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: Pasta with Beans and Chard with Insalata Mista
Game Plan: Prep the pasta ingredients and start cooking, using any unattended time to prep the salad. Finish the pasta and toss the salad right before serving.
Pasta with Beans, Chard, and Rosemary provides a great combination of flavors and textures. In addition to the usual creamy cannellini beans, we add pinto beans for meatiness, while Swiss chard provides an appealing twofer for the greens component. We sauté the chopped chard stems at the outset of cooking but wait until the end to sprinkle the tender leaves on top, and then we cover the pot and let the leaves steam gently off heat. Insalta Mista uses a mix of mild lettuces along with smaller amounts of spicy greens (watercress and arugula) and bitter greens (radicchio and endive). For color and textural contrast, we add grated carrot and slices of cucumber and red onion. In the dressing, we use two types of vinegar: Red wine provides assertive acidity while balsamic vinegar brings sweet, caramel-like notes.
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Dinner 2: Pan-Seared Shrimp with Couscous
Game Plan: Start by salting the shrimp. While they stand, prep and start cooking the couscous. prep the remaining ingredients for both dishes. Once the couscous has been covered and removed from the heat. Sear the shrimp.
To keep Pan-Seared Shrimp with Pistachio, Cumin, and Parsley from overcooking, we start them in a cold skillet and heat them gradually so they don’t buckle and thus brown uniformly. Once the shrimp are spotty brown and pink at the edges on the first side, we remove them from the heat and quickly turn each one, letting residual heat gently cook them the rest of the way. For Basic Couscous, we use the “pilaf method,” which allows the couscous to brown gently and uniformly, and cook up fluffy and separate. We bump up the flavor by using a combination of chicken broth and water.
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Dinner 3: Bò Lúc Lắc (Shaking Beef) and Com Do (Red Rice)
Game Plan: Start by prepping and marinating the beef. Once the beef has sat for 15 minutes, cook the rice. Once the rice is simmering with the lid on, stir-fry the beef.
Bò Lúc Lắc (Shaking Beef) pairs savory stir-fried beef with a crisp, peppery watercress salad. We use sirloin steak tips (aka flap meat) for their beefy flavor and pleasant chewy texture. We marinate the meat in a mixture of soy sauce, fish sauce, and molasses, then reserve the marinade to make a glaze. True to the dish's name, we shake and stir the beef as it cooks to develop good browning. Once combined with the sauce, the meat is placed atop a bed of watercress which has been lightly dressed with a mixture of lime juice and pepper. Com Do (Vietnamese Red Rice) is an ultrasavory Vietnamese side dish. It's normally made by stir-frying precooked rice, but we made ours from scratch in one pot. To re-create the slightly drier texture of fried rice, we held back a bit on the water when steaming.
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