Chefs' Weeknight Dinners
Alex Guarnaschelli: Cauliflower Steaks with Herb Salsa Verde
“It’s amazing how meaty cauliflower can be,” chef Alex Guarnaschelli says. Here, she treats the vegetable like steak, searing thick planks and topping them with a super-tangy salsa verde. The salsa would also be delicious on beef steaks and other assorted vegetables.
Kuniko Yagi: Mapo Tofu
“This is totally my way of making this dish,” chef Kuniko Yagi says. “I’m sure Chinese people wouldn’t let me call this mapo tofu.” Yagi’s version has more meat than tofu, but she still relies on jarred toban djan, the chile-bean paste that gives this Chinese takeout staple its signature heat and deeply savory flavor.
Mourad Lahlou: Mussels with Saffron and Citrus
Chef Mourad Lahlou simmers mussels in a lovely saffron cream sauce. Lahlou prefers Mediterranean mussels. “The ones I get are called that, but they really come from the Pacific Northwest,” he says. “They’re plump, juicy and don’t toughen up as much as other varieties when you cook them.”
Cathal Armstrong: Chickpea Vegetable Stew
“The dish is rich in texture and full of healthy goodness,” chef Cathal Armstrong says about this hearty vegetable stew that he made for the co-CEO of Whole Foods. Armstrong adds heft to the coconut milk broth with quick-cooking fingerling potatoes, and subtle heat with harissa, a Tunisian chile paste.
Carla Hall: Quinoa Salad with Spring Vegetables
For this lively, bright salad, Carla Hall combines herb-scented red quinoa with radishes, green peas and lima beans. Hall recommends rinsing the quinoa to get rid of the bitterness, and draining off any liquid after cooking so the grains remain fluffy.
Sarah and Evan Rich: Roast Chicken Panzanella
“In the height of summer, what’s better than tons of tomatoes and cucumbers in a salad?” chef Evan Rich asks. He and wife, Sarah, give this traditional Tuscan bread salad a California spin with strawberries, cilantro and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Jenn Louis: Bucatini all’Amatriciana with Parmigiano
Chef Jenn Louis makes this version of pasta all’amatriciana with just a few flavor-packed ingredients. She likes to use traditional guanciale (cured pork jowl), which has a robust pork flavor. The sauce is also delicious with milder pancetta.
Chris Cosentino: Rigatoni with Lemony Kale Pesto
Making pesto with kale instead of basil isn’t just healthier, it’s unexpectedly delicious. And according to the dish’s creator, chef Chris Cosentino, it’s a simple way to get kids to eat kale.
Matt Jennings: Pizza with Baked Meatballs
“Avanzi means ‘leftovers,’ in Italian,” says Matt Jennings, who often made this pizza on Fridays with his host family in Florence, using leftovers from the week of cooking. He urges people to get creative: “Char cucumbers and sprinkle feta on top. We’ve even put toasted ground nuts, dried fruit and canned beans on the avanzi—although not necessarily at the same time!”
Renee Erickson: Grilled Lamb Chops with Cucumber Relish
A grill pan or cast-iron skillet is a quick way to cook lamb chops. Chef Renee Erickson serves them with a sweet-savory Moroccan-inspired relish that includes pine nuts, golden raisins and lemon. She recommends eating the chops with your hands. “The bones should be picked clean,” she says.
Spike Gjerde: Thai Chicken Soup
Chef Spike Gjerde says this soup is his family staple. The flavors are bright and the dish is easy to make, especially with store-bought rotisserie chicken. Gjerde adds lemongrass, ginger and plenty of lime to create a broth that’s light, tangy and deeply aromatic.
Tim Byres: Red Snapper with Asparagus and Chorizo
Tim Byres has a secret ingredient for seasoning fish: thin slices of dried chorizo. “Think of them like pepperoni slices,” he says. “The chorizo will crisp up and curl, releasing fragrant paprika oil that flavors the fish.”
Aarón Sánchez: Jumbo Shrimp with Garlic & Chile Butter
In just 20 minutes, chef Aarón Sánchez cooks shrimp in a punchy Latin-style sauce with chiles and plenty of garlic. He also adds bottled clam juice, which amps up the seafood flavor and adds depth.
Andrew Zimmern: Roasted Peach Cobbler with Balsamic Syrup
“I’m no pastry chef, but I make a killer cobbler,” Andrew Zimmern says. “The inherent explosive juiciness of ripe peaches makes it the perfect fruit here.” He tops the dessert with vanilla ice cream and thick, rich aged balsamic vinegar, such as Malpighi Saporoso condimento balsamico or Noble Tonic 05:XO, which is aged in bourbon casks.
Megan Garrelts: Oatmeal-Cherry Cookies
These buttery oatmeal cookies are made with sour cherries in syrup—a juicy, sweet-tart alternative to the usual raisins. You can use Amarena cherries or, for a more grown-up indulgence, brandied cherries.
Jonathan Waxman: Pan-Fried Flounder with Lemon Butter Sauce
Jonathan Waxman’s recipe for crisp flounder is simple and delicious. The keys, he says, are to get flounder from a reliable source and to concentrate while cooking it. “Get the flounder too hot and it turns to mush, too cool and it goes rubbery.” He then drizzles the fish with a tangy Meyer lemon–butter sauce.
Jamie Bissonnette: Beer-Braised Chicken Wings with Clams
The dish from Jamie Bissonnette is like a delicious mash-up of beer-steamed clams and roast chicken wings. He came up with this eclectic recipe when guests arrived for a dinner that he’d forgotten about. “It was a wicked lucky success,” he admits. Bissonnette recommends serving this with grilled bread.
Tyler Florence: California Steak Salad
Tyler Florence says you can top this main-course salad with any vegetables you have on hand. Crisp ones are best with the seared beef tenderloin and blue cheese vinaigrette.
Ricardo Zarate: Peruvian-Style Pasta Bolognese
Inspired by tallarín saltado, a classic Peruvian comfort food, this dish combines garlicky soy-flavored noodles with a rich meat sauce. Ricardo Zarate usually prepares the sauce with diced beef tenderloin but the ground beef here makes it quicker for weeknight dinners.
Susan Feniger: Kitchen-Sink Soba Noodles
Susan Feniger calls this cold noodle salad “clean out the refrigerator soba”: Tossed in a spicy citrus-soy dressing, the recipe is adaptable to whatever vegetables you happen to have in your crisper.
Jonathon Sawyer: Popcorn Pudding
Jonathon Sawyer and his family love chocolate-covered pretzels. That gave Sawyer the idea to create this luscious dessert that brilliantly combines the flavor of salted popcorn with a sweet, creamy pudding.
Rick Bayless: Mexican Chocolate Chip-Pumpkin Seed Cake
Based on almond cake, Rick Bayless’s pumpkin-seed cake is moist and fluffy with just a whisper of a crisp crust. For a lighter variation, omit the chocolate and add lime zest.
Rocco DiSpirito: Red Coconut Curry with Seafood
This lighter, brighter Thai-style curry is from health-conscious chef Rocco DiSpirito. He cuts back on the coconut milk and boosts the flavor of the broth with shrimp, mussels, fish and vegetables.
Edward Lee: Turmeric Chicken and Rice
“This is a simple one-pot chicken-and-rice dish, but the turmeric adds color, spice and flavor,” Edward Lee says. “That makes it a winner in my house.” He recommends using a whole organic chicken so you know exactly where the bird came from and serving the dish family-style.