Dinner Illustrated: 175 Meals Ready in 1 Hour or Less.” By America’s Test Kitchen. $32.99.

A simple chicken breast, roasted potatoes, something green.

That meal could be my fiancé’s dinner every single night. He is an adventurous eater, but also a pragmatic one. Throw in a slice of pizza every now and again, and he would be happy.


I am more fickle. I get tired of my leftovers after two days. I can only eat so many chicken breasts. Variety is the literal spice of my life and my dinners.

So I love this man, but when we make our weekly meal plan and grocery list, he is less than helpful. Luckily, I found America’s Test Kitchen “Dinner Illustrated: 175 Meals Ready in 1 Hour or Less.”


“We like to think of ‘Dinner Illustrated’ as a meal kit plan for busy people who love to be in the kitchen but need a little help with timing and inspiration (and would rather do their own shopping and skip the wasteful packaging). This book empowers you to shop, prep, and cook efficiently without stifling your creativity or limiting your tastes,” the text begins.

I love the personal stories of some cookbook writers and food bloggers when I’m making a pie from scratch on a Sunday afternoon. But on a Tuesday night at 7 p.m. after a long day at work, I just want to get down to business. So I immediately appreciated this no-nonsense, 400-page cookbook.

Every recipe takes a spread of two pages, easy to leave open on the counter and reference from time to time. There is a cook time – 30, 45 or 60 minutes – at the top of the page. The list of ingredients is purposefully written like a grocery list in easy quantities like “1 head cauliflower” or “1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes.” Most recipes have six steps, each one illustrated with its own photograph, and a large picture of the finished product is at the top of the page. And each dinner is complete with entree and sides, so I don’t have to Google “creative side dishes” for inspiration.

The recipes were generally organized into categories like “soups and stews” or “beef, pork, and lamb.” I struggled to find the pork chop recipe I identified on my first read, and I needed to use one of the two indexes in the front and back of the hefty book. But I finally located “Pan-seared Thick-Cut Boneless Pork Chops with Peaches and Spinach.” It was a simple recipe that took about 50 minutes from cutting board to serving platter. I slightly overcooked the pork because I don’t have a meat thermometer, but my fiancé still went back for seconds. I found myself thinking that I could easily substitute apples for peaches in the fall for a whole new take. As a bonus, this particular recipe only required one pan, so the dirty dishes were limited at the end.

I flipped through the book while my fiancé cleaned up the kitchen, dog-earring pages of recipes I wanted to try, from “Thai Chicken Soup” to “Grilled Skirt Steak and Poblano Tacos with Lime Crema” to “Nepali-Style Chicken Curry with Basmati Rice.” While my fiancé is an excellent companion for actual cooking and eating, I think I found a new partner for meal planning.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:


[email protected]

Twitter: megan_e_doyle


Serves 4; total time 1 hour

Notes for the cook:

For perfectly even thick-cut pork chops, we prefer to buy a whole center-cut pork loin roast and cut it into chops ourselves.


To get a deep sear and a juicy, tender interior on these meaty chops, we use a screaming-hot cast-iron pan.

The fond left by the pork contributes deep flavor to the peaches, onion, and wilted spinach that complete the dish.

Look for a pork loin that is 7 to 8 inches long and 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

We strongly prefer using natural pork here. Using pork that is enhanced (injected with a salt solution) will inhibit browning.

This recipe works best in a cast-iron skillet, but a 12-inch stainless-steel skillet will work.

2 ripe peaches


1 red onion

Fresh tarragon

2 teaspoons ground coriander

Salt and pepper

1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) boneless center-cut pork loin roast

3 tablespoons vegetable oil


12 ounces (12 cups) baby spinach

1. Prep peaches and onion. Halve and pit peaches, then cut into 1-inch wedges. Chop onion. Mince 1 tablespoon tarragon.

2. Prep pork. Combine coriander, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Trim pork, then cut roast crosswise into 4 chops of equal thickness. Pat chops dry with paper towels then season with coriander mixture.

3. Cook pork. Heat 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until just smoking. Add chops and cook, without moving, until lightly browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Flip chops and continue to cook, flipping every 2 minutes, until well browned and meat registers 140 degrees, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer chops to cutting board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest.

4. Cook peaches. While pork rests, add 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty skillet and heat over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add peaches, cut side down, and cook until caramelized on first side, about 2 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until caramelized on second side and tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl.

5. Cook onion. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to now-empty skillet and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

6. Cook spinach and finish dish. Add spinach to skillet 1 handful at a time and cook until wilted and tender, about 2 minutes. Off heat, season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle peaches with tarragon and serve alongside pork and spinach.

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