Your Weeknight
Meal Planner:
Dreaming of Summer

Get inspired for the week ahead with our top picks from this week’s menu.

With Memorial Day—the unofficial start to summer—on the horizon, we’re filling our week with dishes that are reminiscent of longer days, sandy toes, and backyard cookouts. Start the week with an easy chicken-and-pasta dinner that’s sprinkled with bright veggies. On Tuesday, try our one of our favorite summer cooking techniques—blackening—with a fish served alongside corn salsa. Get through the mid-week hump with a Middle Eastern-inspired sandwich that requires two hands to eat. Kick off the long weekend early with dragged-through-the-garden turkey burgers on Thursday and steak and vegetable kebabs on Friday.

Summer, is that you? Now, on to the recipes!

Monday: Creamy Chicken Cavatappi

(Serves 4)

1 lemon
¼ ounce basil, divided
12 ounces summer squash (like zucchini)
3 cloves garlic
1 red onion
1½ pounds ground chicken
⅓ cup white wine
12 ounces cavatappi
¾ pint grape tomatoes
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, divided
4 ounces baby spinach
olive oil
kosher salt

Want to get a kitchen helper in on the cooking fun? Have them tear the basil leaves in Step 1.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. If you have a zester and want to infuse your pasta with even more lemon flavor, rinse lemon and zest up to ½, then halve. Rinse remaining produce. Roughly tear basil leaves, discarding stems. Quarter summer squash lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces, discarding ends. Using the flat side of a knife, gently crush garlic cloves. Peel onion, halve, and thinly slice.

2. Heat 1½ tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add chicken and season with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. Cook, breaking up, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add white wine and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until liquid is mostly reduced, 1–2 minutes more. Remove pan from heat. Transfer chicken to a bowl and set aside for Step 5; wipe pan clean for Step 4.

3. While chicken browns, season boiling water generously with salt. Stir in cavatappi and cook for 3 minutes. Then, add whole grape tomatoes and continue cooking until cavatappi is al dente and tomatoes soften and begin to burst, 4–5 minutes more. Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water for Step 5, then drain cavatappi and tomatoes and return to pot, off heat.

4. Return pan from chicken to medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. When oil is shimmering, add summer squash, crushed garlic, and onion. Sauté, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, 4–5 minutes. Season with ¾ teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. Remove pan from heat. Remove and discard crushed garlic (it seasons the vegetables during cooking, but won’t be pleasant to bite into).

5. To pot with cavatappi and tomatoes, still off heat, add mascarpone, half of Parmesan, and juice of 1 lemon; stir to combine (this is another great task for a helper). Add spinach, browned chicken, sauteéd summer squash, and half of basil. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time, stir in reserved pasta cooking water until sauce is silky and clings to noodles. Starchy pasta cooking water will give your sauce a perfect consistency and help it cling to the noodles. Keep adding it until the sauce is silky—you might need more than you think.

6. Taste creamy chicken cavatappi and add salt and pepper as desired, then divide among serving bowls. Garnish with remaining basil and remaining Parmesan. Dig in!

Scale down this recipe and try it for lunch with the 2-serving version.

Tuesday: Blackened Cod

(Serves 4)

1¼ pounds cod
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
8 ounces plum tomato
4 ears corn
2 lemons
2 cloves garlic
4 ounces mayonnaise
2 avocados
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Pat cod dry with paper towel and season all over with spice mix, cayenne pepper (skip or use half for less heat), and ¾ teaspoon salt, pressing to adhere. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

2. While cod marinates, rinse tomatoes and roughly chop. Shuck corn, discarding husks and silk, and slice kernels off cobs into a large bowl. Need a trick for removing whole corn kernels from the cob? Lay each cob flat on your cutting board and carefully slice kernels off 1 side. Rotate cob and continue slicing to remove kernels on all sides. Halve lemons. Mince garlic.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add corn and cook, stirring frequently, until charred in spots, about 5 minutes. Return to large bowl and set aside, reserving pan for blackening cod.

