Your Weeknight Meal
Planner: Life’s a Picnic

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

It’s prime time for outdoor dining—whether that’s around a folding table in your backyard, on a gingham blanket in the grass (or the sand), or squeezed onto a fire escape (we won’t tell…). We’re setting a goal to enjoy more of our meals in the great outdoors. How many nights can you rack up this week? Gather ’round the grill for a DIY fajita bar—while the grilled steak and veggies won’t quite sizzle on their way to your plate, the scent of charring spices has been known to attract hungry neighbors. Pack up a hearty chickpea salad for an impromptu patio potluck, or wrap up prosciutto BLTs for a fancier pool-day lunch.

Now, on to the recipes!

Monday: Quinoa Salad with Chickpea Confit

(Serves 4)

1 cup ancient grains blend
3 tablespoons dried mixed berries
½ teaspoon kabsa spice (a Saudi Arabian blend of turmeric, saffron, chiles) or substitute your favorite Middle Eastern spice mix
2 lemons
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons pistachios
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas
2 shallots
¼ ounce mint
¼ ounce parsley
4 ounces sour cream
9 ounces baby spinach
1 cup shredded carrots
1 12 x 8″ aluminum tin

An eager sous chef can pick the mint leaves in Step 4 and garnish the salad in Step 6.

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a medium pot, combine quinoa and ancient grains, Saudi Arabian spice, dried berries, 1¾ cups water, and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low, cover pot, and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let stand, still covered, for 10 minutes.

2. While quinoa cooks, rinse all produce. Using a sharp knife, carefully peel a 2 inch–long strip of zest from lemon, then halve lemons. Using the flat side of a knife, gently crush garlic cloves. Place pistachios on a small piece of foil; bring edges of foil together and seal to form a pouch. Drain and rinse chickpeas; pat dry with paper towel.

3. Reshape aluminum tin, if bent, then place on a baking sheet. Placing the tin on a baking sheet will help stabilize the chickpeas for easy transfer to the oven. Place lemon peel and crushed garlic in tin, then pour in enough olive oil to reach ¼-inch up sides of tin. Add chickpeas and season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper as desired; toss to coat. Add pistachio pouch to baking sheet and roast until chickpeas are tender and pistachios are fragrant, 12–15 minutes. Once roasted, open pouch to cool.

4. While chickpeas and pistachios cook, peel shallots and mince. Reserve 2 tablespoons for dressing; place remainder in a large bowl (big enough for the salad) with juice of ½ lemon and set aside to marinate until Step 6. Pick mint leaves, discarding stems. Roughly chop parsley leaves and stems. Pat spinach dry with paper towel.

5. Once chickpeas are cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove crushed garlic from tin and place in a blender or food processor with sour cream, mint, parsley, reserved 2 tablespoons shallot, juice of remaining lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Blend until smooth. No blender? Finely chop garlic, mint, and parsley; place in a small bowl with remaining dressing ingredients and stir to combine. Once cool, remove pistachios from pouch and roughly chop.

6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chickpea confit to bowl with pickled shallots, along with 1½ tablespoons olive oil from tin. Add carrots, cooked quinoa blend, spinach, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Toss to combine. Divide quinoa salad among serving plates and drizzle with herb dressing. Garnish with toasted pistachios.

Tuesday: Prosciutto BLTs

(Serves 4)

4 ounces prosciutto
2 tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
8 slices brioche
4 ounces mayonnaise
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 ounce fig jam
10 ounces baby arugula
2 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add prosciutto in a single layer and cook, working in batches as needed, until crisp and curling at edges, 1–2 minutes per side. Using tongs or a fork, transfer prosciutto to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Reserve fat in pan, off heat, for Step 3.

2. Rinse all produce. Thinly slice tomatoes into rounds. Mince garlic and, still on cutting board, sprinkle over ⅛ teaspoon salt. Using a large knife, carefully scrape over mixture at a 45° angle, pressing down. Repeat until garlic is broken down and a paste forms, then transfer garlic paste to a small bowl.

