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 e Piselli with Brussels Sprout and Kale Slaw
Game Plan: Start by prepping and marinating the brussels sprouts (step 1). While they sit, prep the remaining ingredients for both dishes. Cook the pasta, then toss the slaw right before serving.
Pasta e Piselli combines peas with small pasta to form a hearty soup. The soup comes together in one pot—we cook the pasta in a broth flavored with sautéed onion and savory pancetta. Then we add the peas (we use frozen petite peas) and immediately take the pot off the heat to preserve their tenderness and color. A sprinkle of Pecorino Romano contributes richness and tangy depth. To keep Brussels Sprout and Kale Slaw with Herbs and Peanuts crisp and light, we marinate raw slivered brussels sprouts in the dressing to soften them just slightly. A vigorous massage tenderizes the kale leaves in just a minute. A simple cider vinegar and coriander vinaigrette, fresh cilantro and mint, and chopped peanuts, plus a squeeze of lime juice, give this slaw acidity and crunch.
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Dinner 2: Chicken Parmesan and Pan-Steamed Broccolini
Game Plan: Start by making the tomato sauce and salting the chicken (steps 1 and 2). While the chicken sits, prep the remaining chicken ingredients and the broccolini ingredients. Bread and fry the chicken (steps 3 and 4), but wait to broil it until after the broccolini is steamed.
Traditional Chicken Parmesan is a minefield of potential problems: dry meat, a soggy crust, and a chewy blanket of mozzarella. To keep the meat moist, we salt the cutlets for 20 minutes. To ensure a crunchy coating, we replace more than half of the starchy (and consequently sog-prone) bread crumbs with grated Parmesan cheese. For a tender cheese topping, we mix the usual shredded mozzarella with creamy fontina. For Pan-Steamed Broccolini with Lemon and Capers, we split the thicker stems lengthwise so that they are the same size as the thinner ones, allowing for even cooking along the length of the vegetable.
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Dinner 3: Braised Halibut with Fennel and Warm Farro with Lemon
Game Plan: Start by boiling the farro. As the farro cooks, prep the halibut ingredients. Once the farro is tender, it can be drained and held in a covered saucepan. While the fish is cooking in step 2, soften the onion for the farro. As the sauce for the fish reduces (step 3), finish the farro.
Braised Halibut with Fennel and Tarragon features moist, succulent fish; tender pieces of fennel; and a sauce with balanced flavor and just the right amount of brightness. We like halibut for its sweet, delicate taste and firm texture. Because the bottom of the fillets are submerged in liquid and will cook more quickly than the upper halves that cook via steam, we start by sautéing the fillets for a few minutes on just one side before we start braising. For Warm Farro with Lemon and Herbs, we prefer whole farro, which has a pleasant chewiness and a nutty flavor. The simplest cooking method is best: Just boil the farro in salted water for about 20 minutes until tender. After the grains are drained, we combine them with sautéed onions, a copious amount of fresh herbs, and a sprinkling of lemon.