Last fall, I wrote about my new dinner plan: I challenged myself to try one new recipe each week by focusing on one cookbook in my library for a month.

It’s time for me to report back on this month’s selection . . .

It’s a new cookbook from Melissa Clark, Dinner In One: Exceptional and Easy One-Pan Meals. Why did I choose this cookbook? Well, I’ve been reading Melissa Clark’s food column in the New York Times for years, and I’m a total fan. I’ve become obsessed with many of her recipes (most are published in the NYTimes and available on the NYT cooking app, but she does have a few cookbooks, too). Her Lemony White Bean Soup with Turkey and Greens – for example – is one of my all-time favorites, and it even gets the rare 5-star rating from NYT readers. (I’ve “gifted” that NYT recipe here with that link above, so you should be able to go grab it for yourself even if you don’t have the NYT cooking app.) I also credit her with totally upping my pie crust game! (She has a fabulous little how-to video on the NYT cooking app. Game changer, I’m telling you!)

What I like about Melissa’s recipes, generally, is that she packs a lot of flavor into pretty simple- and quick-to-make dishes. This new cookbook focuses on a one-pan approach (and from my experience with the cookbook, she holds true to that technique – be it a Dutch oven or a skillet or a sheet pan). Another thing I really like about this cookbook is that Melissa offers options for nearly every recipe: how you can add more veggies (“Veg It Up”), how you can make it vegan, how you can add meat, how you can swap ingredients. I really appreciate the flexibility!

So. What did I make?

The first thing I tried was “Wine-Braised Mushrooms and Gnocchi” (p. 145), and it was a total winner. Seriously delicious! And, yeah . . . there’s no meat in it. But with the gnocchi in there – and all those yummy mushrooms – you don’t miss the meat. There’s quite a bit of chopping, but I did that ahead of time, so the prep was easy and dinner was ready in less than an hour. I usually like to get at least two meals out of every recipe I make, but this one didn’t stretch for two full meals. (I’m thinking it was more a factor of Tom loving it so much that he couldn’t stop eating it. Just sayin.)


Then, I made “Cumin-y Chicken and Rice with Peppers and Peas” (p. 137). I used chicken thighs (the recipe calls for either breast or thigh meat; Tom prefers thighs so I usually go with that option when I’m adding chicken), and I used Melissa’s “Veg It Up” options and added in baby spinach and cherry tomatoes. Again, this was super good — a delicious weeknight dinner that didn’t take long to whip up. We loved it (and we easily got two full meals from this recipe).


Next, I tried “Spiced Chicken and Couscous Soup” (p. 181), and it was fabulous! I followed everything as specified in the recipe with a few substitutions. Instead of turnip (they didn’t look so good when I was shopping), I added some small potatoes and extra carrots to the mix. I’m also not a cilantro fan (sorry, Tom. . . ), so I used parsley instead of cilantro. I also added several hands full of baby spinach. This was so, so good — and lots of leftovers, too.


Next, I made “Cavatelli with Butternut Squash” (p. 117), and it was . . . fine. I really mean that — it was fine. Perfectly hearty and tasty. Lots of leftovers. But after hitting it out of the park with those first three recipes, this one was just . . . fine. (I will say that the leftovers were actually better than the initial dish. Maybe the flavors just needed a bit more time to . . . jell?) The recipe calls for a type of pasta I’d never heard of – cavatelli – and I couldn’t find it. I subbed a rotini, and added the “Veg It Up” options (spinach and peas, in this instance). We added some Tabasco sauce. Overall, it was just . . . a little on the bland side. But fine.


And then – because I wanted to end on a high note – I decided to try one more recipe: “Crispy Chickpea Stew” (p. 193). I’d been looking at this recipe all month (Tom and I both love chickpeas), but hadn’t gotten to it yet. Let me tell you . . . it was worth the wait! So. Good. I made this one exactly as described in the recipe, adding the “Veg It Up” option —  cherry tomatoes, which were perfect in this dish. The notes from Melissa mention that the garlic-strewn crispy chickpeas (you make in the first step of the recipe) are such a treat that you need to be careful not to eat them all before garnishing the finished stew with them. And you know what? She’s not kidding! (It was so good, I didn’t take a photo of the finished meal. All you get is a picture of some my ingredients, mid-prep.)


I tried five new recipes from this cookbook, and we loved four of them! I call this book a Winner! (There are so many other things I want to try from this cookbook. . . )

What’s next, cookbook-wise?
This one . . . from another of my favorite New York Times recipe contributors! (It has a great title, doesn’t it?)

I’ll check back in a month, and let you know how it goes.

In the meantime . . . have you tried any good recipes lately?


Past cookbooks I’ve unpacked:

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (Mark Bittman) – November 2022

Go-To Dinners (Ina Garten) – December 2022

Bittman Bread (Mark Bittman and Kerri Conan) – January 2023