3. Return pan from prosciutto to medium-high heat. When fat is sizzling, add brioche slices and toast, working in batches as needed, until golden, 1–2 minutes per side. If your pan gets too dry while the brioche toasts, add a little olive oil, 1 teaspoon at a time. Transfer brioche to a clean, dry surface.

4. To bowl with garlic paste, add mayonnaise, blue cheese, and smoked paprika. Mash with a fork, breaking up any big cheese crumbles, until smooth. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, fig jam, ¼ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired to combine. Pat arugula dry with paper towel, add to bowl with dressing, and toss to coat.

5. Call in a friend to help with sandwich assembly: Spread blue cheese aioli over 1 side of brioche slices, then top 4 slices with a handful of arugula, lightly pressing into aioli. Layer with crispy prosciutto, then tomato slices. Close with remaining brioche slices, aioli-side down.

6. Halve prosciutto BLTs on a diagonal, then transfer to serving plates. Divide remaining arugula among plates and top with shaved Parmesan.

Pair these BLTs with our red wine of choice, Italian Lambrusco. This wine packs a frothy, fizzy sparkle that helps lift rich flavors off the palate. A deep-ruby, dry variety would work best here, with notes of strawberry, red currant, and black cherry that can stand up to the cured ham and salty blue cheese. Plus, it’s a nice complement to the fig vinaigrette.

Wednesday: Grilled Steak Fajitas

9 mini sweet peppers
¼ ounce cilantro
2 limes
2 yellow onions
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons fajita spice (garlic, cumin, onion)
4 steaks
8 flour tortillas
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

Cooking with a sous chef tonight? They can marinate the steak and vegetables in Step 2 and make the chimichurri in Step 3.

1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. No outdoor grill or grill pan? Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add steaks and sear until browned and medium rare, 4–6 minutes per side. USDA recommends cooking beef to 145°F. Rinse all produce. Quarter mini peppers lengthwise, discarding seeds and stems. Finely chop cilantro leaves and stems. If you have a zester and want to infuse your chimichurri with even more flavor, zest up to 1 lime, then halve limes. Peel onions, quarter, and separate layers. Mince garlic.

2. In a large shallow baking dish or resealable plastic bag, whisk together fajita spice, juice of 1 lime, half of garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1½ teaspoons salt, and black pepper as desired. Pat steaks dry with paper towel and add to marinade, along with mini peppers and onion. Turn to coat, then set aside to marinate at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.

3. While steak and vegetables marinate, stack tortillas and wrap in foil. In a small bowl, stir together dried oregano, cilantro, lime zest (if using), juice of remaining lime, remaining garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and black pepper as desired to combine. Set aside until ready to serve.

4. If using a grill pan, place it over mediumhigh heat now. Remove steaks from marinade, allowing excess to drip off. When grill is just smoking, add steaks and cook until charred and medium rare, 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer steaks to a plate and set aside to rest for about 5 minutes.

5. While steaks rest, add mini peppers and onion to grill in a single layer. If using an outdoor grill with spaces in between grates, place vegetables on a piece of aluminum foil, then place on the grill to prevent from falling through. Add pouch with tortillas to grill and cook until vegetables are charred and softened and tortillas are warmed through, 2–5 minutes per side (if using a pan, cook vegetables first, then add tortillas in a single layer, working in batches, and toast until warmed through, about 30 seconds per side).

6. Once steaks have rested, find the direction of the grain (muscle fibers) and slice across it, rather than parallel, as thinly as possible—this ensures tenderness. Divide sliced steak and grilled peppers and onion among serving plates. Serve with warmed tortillas and chimichurri for DIY assembly.

Thursday: Zucchini-Tomato Pizza

(Serves 4)

1½ pounds pizza dough
12 ounces zucchini
1 pint cherry tomatoes
⅛ ounce oregano
2 tablespoons flour
6 ounces shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese blend
4 ounces ricotta salata
2½ tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 ounces ricotta cheese
¼ ounce basil
2 parchment papers

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove pizza dough from bag and let soften at room temperature. Pizza dough softens as it warms—the longer you let it sit at room temperature, the easier it’ll be to roll out. We recommend at least 15 minutes. Rinse all produce. Cut zucchini crosswise into ⅛-inch rounds, discarding ends. Halve tomatoes. Finely chop oregano leaves, discarding stems.