4. Wipe pan from corn clean and add 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add cod to pan and sear until spices are blackened and a thin knife inserted into the fish meets no resistance, 2–3 minutes per side. Divide among plates for serving.

5. While cod blackens, in a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, juice of 1 lemon, and garlic until fully combined. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper as desired.

6. Halve avocados and discard pits. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out flesh, discarding skin. Cut into ½-inch dice. Add avocados, tomatoes, juice of ½ lemon, 1 teaspoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper to bowl with corn. Toss to combine. Serve salsa with cod, aioli, and remaining lemon, if desired.

Cook up the 2-serving version of this recipe next time you’re cooking for a smaller crowd.

Wednesday: Harissa Vegetable Pitas

(Serves 4)

2 eggplants
1 pound summer squash (like zucchini)
¼ ounce cilantro
¼ ounce parsley
⅔ cup roasted red peppers
1 clove garlic
4 teaspoons harissa, divided
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
4 pita breads
3 tablespoons pine nuts
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup red wine vinegar, divided
8 ounces baby spinach
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Rinse all produce. Halve eggplant lengthwise; cut crosswise into ¼-inch half-moons, discarding ends. Halve squash lengthwise; cut crosswise into ¼-inch half-moons, discarding ends. Roughly chop cilantro and parsley leaves and stems. Roughly chop roasted red peppers. Mince garlic.

2. On a baking sheet, toss eggplant and squash with up to half of harissa (it’s spicy, so feel free to use less), 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper as desired. Arrange in a single layer, spacing apart, and roast until tender, 12–15 minutes. Then, add feta and roasted red peppers to baking sheet and toss to combine.

3. While vegetables roast, stack pitas and wrap in foil. Place pitas on 1 half of a separate baking sheet. Place in oven with vegetables to warm through, 5 minutes. Then, add pine nuts to other half of sheet with pitas and toast until pine nuts are golden and pita is completely warmed through, 3–4 minutes more. Oven strengths vary, and pine nuts can burn quickly, so keep an eye on these as they roast.

4. While pita warms, in a blender or food processor, combine tahini, cilantro, parsley, garlic, remaining harissa (feel free to use less), half of red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 3 tablespoons water. Blend until smooth. Tahini can be thick. If it’s not smooth and pourable after adding the oil and water, or if it hardens slightly before serving, feel free to add 1–2 more tablespoons of water to loosen it. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and black pepper as desired. Alternatively, finely chop herbs and garlic, combine sauce ingredients in a medium bowl, and whisk to combine.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining red wine vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper as desired. Pat spinach dry with paper towel and add to bowl with vinaigrette, along with toasted pine nuts, waiting to toss until ready to serve.

6. Slice 1 inch off tops of warmed pita breads and gently open to create a pocket (save trimmed pita for a snack). Spread tahini sauce inside pita breads, then fill with harissa vegetables. Toss salad and serve with harissa vegetable pitas.

Try the 2-serving version of these sandwiches for lunch!

Thursday: Zucchini, Carrot, and Turkey Burgers

(Serves 4)

1 pound haricots verts
¼ ounce basil
4 cloves garlic
1 pound zucchini
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup shredded carrots
1½ pounds ground turkey
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
1 lemon
4 brioche buns
4 ounces mayonnaise
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Rinse all produce. Trim and discard ends of haricots verts (line up ends to trim together). Finely chop basil leaves, discarding stems. Mince garlic. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate enough zucchini to yield ½ cup (alternatively, finely chop); cut remainder crosswise on a diagonal into ½-inch slices, discarding ends. Cut butter into small pieces; set aside to soften at room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, combine carrots, grated zucchini, half of garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Add turkey. Try rubbing your hands with 1 teaspoon olive oil before forming the patties—it’ll help keep the turkey from sticking to your fingers. Using your hands, mix well, then form into 4 equal patties, about 1 inch thick. Using your thumb, create a dimple on top of each, to prevent them from puffing up during cooking. Place burgers on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in refrigerator for at least 5 minutes (this helps hold their shape, too).

