither in the big file box with precisely labeled folders that I crammed full of newspaper clippings and torn-out pages from Gourmet, nor in the way I served them.
We were newly married, learning how to cook and host together in our small apartment. I’d spend hours coming up with ambitious, multi-course menus that started with hors d'oeuvres and a soup or plated salad. We’d go to multiple grocery stores and specialty markets to hunt down ingredients, if that's what it took, and would start prepping days in advance. I made everything I could from scratch. We enjoyed those dinner parties, but without fail, we’d collapse from exhaustion after our guests left, leaving a mountain of dirty dishes for the next day.
Fast forward sixteen years: My husband and I still love to host, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I served a plated salad. We serve everything family-or buffet-style and usually do our shopping the morning of—the day before, if we’ve really planned ahead. Sure, having two kids and less free time changes the equation, but we’ve intentionally and openly embraced a simpler, more casual style of hosting. Our dressed-down dinner parties are a whole lot easier to pull off, and more fun, too.
And when it comes to the menu planning? I turn to recipes that we like to make for ourselves—ones that can go from weeknight to weekend dinner party, and vice versa. I’ve discarded the notion that certain types of food are only worthy for company, and not for yourself or your family, any night of the week. Or that dinner party food needs to be fancy or complicated to be special. I prize low-effort, high-impact dishes, and once I find them, I make them every chance I get, no matter the occasion.
This is why I’m so taken with this Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower with Pistachio Gremolata. I came up with the recipe as a simple way to dress up roasted cauliflower, something I make often this time of year. I love how the freshly grated bits of turmeric get deliciously caramelized on the hot sheet pan, and how its earthiness complements the mild sweetness of cauliflower.
And, because I’m a sucker for nutty, herby condiments, the whole thing is topped with pistachio gremolata (lots of it), plus juicy pomegranate arils to add extra freshness and zing. The dish comes together quickly and easily—and even better, I can get all of the ingredients at my neighborhood supermarket. It’s so striking in flavor and presentation, and a dish that’s equally special for busy weeknights and relaxed weekend dinner parties.
During the week, I serve it as a main course, maybe with some leftover chicken on the side. On the weekends, I serve it as a side dish to go along with whatever meat or fish we’re roasting or grilling—whether for my family, or a table of friends. It’s the type of dish that I’ll never tire of, no matter how many times I serve it.
I still have that same file box crammed full of recipes in my basement. I keep it for sentimental reasons, I guess—a reminder of those bygone dinner parties that my husband and I used to throw. But I don’t use it, nor any kind of labeling or sorting system, for recipes. Now, instead of trying to find “company-worthy” dishes for dinner parties, I just focus on serving good food.
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What's your favorite weeknight-to dinner-party dish? Let us know in the comments!