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment papers and rub each with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Sprinkle flour onto a clean, dry surface, coating a rolling pin or your hands with a thin layer. Roll or stretch doughs into rectangular shapes, rotating frequently and working from center to edges, until ¼-inch thick. Try lifting the dough with your hands, letting gravity help stretch it down. Using your fingers, gently pull the edges, feeling for thicker areas so the dough doesn’t tear. Add pizza doughs, gently stretching to reach edges of sheets, and rub 2 teaspoons olive oil on top of each.

3. Arrange zucchini and tomatoes in an even layer over doughs, leaving a ½-inch border. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over each pizza, then sprinkle over oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper as desired. Scatter over mozzarella and provolone, then crumble over ricotta salata.

4. Bake pizzas until crusts are crisp and light golden and cheese is bubbling, 18– 20 minutes. If the baking sheets are on 2 different racks, switch them halfway through to ensure the crusts bake evenly. Use this downtime to set the table or pour a glass of something special.

5. When pizza is almost finished baking, in a small pot, combine honey and crushed red pepper (feel free to use less, but it’s what makes the pizza so addictive!). Place over medium heat and cook until runny and warmed through, about 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

6. Dollop ricotta cheese over pizzas and drizzle over spicy honey. Roughly chop or tear basil leaves, discarding stems, and sprinkle over pizzas. Cut zucchini-tomato pizzas into slices

Pizza for date night? Yes, please! Get cooking.

Friday: Cuban Chicken Empanadas

(Serves 4)

3 limes
2 plum tomatoes
¼ ounce cilantro
3 cloves garlic
1 red onion
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons sweet paprika
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
2 avocados
6 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
12 empanada doughs
¾ cup nonfat sour cream
10 ounces baby arugula

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Rinse all produce. Halve limes. Quarter tomatoes. Roughly chop cilantro leaves, discarding stems. Mince garlic. Peel onion, halve, and thinly slice. Line a baking sheet with foil for the next step.

2. Pat chicken dry with paper towel and place on 1 half of prepared baking sheet. Rub all over with spice mix, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. On other half of sheet, toss tomatoes and onion with half of garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Arrange in a single layer. Roast until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink and vegetables are tender, 13–15 minutes.

3. While chicken and vegetables roast, in a large bowl, whisk together juice of 2 limes, ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Halve avocados and discard pits; carefully scoop out flesh, discarding skins, then cut into small dice. Add diced avocados to bowl with dressing, then set aside.

4. Once roasted, roughly chop chicken and vegetables and place in a medium bowl. Add Monterey Jack to bowl and stir to combine. Discard foil from baking sheet and line with a new piece of foil. Add empanada doughs in a single layer. Working 1 at a time, spoon about ¼ cup filling onto 1 half of each. Carefully fold dough over filling. Empanada dough becomes more pliable as it warms. Once tempered, you can gently stretch it over the filling to seal. If you end up with any extra filling, serve it with the empanadas at the end. Using the tines of a fork, press and seal edges tightly.

5. Cut a small slit on top of empanadas so steam can escape. Bake until puffed and light golden, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine sour cream, cilantro, juice of remaining lime, remaining garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired, and blend until smooth. Alternatively, whisk together all crema ingredients in a medium bowl.

6. Pat arugula dry with paper towel, add to bowl with dressing and avocados, and toss to coat. Serve Cuban chicken empanadas with salad and lime crema for dipping.

Cooking for a smaller crowd? We’ve got you covered with this empanada recipe.

Looking for more ways to get more veggies in your life? Try ordering Plated!

Get 25% off your first four weeks of Plated!

On the List?

Subscribe to Plated's Newsletter

Thanks for signing up!

There was an error signing you up.
Please check that your email is valid. Try again