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: Steak Tacos and Mexican Rice
Game Plan: Prepare the herb paste and marinate the steaks. While steaks sit, make the rice. Start searing the steaks once you have stirred the rice halfway through cooking. The finished rice can stand, covered, if it's done before the tacos.
For our Steak Tacos, we pan-sear flank steak to give it the browned exterior and crisp, brittle edges characteristic of grilled meat. A paste of oil, cilantro, scallions, garlic, and jalapeño applied to the steak and scraped off just before cooking gives the meat a flavor boost without sacrificing browning. Mexican Rice is a pilaf-style dish infused with tomatoes, chiles, and onion. To keep the rice grains distinct, we rinse them of excess starch before cooking. Equal portions of chicken broth and fresh tomatoes are ideal for a savory liquid base. To further enhance the flavor, color, and texture, we also add a little tomato paste.
Food ProcessorsHow much do you need to spend to get a machine that makes light work of chopping, slicing, shredding, and mixing?
Dinner 2: Pasta with Butternut Squash and Spinach Salad
Game Plan: Prep the salad ingredients and then set them aside while you cook the pasta. After you have drained the pasta and tossed it with the squash mixture, warm the dressing and toss the salad.
Our Pasta with Butternut Squash and Sage transforms mild squash into a savory pasta sauce. First, we sauté the squash in a little bacon fat, infusing it with porky flavor while it caramelizes. Then, we add chicken broth and braise the squash for a few minutes to turn it into a sauce that is not only flavorful but also clings well to the pasta. Lemon juice adds brightness, Parmesan cheese provides a layer of salty richness, and toasted sliced almonds offer crunch. In our brightly flavored Wilted Spinach Salad with Oranges, Radishes, and Citrus Vinaigrette, the vinaigrette does all the work for you: Simply heat the dressing ingredients in a skillet and pour it over the spinach, then add citrus segments and radishes.
The Best Rasp-Style GratersWe love the Microplane Classic, but it’s not the only rasp around anymore. Can any of the newcomers top our old favorite?
Dinner 3: Moroccan Chicken Tagine and Couscous
Game Plan: Start with the tagine. Once the carrots, apricots, and chicken breasts have been added to the pot (step 4), start preparing the couscous. As you brown the couscous, keep an eye on the chicken to make sure it doesn't overcook.
Moroccan Chicken with Chickpeas and Apricots offers rich flavor in about one hour. A standard braising procedure builds complexity: First, we brown skin-on chicken pieces to give the braising liquid savory depth; next, we remove the chicken from the pot and sauté onion, strips of lemon zest, garlic, and a heady spice blend (paprika, cumin, cayenne, ginger, coriander, and cinnamon) in a little oil. Finally, after adding chicken broth and honey, we return the chicken to the pot to finish cooking. We use a pilaf method for our Couscous with Dates and Pistachios that starts with gently browning the pasta to add toastiness. We steam the couscous in a combination of chicken broth and water before stirring in dates and pistachios for sweetness and crunch.