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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.
Seasoned with herbs and warm spices, pressed between pita rounds, and grilled, these Grilled Lamb-Stuffed Pitas with Yogurt Sauce inspired by Middle Eastern arayes offer a flavorful, juicy, street food–style alternative to the everyday burger. As the sandwiches cook, the lamb releases fat and juices into the bread to help it crisp, providing contrast to the texture of the filling. Our Parsley-Cucumber Salad with Feta, Pomegranate, and Walnuts is a crisp, refreshing accompaniment to the rich grilled sandwiches. Pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds give it a bright, tart flavor while chopped walnuts and feta cheese lend richness.
For our Pan-Seared Salmon, we brine the fillets to season them and keep them moist as they cook. We then place the fish skin side down in a cold, dry nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. The skin protects the fish from drying out during cooking and releases fat that helps to brown and crisp the flesh side once the fillets are flipped. Couscous with Carrots, Raisins, and Pine Nuts calls for the pilaf method to keep the grains of pasta fluffy and separate: We first brown the couscous in butter, then add liquid, cover the pot, and let it stand until the grains are tender. We bump up the flavor and add textural contrast with sweet raisins and rich pine nuts.
For our Spaghetti Carbonara, we reduce the usual amount of water used to boil the pasta by half. This gives us a concentrated starchy liquid to use in the sauce. The extra starch coats the proteins and fats in the cheese and prevents them from separating or clumping together. The starch also works in concert with the egg white proteins to lend viscosity. Egg yolks introduce a pleasant custardy richness. 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.