As the Executive Editor of 58wang, I find this pretty embarrassing, but I'm going to fess up: Most weeknights, my family does not eat at the dinner table. When the kids and I get home, it's go time. While they hop in the shower and then go over homework with their dad, I get cranking on dinner. I typically don't have the meal ready until well after 7 p.m., and that leaves only about an hour of togetherness before the boys have to get ready for bed. So we make the most of our family time by multitasking—we eat together at the coffee table while we play games or watch a little TV.
I've made my peace with this because, well, life is too short. It's good that we can gather at the same time to enjoy the same good food, after all. And I've put my mind at ease because I'm serving more communal dishes these days, food eaten from a common pot, so to speak. I believe you when you share food from the same dish, you are instantly bonded in an intimate way—whether that happens at a dining table or a coffee table. These recipes get you to that place; they bring the family together in the midst of all the hectic push and pull of life to commune over a shared experience. And that quality time is something I'll cherish in whatever form it takes.
2 of 8Photo: Greg Dupree
Family-Style Meatball "Fondue"
We're using the term "fondue" loosely; the idea is that everyone scoops into a skillet of cheesy meatballs with hearty bread slices. The meatballs are more tender than traditional versions because they don't include breadcrumbs; we like the softer texture for this type of dish, where you want them to give way easily on the bread.
We keep these dumplings weeknight-doable by using easy-to-find wonton wrappers (look for them near the tofu) and the simplest folding method. To make this a communal meal, set ou the steamer baskets on a towel so your family can help themselves. If your bok choy is larger than what we call for, cut it into quarters so it will fit in the baskets.
If you have young kids serving themselves, lift the nachos off the pan with the parchment paper (and remove the hot pan from the table). For the creamiest nacho sauce, start with a block of cheese and shred it yourself.
Instead of serving pizza, shake up dinner with a gorgeous stromboli ring. Though it may look difficult to make, it's actually an easy process (see our step-by-step instructions). Most store-bought pizza dough comes in 1-or 1 1/2-pound portions, but you only need 12 ounces for this recipe. Use the leftovers to make breadsticks or flatbread the next day.
Typically, this style of supersmooth hummus starts with dried chickpeas; we discovered a shortcut with canned chickpeas where a little baking soda softens or dissolves the peas' skins. Be sure to use a blender; a food processor will not get the hummus this smooth. Serve with soft whole-wheat pita and crudités.
This dish is great for a casual get-together or a weeknight meal (with leftovers). The seasoning paste is modeled after Korean ssamjang—a concentrated, salty, slightly spicy concoction. Unlike traditional versions, through, ours is made with grocery store ingredients for ease and convenience.