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: Corn and Bean Quesadillas with Quinoa Pilaf
Game Plan: Start cooking the quinoa. As the quinoa simmers in step 3, prep the ingredients for the quesadillas and the remaining quinoa ingredients. Once the quinoa is removed from the heat, cook the quesadillas.
Our Corn and Black Bean Quesadillas with Pepper Jack Cheese make for a quick, yet satisfying, meal. We start by lightly toasting tortillas in a dry skillet; we then fill them with cheese, frozen corn, and canned beans. We finish the quesadillas by lightly coating the exteriors with oil and returning them to the skillet until they are well browned and crisp. To develop nuttiness in our Quinoa Pilaf with Chipotle, Queso Fresco, and Peanuts, we toast the grains in a dry skillet before adding liquid. We then season the pilaf with boldly flavored chipotle chiles and cumin.
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Dinner 2: Grilled Spice-Rubbed Steak and Sautéed Corn
Game Plan: Prep the steak and let it sit (step 1). While the steak sits, prep the spice rub and the ingredients for the corn. Grill the steaks. Sauté the corn while the steaks rest.
For Grilled Steak with Spicy Chipotle Chile Rub, we use a two-stage rub to make the most of relatively inexpensive shell sirloin steak. We start with a combination of salt, onion powder, garlic powder, fish sauce, and tomato paste. This umami-rich blend makes the steaks more savory and enhances juiciness. For the second stage, we mix coarsely ground toasted whole spices and dried chiles. To ensure that the corn in our Sautéed Corn with Cherry Tomatoes, Ricotta Salata, and Basil has rich, toasted flavor, it is important not to stir it during the first few minutes of cooking so it has a chance to brown. Once the corn is cooked, we mix in plenty of salty ricotta salata and bright cherry tomatoes.
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Dinner 3: Stir-Fried Shrimp and Steamed White Rice
Game Plan: Start by cooking the rice. As the rice steams, prep the stir-fry ingredients. Once the rice is cooked, set it aside to keep warm while preparing the stir-fry.
Stir-Fried Shrimp with Onion, Bell Peppers, and Cumin starts with tossing the shrimp with a little salt and sugar and letting them sit for 30 minutes. This not only seasons the shrimp but also helps them retain moisture during cooking. When the shrimp are almost ready, we quickly stir-fry the vegetables and set them aside. Then, rather than cook the shrimp over high heat as most recipes call for, we add the sauce to a skillet and poach the shrimp gently in the liquid, covered, to ensure that they stay moist. We serve the stir-fry with Steamed White Rice, which is soft enough to soak up savory sauces, yet sticky enough to pick up with chopsticks. Rinsing the grains removes some of their surface starch and starting them in boiling water provides enough agitation to release the remaining starch, resulting in just the right amount of stickiness.