Every week, Executive Food Editor Keith Dresser pairs each main dish with a side to give you a complete, satisfying dinner without the guesswork. Look for the game plan section to learn tips on how to streamline your kitchen work so dinner comes together quicker.
Dinner 1: Grilled Shrimp Kebabs and Rice and Pasta Pilaf
Game Plan: Start by brining the shrimp (step 1). While the shrimp brines, prep and microwave the vegetables (steps 2 and 3). Soak the rice (step 1) while assembling the kebabs. Cook the pilaf (step 3), while the grill heats. Once the pilaf has been removed from the heat, grill the kebabs. Once the kebabs are cooked, the pilaf will be ready to serve.
Grilled Shrimp and Vegetable Kebabs are notoriously difficult to get right because of the incompatible cooking times of shrimp and vegetables. Our recipe works by pairing slower-cooking jumbo shrimp with quick-cooking vegetables: mushrooms, bell peppers, and scallions. We parcook some of the vegetables in the microwave to give them a head start before skewering them. Finishing with a fresh lemon-herb vinaigrette while the skewers are hot from the grill makes for a flavorful finish. Rice and Pasta Pilaf combines tender rice with toasted, nutty pieces of vermicelli. In order to have both ingredients finish cooking at the same time, we soak the rice in hot water for 10 minutes to soften its outer coating and help it absorb water quickly. We let the cooked pilaf stand for 10 minutes with a towel under the lid to keep it from becoming soggy.
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Dinner 2: Black Bean Burgers and Barbecue Kettle Potato Chips
For great-tasting, cohesive Black Bean Burgers, we use finely ground tortilla chips as a binder. Eggs and flour help to hold the burger mix together. To keep the preparation simple, we add no-cook seasonings that bolster the flavor of the burgers. Letting the mixture stand for an hour gives the starches time to soak up moisture from the egg, so the patties are easier to shape. To produce deeply crunchy Barbecue Kettle Potato Chips, we start by cutting russet potatoes into substantial 1/16-inch-thick slices. Frying them in moderately hot oil ensures that they cook up crunchy—not hard or delicate. Initially heating the oil to a relatively hot 375 degrees quickly dries out the potatoes' exterior starches so they are less sticky; stirring them frequently also prevents them from fusing together.
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Dinner 3: Grilled Lamb-Stuffed Pitas and Parsley-Cucumber Salad
Seasoned with herbs and warm spices, pressed between pita rounds, and grilled, these Grilled Lamb-Stuffed Pitas with Yogurt Sauce inspired by Middle Eastern arayes offer a flavorful, juicy, street food–style alternative to the everyday burger. As the sandwiches cook, the lamb releases fat and juices into the bread to help it crisp, providing contrast to the texture of the filling. Our Parsley-Cucumber Salad with Feta, Pomegranate, and Walnuts is a crisp, refreshing accompaniment to the rich grilled sandwiches. Pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds give it a bright, tart flavor while chopped walnuts and feta cheese lend richness.