3. While burgers chill, arrange haricots verts and sliced zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet. Dot with softened butter and season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. Roast, stirring halfway through to ensure even cooking, until softened, 10–12 minutes total (move on to Step 4—but don’t forget to come back!). Then, remove vegetables from oven and sprinkle over Parmesan.

4. While vegetables roast, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add burgers and sear until browned on bottom, 5–6 minutes. Flip burgers, cover pan, and reduce heat to medium. Sear until cooked through and no longer pink, 5–6 minutes more. Transfer burgers to a plate and set aside to rest for at least 5 minutes. Reserve pan, off heat, for toasting buns.

5. While burgers cook, if you want to infuse your aioli with even more flavor, zest up to whole lemon into a small bowl, then halve. The skin of the lemon (and other citrus fruits) is home to the highest concentration of aromatic oils, so chefs use zest to add bright, perfumy flavor and a little texture. It’s easier and safer to zest the lemon before cutting and juicing. To bowl with zest (if using), add mayonnaise, basil, juice of ½ lemon, remaining garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to combine. Stir to combine, then set aside. Cut remaining lemon into wedges for serving. Slice buns open horizontally.

6. Arrange buns cut-side down in pan from burgers and place over medium heat. Toast, working in batches as needed, until light golden and warmed through, 2–3 minutes. Meanwhile, divide roasted vegetables among serving plates, with lemon wedges for squeezing over. Layer bun bottoms with turkey burgers and lemon-basil aioli, then close with bun tops.

Friday: Grilled Steak and Vegetable Kebabs

(Serves 4)

2 tablespoons chimichurri spice
4 steaks
1 cup farro
12 ounces zucchini
2 yellow bell peppers
2 red onions
¾ pint grape tomatoes
¼ ounce basil
2 ounces goat cheese
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

You’ll also need 12 wood skewers for this recipe.

Enlist a helper to make the chimichurri oil in Step 1, assemble the kebabs in Step 4, and tear the basil and finish the farro in Step 5.

1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. If you don’t have a grill or grill pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat in Step 4. Add kebabs and cook, working in batches and adding oil as needed, 2–4 minutes total. Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. In a large bowl, whisk together chimichurri spice, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper; transfer half to a small bowl and set aside. Pat steaks dry with paper towel and cut into 1-inch pieces; add to large bowl with remaining chimichurri oil and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate until Step 4.

2. While steaks marinate, season boiling water generously with salt. Stir in farro and cook until tender but still chewy, 12– 14 minutes. Perfectly cooked farro is tender, but still has some chew to it. Taste your farro before you drain it; if you prefer a more tender consistency, keep cooking a few minutes more. Drain farro and return to pot, off heat. Cover and set aside until Step 5.

3. While farro cooks, fill a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet up to 1 inch with water and submerge skewers (so they don’t burn on the grill). Rinse all produce. Cut zucchini crosswise into ½- inch rounds, discarding ends. Halve bell peppers lengthwise, discarding seeds and stems; cut into 1-inch pieces. Peel onions, quarter, and separate layers. Remove steaks from marinade, allowing excess to drip off.

4. Alternating pieces, thread whole grape tomatoes, steak, zucchini, bell pepper, and onion evenly onto skewers. If using a grill pan, place it over medium-high heat now. When grill is just smoking, steak and vegetable kebabs and cook, rotating halfway through, until vegetables are charred and steak is medium-rare, 2–4 minutes total. Remove from grill and set aside to rest for about 5 minutes.

5. While kebabs grill, roughly chop or tear basil leaves, discarding stems. To pot with cooked farro, still off heat, crumble over goat cheese. Add half of basil and toss to combine. Taste and add salt and black pepper as desired.

6. Divide goat cheese and basil farro among serving plates. Top with steak and vegetable kebabs and drizzle over reserved chimichurri oil. Garnish with remaining basil and enjoy!

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