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 Glazed Chicken Breasts and Israeli Couscous Salad
Game Plan: Start by brining the chicken. As the chicken brines, toast and simmer the couscous (step 1) and prep the remaining salad ingredients. As the grill heats, finish the couscous and set it aside while grilling the chicken.
Our recipe for Grilled Glazed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts calls for dry milk powder to hasten the Maillard reaction and provide a craggy surface for the glaze to adhere to. For a thick, savory glaze, we use a small amount of corn syrup, which is less sweet than sugar, to provide viscosity without too much sweetness. Mustard and vinegar round out the flavors. To make Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes, Olives, and Ricotta Salata, we toast the pasta spheres in oil to bring out their nuttiness and then cook them in a measured amount of water to produce evenly cooked grains. We dress the couscous with a bold vinaigrette of equal parts acid and oil and then mix in plenty of fresh vegetables, cheese, and herbs.
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Dinner 2: Sesame-Crusted Salmon and Quinoa Pilaf
Game Plan: Start by prepping and cooking the quinoa. Once the quinoa is simmering, prep and cook the salmon. If the quinoa pilaf is done before the salmon, set it aside and stir in the scallions, vinegar, and mirin just before serving.
For Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Lemon and Ginger, we brine the fillets to ensure that each piece is well seasoned and remains moist after cooking. We also brine and toast the sesame to bring out their flavor. Finally, we use tahini paste combined with citrus juice to glue the sesame seeds to the fillets. To develop nuttiness in our Quinoa Pilaf with Shiitakes, Edamame, and Ginger, we toast the grains in a dry skillet before adding liquid. We then season the pilaf with boldly flavored ingredients such as scallions, mirin, and ginger.
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Dinner 3: 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.