Julia Stephan

Senior Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

Reflecting on my childhood dinners brings back two clear memories. First, there was bread with spreads—the German word for this, “Abendbrot,” (meaning “evening bread”), doesn’t come from nowhere. Second was the typical three-components-plate: Meat, vegetables, and some carbs—often potatoes (did I mention I’m German?). 

These components often seemed to land on the plate by chance, in three separate, small piles. Chicken, potatoes, carrots. Potatoes, fish, broccoli. Mashed potatoes, meatballs, peas.

We could look at this in a nostalgic way—or just agree with Melissa Clark: 

« This can make cooking dinner night after night a challenge because it ignores our evolution as a food culture. »

In her cookbook “Dinner: Changing the game” she talks about how to change the game of dinner in contemporary life. This basically means to focus on one main dinner ingredient, whether it’s chicken, eggs, tofu, rice, or pasta. That ingredient will inspire you for different combinations, so that, eventually, you won’t even think about falling back to old habits and repeating one dish over and over again. 

“More flavor, less work”—get ready! We’ll share with you 5 things we learned from Melissa Clark: 

1. Stock your pantry

There are things you should simply always keep in stock. There’s a whole list in her cookbook, including oil, limes, lemons, garlic, ginger, several types of mustard, soy sauce, harissa, sumac, preserved lemons, and kimchi. So, do you already have it in your pantry? Then get shopping!

2. Eat what you really want

Lamb and pork gyros with tzatziki

Lamb and pork gyros with tzatziki

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Melissa Clark rethinks our old dinner habits and encourages us to find the difference between what we think we should eat for dinner—and what we really want to eat. Combine multiple ingredients you’re craving into one single dish instead of throwing components next to each other in a plate.

3. Use your baking sheet

We sure love one-pot-cooking, but let’s think about new options: Hello baking sheet! Arranging, combining, marinating, seasoning, roasting, serving—all in one! You can find tons of sheet-pan-dinners in this cookbook.

4. Focus on one ingredient

One-pot pasta

One-pot pasta

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Try to concentrate on one main ingredient and find inspiring new combinations with it. Go quick and use simple ingredients and only a few kitchen tools. Voilà, you just changed your way of dinner!

5. Salad is a way to dinner—if you do it right

There are still prejudices about how you can’t get full by eating just salad. This may be true when thinking about plain iceberg lettuce, but if you do it right, salad is your new best friend for dinner. Throw together the bowl of your dreams, use leftovers, and combine them in creative ways.

More delicious ideas for you