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: Penne with Pesto Calabrese and Romaine and Watercress Salad
Game Plan: Prepare the red pepper pesto through step 3, using any unattended cooking time to prepare the salad ingredients. Cook and dress the pasta. Toss the salad right before serving.
Pesto Calabrese trades the familiar basil–pine nut base of the Genovese style for ricotta, Parmesan, and a mix of sweet and hot peppers. A combination of cooked and raw red bell peppers give the pesto a complex fresh, fruity bite. Romaine and Watercress Salad with Apple and Kohlrabi combines crisp romaine lettuce with spicy, tender watercress. Thinly sliced kohlrabi and sweet apple combine cohesively with the salad greens and provide complexity.
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Dinner 2: Sweet Potato Soup and Biscuits
Game Plan: Start by preheating the oven, then prep both recipes. Mix the biscuits and bake them. While biscuits are cooking, prepare the soup. Remove the biscuits from the oven, brush with them with butter, and keep them warm while the soup finishes.
For Sweet Potato Soup that actually tastes like sweet potatoes, we use only a minimal amount of flavor-diluting water. To do so, we let the sweet potatoes sit in hot water off heat for 20 minutes to make use of an enzyme that reduces their starch content. Less starch meant we could create a soup with less water, keeping the sweet potato flavor in the forefront. Easiest-Ever Biscuits combine the ease of cream biscuits (which eliminate the step of cutting cold fat into dry ingredients) with the ease of drop biscuits (which skip the rolling and cutting) to create the easiest biscuits ever. The key is to heat the cream to between 95 and 100 degrees, which melts the solid particles of butterfat dispersed throughout. This makes a dough that is moister and scoopable but that rises up instead of spreading out in the oven, producing biscuits that are appropriately rich and tender but not greasy.
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Dinner 3: Sesame-Crusted Salmon and Sautéed Swiss Chard
Game Plan: Prep all of the ingredients for both dishes while the oven heats. Start cooking the salmon. Once the salmon has been transferred to the oven, sauté the chard.
For Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Lime and Coriander, we brine the fillets to ensure that each piece is well seasoned and remains moist after cooking. We also brine and toast the sesame seeds to bring out their nuttiness. Finally, we use tahini paste combined with citrus juice to glue the sesame seeds to the fillets. The key to mastering Sautéed Swiss Chard with Ginger is getting the stems to finish cooking at the same time as the leaves. Sautéing the stems first over relatively high heat provides a desirable tender-crisp texture and a lightly caramelized flavor that acts as a foil to the tender leaves, which we cook very briefly to maintain their earthiness.