Even with the best-laid plans, cooking during these unprecedented times can be a challenge. So we've put together three recipe pairings, each with an entree and a side, that call for ingredients you may already have on hand. But if you don't have a particular ingredient or the supermarket is out of stock, don't worry; we've also provided ideas for subsitutions.
Dinner 1: Sautéed Tilapia and Sugar Snap Peas
Game Plan: Start by salting the tilapia. While the fish sits, prep the peas and make the topping. Once the fish is cooked, wipe out the skillet and use it to cook the peas.
For Sautéed Tilapia, we divide each fillet into a thick and a thin portion and sauté them separately for more precise cooking. The sautéing method can be used for other firm, thin fish such as catfish, but leave the fillets whole. Sugar Snap Peas with Almonds, Coriander, and Orange Zest can be served without the topping if desired. You can also change the topping ingredients to suit what you have on hand: Consider lemon zest in place of the orange zest. Different varieties of nuts (try pistachios) and herbs (try basil) will also work.
Dinner 2: Spaghetti Carbonara and Insalata Mista
Game Plan: Prep all of the ingredients for the salad, but wait to toss it. Make the carbonara. As the pasta rests at the end of step 3, rewhisk the dressing and toss the salad.
We call for bacon in Spaghetti Carbonara, but pancetta or guanciale will also work. Pecorino Romano is traditional, but Parmesan can be substituted in a pinch. Other long-strand pastas can be swapped for the spaghetti. Insalta Mista calls for a mix of mild lettuces along with smaller amounts of spicy greens (watercress and arugula) and bitter greens (radicchio and endive), but feel free to create your own blend. In the dressing, we use two types of vinegar: Balsamic brings sweet, caramel-like notes and red wine provides assertive acidity. Other types of wine vinegar—either white, champagne, or sherry—are good options, too.
Dinner 3: Pan-Seared Steak and Fork-Mashed Potatoes
Game Plan: Start by boiling the potatoes, then prep the remaining ingredients for the potatoes and the pan sauce for the steak. Heat the skillet for the steaks right before draining the potatoes. Cook the steaks, then mash the potatoes and make the pan sauce while the steaks rest.
Two of our favorite cuts for Pan-Seared Inexpensive Steak are boneless shell sirloin steak (a.k.a. top butt) and flap meat steak (a.k.a. sirloin tips). However, this method works equally well with other types of steaks, provided they are 1- to 1 1/4 -inches thick. Any type of baby potato can be used in Fork-Mashed Potatoes with Herbs. We like the combination of olive oil and butter, but all butter or all oil can be used. Chives, tarragon, or chervil (or a combination) can be swapped for the parsley.